Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why the church must be careful of politics

Yesterday I finished City of Man: Relgion and Politics in a New era. It has some great things to say, but at the end it says something that speaks to why a church and must not dive into politics as general rule. Something that Christains should all remember here on election day.

They write,
A little mental distance from the temptations of politics is a good and necessary thing. 1951, Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered C.S. Lewis the title of a of Commander of the British Empire, a high appropriate distinction. "I feel greatly obligated to the Prime Minister”, he responded, "so far as my personal feelings are concerned this honor would be highly agreeable. There are always, however, knaves who say, and fools who believe, that my religious writings are all covert anti-leftist propaganda, and my appearance in the Honors list would of course strengthen their hand. It is therefore better that I should not appear there."
Lewis had higher goals and bore urgent priorities than public eminence. The wrong  kind of politics can not only compromise any individual believer but it undermine the message of the church itself.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

From The Messenger: thought for the day after the election

On November 6, we will elect a president for the next four years. For some of you, it will mean that "your guy" won. For some, it will mean that "your guy" lost. I want to speak to all of you before that day, and remind you that at the end of the day, one of these men will be your president, and that means you are called to respect him because of the office, even if you didn’t vote for him. We’ve lost sight of this in our culture. I remember that at the lead up to the 2008 election, I was listening to a news report, and the reporter referred to the president as Mr. Bush, rather than President Bush, and was sharply critical of the president. Soon after that, I heard a local talk show personality from a different perspective state that if one political candidate won, he would not call that candidate president, and do everything that he could to see that this man’s presidential agenda was undermined.

In the last four years, things have gotten worse, not better. We have an ever increasing lack of civility in our political dialogue, as both sides of the cultural and political spectrums have become less and less civil and considerate. Both sides act badly, and both sides forget that we are called to respect the office even if we do not like the man. As Christians we must act and speak differently. As citizens of a higher kingdom, we are called to live differently. Scripture makes this clear.

For example, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:17, Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." Paul writes in Romans 13:1-7 to Christians living under Caesar that "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Stern stuff. Let’s apply these verses. How do we react to the election of the candidate we didn't vote for? By humbly acknowledging that this is the person that God has placed over us, and by being subject to laws that are in place, and the ones that will get passed into law. The early Christians lived in a very different system than we live in today. Instead of free elections, Caesar's came to power through cunning and intrigue. The people had no say in their government. Yet, despite the fact that the system was flawed, Romans pointedly reminds us that we should submit to those who rule over us. They are in this position because it was instituted by God, and the next president will be in that position because it was instituted by God that they would win.  

Christians, respect your leader. Love him hate him. Respect him. Do not forget that ultimately, he has been appointed by God, and as he governs he is due the respect and honor of his office. We may not like him, and we may be glad when his term is over, but we must honor him. If you struggle with this, know that I do too. But nevertheless, as we seek to live as followers of Christ and respond with gratitude to his saving grace, I say to you, and to myself, honor and respect the president, obey the president, pray for the president. For he is God's servant.