I’m really bothered by all the political banter I’m hearing among Christians, especially since last week’s vote about healthcare. Now don’t misunderstand me. I have political opinions. I’m happy for others to have them, even if they disagree with me. I’m not one of these guys who thinks just because someone expresses a political opinion they must not be properly centered spiritually. What bothers me, however, is how many Christians and religious people are beginning to accept the lead of the religious right that says one of the church’s main goals is to get to Washington and enact “Christian legislation.” I’m very bothered by the number of Christians that seem to think their political opinions are bible opinions and judge those who disagree as not quite as spiritual as they are.
Let me share with you some principles that help me keep my balance about politics and my relationship with God. I know this is not the normal position for today’s Christian. I simply ask that you give me a fair hearing before you start judging me as having lost my mind.
God never asked for a Christian nation.
Christians everywhere are upset because President Obama told somebody America is not a Christian nation. I don’t know what he meant by it and I don’t know what you mean by it, all I know is God never asked for Christian nations. So why get stressed about it?
In Hebrews 12:26-29, the Hebrew writer claims God was going to shake out the Old Covenant kingdom so we could receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Why would we want to stress having another kingdom that can be shaken out of the way (and eventually will, no matter how much we love our country) when God is giving us a kingdom that can’t be shaken? Is God’s kingdom so trivial to us that we have to boost it with our earthly kingdom as well?
In John 18:36, Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world. Why then do we get bent out of shape when we learn that a kingdom of this world is not Christ’s kingdom? Jesus said if His kingdom were of this world, His disciples would stand up and fight by earthly means. But they weren’t fighting because that wasn’t what His kingdom was about. Yet today, His disciples are completely caught up in an earthly fight through political means to somehow preserve a Christian Nation that God didn’t establish.
God has His kingdom. According to I Peter 2:9, we are part of that kingdom because we are in Christ, not because we are in America. The fact is there are Russians that are part of God’s nation, there are Mexicans, Canadians, French, South African, Nigerian, Italian, British, and all other nationalities of people in Christ’s kingdom and it has nothing to do with their national citizenship. I love America. My Dad’s life was devoted to defending America. My brother is devoting his life to the same cause. I have good friends who have done the same. I’m proud of their patriotism and their sacrifice to defend our nation. But I have to keep very clear that defending America is not the same as defending Christ’s holy nation.
God worked through an earthly nation during His old covenant, but He has moved on from that now. He has a spiritual kingdom. If He wanted a Christian nation, He could have revealed through the apostles how to get Rome to be His nation, but He didn’t. Why are we getting all bent out of shape about that now? What passage would we go to to tell us how to establish the Christian nation God supposedly wants?
God has never asked us to spread His gospel through political means.
In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Paul makes it clear that we don’t use earthly, fleshly means to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. They weren’t under a democracy. They wouldn’t vote. They would take up arms and revolt. But Paul said that wasn’t what they were about. They weren’t concerned with overthrowing the Roman government in order to make it a Christian one. They didn’t go to Caesar and try to get him to pass Christian friendly laws. Why on earth would we think our job is to spread the gospel through political means?
In Matthew 28:18-19, Jesus didn’t say go make Christian nations. He said to make Christians within every nation. In Mark 16:15-16, Jesus didn’t say to go and turn every nation into a democracy. He didn’t say, go and make sure all the nations have Christian laws. He said go and make disciples all over the world. In Romans 10:15, Paul didn’t write how beautiful are the feet of those with certain political opinions or who vote for certain laws. He said the feet of those who preach the gospel are beautiful. In II Timothy 2:2, when Paul was concerned with Timothy leaving behind a legacy for Christ and preparing the way for another generation of Christians, he didn’t tell Timothy to go to Rome and appeal to Caesar for better laws. He told Timothy to teach faithful men who would in their turn teach other faithful men to teach.
Somehow, we’ve bought into the distraction of the religious right that getting a law against abortion or homosexuality ratified in our Constitution will actually be some kind of major victory for Christ. Bologna. Let’s face it, not one single person has been saved because of anyone’s vote for any candidate or for any law. The victory that Christ wants is not to outlaw abortion or homosexuality. The victory Christ wants is for us to carry the message of His saving death to new people whose lives will be changed so they won’t have abortions or commit homosexuality anymore no matter what the national law is. If righteousness could come by a law, then the Old Covenant law of Israel would have done it. Why do we think if we get American law to correspond with the New Testament teaching that it will produce righteousness among Americans? Only the message of faith in Jesus is going to accomplish that and Jesus doesn’t need a national law to back Him up for it to work.
We need to remember that immorality and idolatry were rampant in the days of the New Testament, but God didn’t once ask anyone to try to get the emperor to pass any laws against all that. He simply asked His children to spread His soul saving gospel.
The Constitution is not the Bible, Part 2
I love the Constitution. I think it is one of the greatest political documents of all time. I have strong feelings about how it should be read and interpreted. I have many concerns that it is not being interpreted properly by our government today. I am concerned about what that means for our nation’s future. However, those are political opinions, not spiritual ones. I have to remember that the Constitution is not divine or divinely inspired. We don’t have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Constitution Testament.
I can get into all kinds of arguments about defending the Constitution, but that is not the same as defending God’s word or God’s will. The fact is, the Bible never says anything about how to read the Constitution. It never even says anything about whether or not the Constitution is the right way to govern a nation. The Bible never says anything about whether or not a nation even needs a Constitution like ours. It just isn’t there. Yet, Christians nationwide act like they are defending the Bible when they defend their interpretation of the Constitution.
I’ve heard people claim that we need to protect our “God-given rights.” We have these rights by the providence of God because Romans 13:1 says the government is established by God. That is not an accurate view of that verse or our American rights. Our rights to free speech, practice religion as we want, assemble, bear arms, speedy trial by a jury of our peers, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not God-given rights. Please, if you are convinced that they are, find the passage in Scripture that claims we have any of those rights? These are government-given rights. I’m very happy to live in a nation whose government claims we have these rights and I will gladly stand up to fight for these rights. But, again, that is a political opinion, not a spiritual one. It is not a Bible opinion.
Romans 13:1 isn’t talking about democracies. It isn’t talking about American government. It is talking about all governments. It is talking about Nero’s government, Hitler’s government, Stalin’s governments. The point behind Romans 13:1 is not that what a government established by God does is the right thing to do and we as Christians must defend it like it is the same as the Bible. Rather, it simply means we must submit to our governing authorities (unless, of course, they ask us to disobey God; Acts 5:29).
When I’m defending my opinions about the Constitution, I’m not defending God’s will. When I’m defending America, I’m not defending Christ’s nation. The Constitution is not the Bible, part 2, and I must not trivialize God’s real word by trying to somehow equate a document of men with it.
God only expressed one political opinion.
There are a bajillion political issues out there. We can argue about taxes, healthcare, marriage, abortion, immigration, the environment, defense, homeland security, our President’s birthplace and on and on and on the list goes. To my knowledge, God did not express a political opinion on any one of these issues. We need to realize that all of these issues were present in the Roman world. They dealt with taxes. They dealt with defense and security. Abortion was going on. They even killed children after they were born. Homosexuality was commonplace. Idolatry was rampant. But God never once said anything political about any of these things.
1 Timothy 2:2 is the only political opinion expressed in the New Testament that I know of. Paul didn’t tell the Christians to get up in political arms about the bad laws governing the Roman empire. All he asked was for the Christians to pray that their government would allow them to lead peaceful, quiet, godly lives. We should still be asking for that. Right now, God is granting that request. We are allowed to lead peaceful, quiet, godly lives. I know some people pitch a fit about it. I know some people don’t like it. But right now, we are allowed to serve God as we wish, practice obedience as we wish, assemble as we wish. Nobody has stopped that. Maybe they will one day, but they aren’t stopping it right now. Maybe instead of complaining like we don’t have these freedoms, we should spend more time thanking God that we do have these freedoms and asking Him to continue them. Then maybe we can go talk to our neighbors about God’s saving Gospel and it might change their lives so they don’t practice homosexuality or get an abortion.
God expects His children to unite around principles greater than politics.
I love being in a democracy, but I’m increasingly convinced it may not be the best situation for Christians. Why? Because democracy came on the scene and Christians have been dividing over politics ever since. Maybe it was better when there was no vote under the Roman Empire and Christians just accepted what they were given and did the best they could to live godly lives in the situation they were given.
I’m often astounded by the conglomeration of people Jesus pooled together to form His group of apostles. I’m most astounded by the coming together of Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. I wonder what kind of political discussions they had around the fire at night. A tax collector was a Roman sympathizer, not only did he not have a problem with Roman occupation, he used it to make money. A Zealot hated Roman occupation and tried any means to get them out, even insurrection at times. These two were complete polar opposites politically. But there is no indication they had to change their politics to serve Jesus. Matthew didn’t have to become a Zealot to be among the 12 and Simon didn’t have to become a Roman sympathizer. Jesus expected them to unite around something greater than politics.
Satan will use anything he can to get us to divide among ourselves. Politics seems to be the big thing right now. I’ve even heard of some Christians defriending each other on Facebook over the political opinions surrounding the healthcare vote. How sad is that?
Jesus did not die to form the Republican party. Jesus did not die to form the Democrat party. Jesus didn’t even die to start democracies. We do need to remember that neither Jesus nor any of the apostles were believers in democracy. There wasn’t democracy in their day. We need to understand that someone can have completely different political opinions from us and still be a good Christian, just like the apostles were.
Jesus did not die to make sure healthcare was privatized or nationalized. In fact, I’m guessing Jesus doesn’t care how we get healthcare. Jesus died so our souls could be cared for eternally. He expects us to unite around the eternal principles of salvation in Him and not divide around temporal political concerns about nations.
Here is what I try to remember. If I really want to do something good in God’s eyes for my nation, instead of worrying about everyone else’s political opinions, I need to talk to someone about Jesus. He didn’t die to make Christian nations. He died to make Christians in every nation. If I’m going to keep my proper spiritual perspective, I’ve got to understand that political opinions are just that. They are political opinions. I’m allowed to have them. You are allowed to have them. If we disagree, we can discuss them. But we must not let them divide us. We must not think a political discussion is a biblical discussion. God never intended that.
Let’s remember that the most important thing that happened last Sunday was not the vote on healthcare. The most important thing is the gospel was preached to millions. The death of Jesus was remembered by multitudes. Some were added to the Lord through baptism into Christ. What happened in Washington was neither a victory or a defeat for Jesus or His people. Rather, Jesus was once again victorious in a multitude of ways because His people gathered and proclaimed Him as He asked. We’ll continue doing that no matter what happens in Washington.
Please, remember, God’s way works and God’s ways are not political.