The political sphere of the United States is on fire (and I don’t mean the fun, NBA Jam type of on fire). Most of the nation is captivated by the impeachment trial that is currently taking place in the capital, but, in reality, the political situation has been an angry and aggressive one for years. American Christ-followers occupy a unique zone in which they are citizens of an earthly country, but are also, and more so, citizens of Heaven. In this volatile political climate, here are three dangers to avoid and three ways to keep Christ above our politics.
Danger #1: Forgetting who is in control
Forgetting who is really in control can lead us down two equally wrong paths. If the party we favor is “winning,” we can find ourselves tempted to put our faith and hope for the future in that party’s policies instead of in God. We begin to believe that with the right Supreme Court justices and the right laws passed, people will start “living the way God wants them to.” The problem with this approach is that laws cannot legislate the heart and living within whatever moral guidelines the government has established can’t save your soul. As Christ-followers, we should remember that changed lives and hope for the future come not from Congress, but from Christ.
On the other hand, if we find ourselves placing too much emphasis on politics and our party of choice “loses,” we can quickly give in to despair, certain that the world is coming to an end because the good guys lost. Again, we must remember that men and women do not control the things that happen on Earth. God does. And no matter what party is in office, God’s eternal purposes will never fail.
Response: Remember the One who is on His throne
In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar was violently angry because no one could interpret his dream. After God revealed the interpretation to Daniel, Daniel praised God, saying,
“May the name of God be praised forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to him. He changes the times and seasons; he removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals the deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him.” (Daniel 2:20-22)
Daniel’s praise, as well as the rest of Scripture, reveals an incredibly important truth that we must never lose sight of: God is the ultimate power and authority in the universe. What we are seeing in Washington is a drama being played out by people who believe they wield great power and authority, but true power and authority belong to God alone and His purposes do not change. Regardless of who the president is or which party he belongs to, authority is with God. Power belongs to God. Our eternal hope is found in God. Our mission and purpose comes from God. As believers, we must not get so caught up in the political maneuvering of kings that we forget who establishes and removes them.
No matter what happens next week and no matter what happens in November, God remains on his throne.
Danger #2: Failing to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Take a look at anything political on social media and it won’t take long for you to notice the lack of love. It has unfortunately become very common for people on social media to abandon civil discussion and jump straight to attacking, mocking, or dismissing anyone who doesn’t agree with them. For believers, this must not be so. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. In fact, Jesus calls it the second greatest commandment.
One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which command is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
Response: Reflect the love of Christ more than the love of party.
As discussed in an earlier post, your neighbor is everyone. The person across the political aisle from you is a fellow human made in the image of God and the command to love your neighbor includes loving that person. As long as you live, you will disagree with people over politics. However, we must remember that is it possible to disagree with someone and also love them. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s necessary for Christ-followers. Ed Stetzer, interim teaching pastor at Moody Church and Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College recently said, “You can’t mock a people and reach a people at the same time.” While promoting good and right political policies is important, reflecting Christ and drawing others to Him is infinitely more important. This is very difficult to do, however, if we spend our social media bandwidth mocking or attacking those who don’t share our beliefs. Given a choice between supporting your party or reflecting Christ, always choose to reflect Christ.
Danger #3: Believing the problems “out there” are greater than the problems in us.
A final danger of getting too caught up in the political sphere is forgetting what the real enemy is. It is not the party, policy, or candidate that opposes yours. It is not the person who follows that party, policy, or candidate. The true enemy is sin, and sin lives within all of us. The moment we begin to believe that “what’s wrong with the world” can be chalked up to a political stance, we’ve lost sight of the truth. What wrong with the world is plainly and simply sin.
Response: Remember that we are all sinners in need of a Savior
Many people fall into a trap that Arthur Miller described in an introduction to his play The Crucible: “A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.” As Christ-followers, we must remember that parties and policies don’t make us righteous and don’t make us better than others. We cannot see ourselves as the “good guys” making war against the “bad guys.” We must see ourselves as sinners in need of a savior, just as those who disagree with us as sinners in need of savior. We can’t get so caught up in what others are doing wrong that we forget our own personal failures and our own need to continually draw close to Christ. The world’s great problem is not “out there.” The world’s great problem is inside all of us. Let us strive to make the world’s great Savior visible to all.
It isn’t possible, or responsible, to shun politics altogether. However, as believers, the gospel must always be above our politics. In 2020, make it a point to avoid these three dangers. Remember that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Remember to love your neighbor and reflect Christ to the world. Remember that God is on His throne no matter what happens. Keep the gospel above all.