In general, I try to keep a little distance from national politics. It’s not that I don’t find them interesting. I do. It’s not that I don’t think they’re important. They are. And it’s not that I don’t recognize a certain amount of civic duty. There’s just other considerations.
Pastors have to be fairly careful in comments they make regarding politics. If you’ve been faithfully proclaiming God’s Word regularly, people have become conditioned to hear gospel truth come from your mouth. If you then proceed to give your opinion on politics without giving the caveat that “this is my humble opinion”, some may mistakenly interpret it as gospel truth as well.
The flip side is not good either. Some may disagree with your view on politics (an issue that gets adults fired up faster than most other issues) and they may be tempted to discredit whatever else you say, including biblical exposition.
Finally, sometimes pastors even begin to believe their own hype and start “gettin’ doctrinal” about things they may not have any particular authority on. God’s Word certainly touches every part of every believer’s life. We can’t segment our faith. However, God’s Word principally teaches me the truth of salvation in Christ. While guiding me in morality as well as trust in God, it does not give me particular divine insight on the economy, military, healthcare, taxes, etc. Therefore I’d better not speak as if I have such to those who see me as a proclaimer of divine truth.
So………for these and perhaps some other reasons, I typically choose to remain fairly quiet on the topic.
But today I’d like to make my “for what it’s worth” observation using something that hopefully I’m more qualified to comment on – God’s Word. As a Scriptural basis for my point, I’d use Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Now, if you’ve read through the first part of Ephesians 4, you understand that Paul is encouraging unity in the body of believers in Ephesus. Despite their many varied gifts and background, God had called them to be united with Jesus as their unifying force. Obviously Paul’s talking about a church here, but the encouragement that he makes is one that he says will benefit the church, but applies to God’s people always: speak the truth in love.
How does this pertain to politics? The more polarized you get in politics, the more it appears that you seem to embrace one of these concepts (truth & love) while disregarding the other. This little phrase “speak the truth in love” encourages us to both present the truth, because it’s the loving thing to do, and also do it in a loving manner. The farther out on the wings of politics that you get, the more the impression that only one or the other (truth or love) is important.
For instance, I don’t doubt that ultra liberals in America have at their core the notion of love. They want to love (which they feel is often expressed as “toleration”) anybody and everyone. They want to love the committed homosexual couple by giving them equal rights to the heterosexual couple. They want to love a woman (who may or may not have been abandoned by a male she may or may not have been forced into a physical union with) by allowing her to make decisions regarding her body for her own peronsal welfare. They want to love foreigners who desire to enter our country to receive the same opportunities of liberty and prosperity through hard work that were afforded our ancestors. They want to love our troops overseas by getting them out of harms way. They want to love all who have had the deck stacked against them in life and have never really been given the same shot at success as perhaps you or I have. Their “love” seeks to warm the heart without truly being guided by the mind.
What about the other side though? I don’t doubt that ultra conservatives in America have at their core the notion of truth. They desire “what is right” often out of respect for the higher power they worship and sometimes in the assumption that if this is legislated, the higher power will be appeased. They will argue that if we open the door to homosexual marriage we’re not only encouraging the end of natural procreation but we’re falling into some of the same patterns of decline that stained former great empires (see last week’s article for more on this). They will argue that allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy (even in the case of rape or incest) doesn’t help the woman as much as it compounds the crime. They will argue that we’re willing to let in foreigners as long as they attain their citizenship legally, conform to our American traditions of language and culture, and not take away jobs that existing citizens are looking for. They will argue that while it’d be great to have our troops home, serving overseas helps to promote the truth of successful and fair government around the world so that others can have hope too. They will argue that the truth of “what is right” is the only place where we will find freedom and happiness. At times, their “truth” seeks to satiate the mind without being guided by the heart.
We need to state the obvious at this point. Traditionally, conservative Christians (i.e. those who believe in the Bible as the inspired Word of God) have consistently leaned toward conservative politics. That shouldn’t surprise us for a variety of reasons. What we need to be aware of, however, is the total embrace of all things right-wing, particularly the manner in which truth is presented. I don’t have any problem understanding how some see enormously influential right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly as intelligent, articulate, charismatic men. Then again, I don’t have too much problem understanding how some on the other side see them as Grade A _______ (I’ll let you fill that in with whatever you deem appropriate). How could someone not like another person who is so logically proclaiming truth?! Because they did it in such an unloving way. These men often cause those with similar beliefs to rally behind them, but they rarely win over those of opposing beliefs. In the end, who wants to be right if it means being a seemingly grumpy and clearly somewhat arrogant older white man or, more importantly, if it means being “a bad person”?
Both truth and love are essential. And they’re not so much two ideas as they are the manner in which we present one idea.
Church and State is a different article, but for our purposes today, we will establish the point that faith affects everything you do, including your view on politics. Christian morality will lead us in a certain direction. At the same time, we want to be careful not to blindly follow a side, as though either were not filled with sinners. As we do in any issue of faith, we’ll want to speak the truth with Christ-like love, compassion, and understanding. In polarizing issues, people rarely embrace truth unless they’ve been loved by the truth messengers. Evidence for this is most easily seen in the great truth messenger: “We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
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