Christians, Politics, and Learning the Hard Way What Really Matters

Nov 13

Christians, Politics, and Learning the Hard Way What Really Matters

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering how Christians can align themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum. After all, we read the same Bible and serve the same God. How can we end up on “opposite” sides? Or are we?

As a general rule, I live by a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to politics. Heaven knows I generate enough controversy on the other social taboo—religion—because I’m a Christian author. But I’ve decided, no, I feel compelled to break my own rule and speak on politics because I think we all need some grace and understanding to help us put up with one another.

“Put up with one another. Forgive one another if you are holding something against someone. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13, NIRV).

 

Does Jesus Take a Side?

Every few years you’ll see books or articles claiming, “Jesus was a democrat” or “Jesus was a republican.” I’ve never read any of them because the premise is absurd. People on both sides want to claim Jesus is exclusively on their side. That would make it easier to demonize the other side as “the enemy.” But it’s simply not true. There is no “us versus them” in Christ. There are good Christians on both sides of the political fence and we are one in Christ (though at times like this it doesn’t feel like we are one).

Still, we find ourselves on one side of a political fence and Christians we love and respect are on the other side so what does the Bible say that can help us get a handle on this? In that sense, WWJD is not an entirely irrelevant question in political discussions.

 

The Social Justice of Democrats

Democrats are in favor of social justice, among other things. Social justice is a good and biblical thing if guided by love and biblical truth. Sometimes, in the interest of being open minded, social justice can take extremes that go well beyond biblical standards. While this may not sit well with conservatives, our government is not a theocracy governed by God like Israel. In other cases, social justice can take violent turns that go beyond anything the Bible would condone, such as killing police and anarchy. There can also be an undercurrent of socialism and other “isms” in the democratic thinking. In the effort to make everyone equal, democrats seek government regulation of every aspect of life; they punish the successful and reward slackers (not the genuinely needy); and they try to impose standards on everyone such as mandatory health care whether you want it or not, or can afford it or not. Is health care good? Yes, of course it is. Social justice seekers have good intentions perhaps, but they take away free choice.

Social justice is a cause dear to the heart of God. WWJD? Jesus would demonstrate love through spiritual and social healing. He not only healed the body, but He also took steps to restore a person’s social standing by touching the untouchables or sending lepers to a priest to be declared socially acceptable (clean of leprosy).

 

The Social Justice of Republicans

Republicans, on the other hand, seek social justice by creating an environment for people to succeed so they don’t need to rely on the government. Democrats mischaracterize this as benefitting the corporations instead of the individual. Democrats portray the world as having a fixed amount of money, but in reality, each person can become more prosperous without taking away from anyone else. By creating economic conditions for people to succeed, republicans help people help themselves, which builds one’s confidence and dignity. It also minimizes the role of government in people’s lives and reduces the financial burden of social programs being funded by taxpayers. Along these lines, republicans are also proponents of fewer regulations and increased freedoms, while also expecting more of people—for example, expecting illegal residents to follow the rules if they want privileges.

WWJD? Jesus would demonstrate love by restoring lives so people could return to society and a healthy, productive life. Jesus removed shame and restored dignity for people so they could return to their families, society, and work.

 

Social Justice Is Whose Responsibility?

Both parties are interested in improving the lives of people, especially those who are neediest among us. That’s huge. We all want the same thing. We differ on how to make that happen in a tangible way.

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you.

Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.

Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.

Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

 

These are all things God wants us to do. A good Christian can seek to fulfill these social justice aims through either political party.

The underlying problem is that God wanted Christians, not government, to love and care for the needs of others. It’s not just that the church is responsible for helping the needy, but individuals—each one of us—are responsible for helping anyone we see in need. Sadly, we Christians are so self-absorbed we aren’t willing to sacrifice our own comfort and convenience to help someone else. What are you willing to do to help your neighbor? But this is a whole different discussion.

 

Choosing Intellectual Honesty

In the interest of full disclosure and before I go further, let me say I consider myself an independent, although I’m not a registered voter and have not voted in several years. I hold the positions of republicans on some issues and the positions of democrats on others issues. I don’t see any inconsistency in doing so because I do my best to align with God’s Word.

For example, I am pro-life and anti-gun because I don’t see how someone can be pro-life and pro-killing (with guns). I’m not opposed to hunting (but why would you in this modern age?), but other guns are meant for one purpose—killing. I see this as being intellectually honest rather than inconsistent. Some people might think it’s inconsistent to not line up with party platforms, but I see it as being intellectually honest rather than swallowing the party pill as a whole.

I say this to make the point that many of us would do well to examine what we really believe (not just what a political party teaches) and why we believe it. This kind of intellectual honesty on issues would help break down the entrenched party lines that divide us.

 

Choosing a Round Table Instead of Taking Sides

Rather than looking at each other across party lines, we would do better to sit at a round table (no sides!) and agree on the basics, then discuss options for solutions. Personally, I think most of these problems can best be resolved at a local level, not a federal level. Disaster areas and pockets of extreme poverty might need additional resources, but generally, we are responsible for helping each other.

Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, in fact, you are. The Bible is full of general statements and specific ways to help bring about social justice. Loving each other is to be our primary concern (after loving God). If we don’t take care of each other and stand up for those who need help, our religion is worthless. If we don’t take care of our own family, we are worse than unbelievers. True religion—true Christianity—is helping those in need.

“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers” (1 Timothy 5:8, NLT).

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27, NLT).

 

Whose Work Am I Doing?

People in the other political party (whichever that is to you) are not the enemy. Do you know who the enemy is? The enemy is the Accuser, the devil. And he’s done a damn good job of getting us to accuse one another during this election. We are doing the devil’s work. Let me say that again.

We are doing the devil’s work.

I have done the devil’s work.

I held my tongue and did not speak about politics prior to the election, but afterward when I saw hateful statements hurled at certain voters; I lost it and made some hateful statements of my own. It cost me a beloved friendship. Only God knows if the damage can be healed and forgiven someday.

Everyone is exhausted from an ugly campaign. We’re tired of talking about it but it seems like nothing else matters. It’s like watching something horrible and you can’t take your eyes off it.

We’re all a little testy.

But I’m going to make a renewed effort to give people a break. There are good Christians on both sides. More importantly, there are no political sides with Jesus.

“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10, NLT).

 

political bitterness

 

Our Biblical Responsibilities to Our Leaders (Like Them or Not)

We can rest in knowing God brought to power the person He chose for such a time as this. God chose President Obama to lead our nation for eight years (like it or not) and God chose President-elect Trump to lead our nation next (like it or not).

We are obligated to obey our government leaders and to pray for them. And even if you don’t like Trump, you still have to pray for your enemies! Have you prayed for both Obama and Trump?  God still wants you to pray for your leaders, regardless of their political party.

It’s also important to keep an eternal perspective. This world is not our home. We are only here for the blink of an eye compared to eternity so our puny little political squabbles really don’t amount to much.

 

authority comes from God

 

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority” (Romans 13:1-7).

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

 

Pray for all in authority

 

Is Morality a Qualification for Leadership?

Some of you have wondered how God can raise an apparently immoral person to power. God has His own ways and His own reasons. We don’t know what the next four years holds but God does. Apparently, Donald Trump is just the man for the job. God took an unlikely candidate who never held political office and brought him to power against the odds. That’s how God does things.

God chose David, a lowly shepherd boy and the youngest of twelve brothers. David later got into serious sexual sin and plotted a murder to cover it up (2 Samuel 11).

God chose Samson to be judge over Israel, but Samson had a weakness for women, too. He was also vindictive and cruel. But God still used Samson to accomplish His purposes (Judges 13-16).

God also chose King Cyrus of Persia, a political leader who did not know God. And yet God raised him up to serve God’s purpose by freeing the exiles and allowing them to return to Jerusalem while protecting and providing for their journey and the rebuilding effort (Isaiah 45:1-7; Ezra 1:1-9).

God doesn’t choose perfect people. He chooses people He can use for His purposes. God’s ways seem mysterious to us, but we have to trust His ability to see what we cannot and trust His perfect plan.

Many people have pointed out the immoral statements of Donald Trump as a reason for disqualification. I would like to note that those statements were made more than a decade ago. He is now happily married and credible sources say Donald Trump accepted Christ recently. So if he accepted Christ recently, then Christ has forgiven his sins. As Christians, we owe him the same. He is a brother in Christ and we are to love and forgive him. If we do not forgive our brothers, Christ will not forgive us.

“But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15, NLT).

 

Never Underestimate God’s Ability to Change People

It bothers me deeply that people, especially Christians, hold something against Trump that was done a decade ago. I’m not the same person I was a decade ago. Are you? Time and experience changes people. More importantly, God changes people. I’m sure Mr. Trump isn’t the same person he was a decade ago. And as a new Christian, God is changing and sanctifying him to make him more like Christ. When I hear people judge someone based on something a long time ago, I feel afraid because they obviously judge others (me) the same way. If I didn’t believe God could change me in the next ten years, I’d give up hope and probably commit suicide. Please show grace to others because people like me need hope for change.

 

Accepting People Where They Are at the Moment

God means for each person to be what he or she is. You may not like a person’s behavior or character but God intends that person to be that way—at least at this particular time. For example, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he would resist allowing Moses to lead the slaves out of Egypt (Exodus 11:10). God used it to display His glory through the ten miraculous plagues.

Another favorite example is David and Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-13). Shimei was following King David, throwing dirt at him, and cursing him. Talk about not liking your king! David’s men wanted to deal with him but David said to leave him alone because maybe God told Shimei to do it in order to humble David. And if not, reasoned David, God would bless him for enduring it.

So God clearly has His reasons for choosing our next president. Maybe God will bless you for enduring the next four years if that’s how you feel about it. Either way, God has chosen our leader and we must obey and pray for him. Moreover, we must love each other and extend grace despite our differences. It’s okay and even understandable for Christians to be in differing political parties. What brings us back to the center is our common goal of loving God and loving others—and that includes each other.

I will make every effort to accept others by trusting God. Will you?

 

A time to mend