The following is my third post in a series, through which I’m seeking to offer church leaders and congregations, some hands-on help with the thorny issue of churches and political involvement. I’m hoping that church leaders will study my propositions, debate the details, and come up with their own, unity-enhancing position papers for their congregations.
Admittedly, I’m writing for pastors and churches in the US, at the end of 2022.
I also need to confess that I said this would be three posts, but it’s looking like it’s going to be four or five posts. (I’ve been told that my spiritual gift is making things longer).
When the series is complete, I’d like to offer a Word document or PDF of all the posts combined, without the repeated introductions and reviews. This would be the ideal version to put in a newsletter, on a website or distribute to a congregation. Do not worry about copyrights.
I’ll also conclude the series with a list of resolutions that a church could potentially make, to help bring crystal clarity to the church and community regarding this potentially divisive subject.
Here are the propositions which I’ve shared so far in Churches And Politics: Rethinking The Issue and in Churches And Politics: Rethinking The Issue, Part Two.
(1) Humility is still in order.
(2) Consistent Bible interpretation, painstaking exegesis and careful exposition will still keep us out of a lot of trouble.
(3) The Bible is clear on the basic purposes for human government.
(4) Some forms of human government are more consistent with Biblical theology than others.
(5) Some norms for government are strong and clear in Scripture.
This brings us to four more propositions:
(6) It is folly to ally ourselves with political personalities, movements and parties. Why?
* Because political leaders are strongly tempted to misrepresent themselves as being men and women of conviction when they are most decidedly not. Even those with the best of intentions are too frequently shown to have feet of clay. “Attaching our star” to political superstars has been a losing proposition for churches and religious leaders for centuries. When they are discredited, we are discredited.
*Similarly, political movements and parties often go far afield from their original platforms, dragging the reputation of churches and religious leaders with them. Did you know that many German believers initially saw the Nazi party as patriotic, Christian and the likely solution to Germany’s problems?
*Identifying a congregation or denomination with a particular political figure, party or movement can have the short-term benefit of attracting people whose loyalty is more political than religious. But this carries with it both long and short-term risks and also, pretty much guarantees that non-Christian people of the “wrong” political persuasion will stay far away from our doors. But on the other hand…
(7) We must not shrink back from taking clear positions on Biblical/moral/ethical issues which have become political issues.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. said that “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
We have not chosen for abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, homosexuality, parental rights, border security, transgenderism and a host of other issues to become political issues. But they have. We must continue to speak clearly, boldly and compassionately whether Biblical teachings make us popular or not. Paul called it reproving, rebuking and exhorting, “in season and out of season” in II Timothy 4:2.
(8) Involvement in government is, and has always been, a legitimate way to serve God and humanity.
Next week we’ll see that Christians should not live with illusions about what government can do. We are the people who are waiting for the One who will forcibly put the government of the whole world on His wonderful shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).
Nevertheless, every nation needs human government, and the involvement of God’s people in human government can make a big difference for good. It should not escape us that many of our favorite Bible heroes – Joseph, Moses, David, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Esther and Daniel – labored long and hard in government service.
Serving God in the rough and tumble world of politics has never been easy – it may land you in a lion’s den or a fiery furnace – but it has always been heroic and important.
(9) Representing Christ well, whether we are voting, protesting, writing letters, running for office or talking politics over Thanksgiving dinner with our relatives, has always been an imperative.
This doesn’t demand cowardice, shame-facedness or compromise, but it does demand honesty, integrity, empathy, grace, open-mindedness, the “sweet reasonableness” enjoined in Philippians 4:5, and even, dare I say, the love for one’s enemies Jesus called for in Matthew 5:44.
Next Week: The importance of Christians having realistic expectations for government and government officials.