Navigating the Waters of Politics & Religion
I wasn’t in the pulpit this past Sunday, so there is no sermon reflections this week. However, I did want to take a moment to discuss how difficult it is sometimes—particularly in our current cultural and political environment—to navigate the waters of politics and religion.
Full disclosure: In my early to late 20’s, I wasn’t very politically active at all; neither was I religious (having walked away from the church when I was 18). Into my 30’s, I had a “political epiphany” in which I embraced political conservatism and began intentionally voting republican. It wasn’t until I was 36 that I came faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, so from that point on I became a conservative Christian.
This “conservatism” was both politically and theologically. I had gotten to the point that I honestly thought that if you didn’t vote republican, then you really couldn’t call yourself a Christian. I mean, what Christian would be for the right for women to abort their unborn children? What Christian would vote for someone who was a socialist? I had really believed that the Republican Party was the Christian party.
I’m 55 now, and I haven’t believed that for the last 5-10 years. Coming to a more Reformed Christian perspective rather than a Conservative Christian perspective has broadened my view somewhat. There are things the Republican Party believes that align with Christian values (Right to Life, personal responsibility, respect for law and order, etc.). There are things the Republican Party believes that are relatively neutral with Christian values (being pro-business, low taxation, strong national defense, etc.). Similarly, there are things the Democrat Party believes in that also align with Christian values (care for the poor and the oppressed, “social” justice*, etc.).
What’s my point? Simply put, it’s this: There is NO SUCH THING as a “Christian” party. Christians are free to vote for whomever, or whichever party, their conscience allows them to. Now I’m convinced in my own conscience that there are more reasons to vote Republican than Democrat, but these are decisions that I came to after thinking, researching, and praying.
Moreover, my first allegiance is to Christ and His kingdom, not to the United States of America or the Republican Party. As a Christian and as a minister of the Word, I am called to not only love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:39), but also to love my enemies (Matthew 5:44). In other words, the command to love supersedes national loyalty or party loyalty. The command to love knows no bounds—racial, political, social, religious, or national.
One of the things that troubles me every two years in this country (i.e., every election cycle) is that the nation becomes more and more polarized. This, unfortunately, bleeds into the church as Christians become politically active. Now, I have no problem with political activity. In fact, I believe we should exercise whatever rights we’ve been granted by whatever government under which we live. But if our political activity causes to not love our brother or sister, then we’ve crossed a line. If our political activity prompts us to speak evil of someone on the “other side,” then we’ve crossed a line. Again, full disclosure: I say this as someone who has been guilty of such sins and has had to repent.
Ultimately our destiny is not decided by who wins on November 3rd. If you’re a Christian, then your destiny was decided 2,000 years ago outside of Jerusalem by a Jewish rabbi who was crucified on a hill called Golgotha. That Jewish rabbi, was Jesus Christ—The Son of God, the Eternal Word, The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Son of Man, the Son of David, the Messiah! If you’re a Christian, then you’re a citizen of God’s Kingdom and our hope lies in heaven where Jesus now sits at the Father’s right hand and who will one day return to judge the living and the dead.
If you’re not a Christian, then ultimately it doesn’t matter who wins on November 3rd because you’re hope is in the things of this world, which, as the Bible says, are passing away (2 Peter 3:7). The Bible commands “all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31)! This is the only sure rock upon which to stand.