I really hope this is the last post for a while, where I feel compelled to write about American politics among professing Christians. But I cannot help but continue to be grieved over the idolatrous obsessive passion American Christians seem to have regarding elections, their rights, and political dynamics. That is not to say I am against Christians being in politics or whatever civic responsibilities or privileges we may have. Nor am I trying to diminish the freedoms we might possess. But it is to say we have elevated political engagement to a much higher status than it ought to be and wholly ignored more significant themes in Scripture (such as a focus on our character, Christ-likeness, our witness, obedience, faithfulness, fruitfulness, humility, justice, mercy, love, faith, hope, etc.).
In my opinion, we have so twisted Scripture and intertwined it with America and politics that I truly believe many of us are blind to how strange this mixing and elevation of politics really is. We cannot seem to separate our version of America from the kingdom of Jesus. We get our talking points from political media sources mixed with what could be at best biblical references or apocalyptic language. We talk about our founding fathers as if they were on par with the saints of the bible. But we are not letting Scripture purely transform our minds, hearts, and actions as followers of Jesus first and foremost. Rather, we use Scripture to back up our politics. Political rhetoric is what is truly molding and transforming us. I am not even talking about liberal verse conservative media. I am talking about both. We have given the media (who profits off our addiction to drama and controversy) on both sides far too much power and control over our lives, emotions, views, and even character. And we do not seem to see how we all are being played for fools; or we only see one side of it. Regardless, that all misses the bigger point.
What I want to argue is that there are themes in Scripture for the faithful follower of Christ that are far more important than who gets elected or what party is in power. Yes, presidents and parties and politics have a real impact on people’s lives now and for future generations. No, it is not wrong to participate in policy debate or elect officials who champion specific values. It is not even wrong to speak up and out against the abuse of power or for certain rights or values. But it is to say that whoever is president and whatever party is in control, and whatever the future may hold, we have a much higher calling as followers of Jesus to remain faithful to him, live as he has called us to live, and do what he has called us to do. And the priorities, agenda, and kingdom of Jesus are different from whatever party is in power and whoever is president. Republican or Democrat.
What would those priorities and agenda be if it is true that we are called to something more important and higher than politics? First, let’s examine what Scripture says God’s stated purpose for our lives, according to Romans 8:29. You probably know the verse before this, which states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” But have you ever asked what God’s purpose is for your life and mine? And did you notice it is stated as a singular purpose, not plural or multiple purposes?
God’s purpose for your life and mine is revealed in the very next verse, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” I know that is full of some weighty theological language, but in essence, what Scripture says is that God’s purpose for his people is that we become like Jesus. That may sound boring to you, but the truth is, God is much more concerned about our character in this world and for eternity than our comfort or convenience while briefly here on earth.
If this is true, then we should be approaching every situation in life, including politics, as to how God is using those circumstances to conform to our character to become more Christ-like. Let me ask you, how have you become more like Christ in the last four years? Frankly, I have witnessed many of us perhaps becoming less like Christ. So, let me ask it another way. In the next four years, regardless of who is president or what party is in power, how will that serve the purpose of God to make us more like Jesus? That’s a bigger priority than politics, parties, or who is president.
Second, yes, we are called to pray for those in authority. But I will be honest. I see many Christians and Christian leaders not praying genuine prayers for those in power, but prayers that conform to their political views. For example, I was a pastor when President Obama was in power. I heard all the time people in my church tell me through gritted teeth that they would pray for President Obama. But following that begrudging thought, would come the inevitable caveat that they would pray he would be removed from office! But now, I see those same believers praying the opposite when it comes to President Trump and calling others to do the same. They are praying God protects him and keeps him in power. This is a double standard and hypocritical stance. We need to be consistent, and we need to pray as Scripture calls us to pray for those in power regardless of who they are or how they may or may not align with our political views. And take a look at what Scripture actually says should be the focus of our prayers:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
Notice it has nothing to do with who is in power or what our political persuasion is or is not. The emphasis of our prayers is to be for whoever is in control that they will govern in a way that will create the kind of environment that allows us to live our lives in peace (verse anxiety), quietly (verse agitated), setting a godly and holy example (verse ungodly or unholy example). The emphasis is on our character, and the purpose is so we are effective in our witness to others. Because once again, more important than earthly politics is God’s eternal agenda of seeing men and women find salvation in Jesus Christ.
Remember, when the Apostle Paul wrote this, it was not under an ideal political environment. Paul, and the early church, were constantly being persecuted and many killed because of their faith. Yet, we don’t see Paul getting involved with political talking points, protests, or petitions. Yes, there are examples of him exercising his rights as a Roman citizen, but his focus was not political. Instead, he told the church to pray for God to work in every situation and in the hearts of those in authority and ultimately through their decisions in a way that would be conducive to creating a civil society and facilitating a witness on behalf of God’s people that would lead others to put their hope and faith in Christ. To be honest, I wonder who needs that prayer more though today. The government or God’s own people? For as much as we harp on elected governors, we have lost our way and witness equally as much!
So, let’s ask the question again. How has your witness been in the last four years? How many people came to faith in Christ because of your godly and loving example and care for their eternity? Whoever is elected for the next four years, will your focus be on political controversy and drama or lifting high the person of Jesus in a way that others are drawn to him?
Yes, we are to pray for the peace and prosperity of whatever country we find ourselves in. But we have a priority and agenda and reason bigger than our party being in power for whatever our earthly concerns may be. Yes, we are citizens of whatever country we reside in. Still, we have a citizenship greater than whatever temporary country we currently call home. We are part of a kingdom that is not of this world and a King that rules over all other lesser kings. And this King has his own Sovereign reasons and purpose for whoever he raises up and whoever he sets down.
Daniel, in the bible, understood this. Daniel was a man who served under several different kings and kingdoms. But he had a perspective more significant than anyone of those kings or kingdoms. He once prayed this prayer,“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons;he deposes kings and raises up others.“
God has his own Sovereign purpose and plans for whoever is in power! We are missing the point if we think it has to be one particular person or party. Sometimes those reasons or purposes can be hard to see, but even more so when we are blinded by our own political doctrine or agenda. Our job as followers of King Jesus is not to fight the good fight of politics; but to fight the good fight of faith, no matter what happens. In other words, we are called to remain faithful to Jesus no matter who is in power, and no matter what policies might be prevailing in the land. Some things are more important than politics.
I am concerned about this because what I continually see and hear is an unbelievable level of fear and anxiety among God’s people. We seem so afraid of persecution and our rights being taken away. Spin it however you want, but friends, we should be far more worried about the condition of our souls, character, witness, and faithfulness to Christ! There are things more significant and more important than politics.
I am not sure what it will take for us to have our eyes opened to the blindness, division, and even hypocrisy American politics have caused in too much of the church. It has not served us well. It has not served to help our witness. It has majorly damaged our credibility and corrupted our character. It’s a real problem. It’s ultimately a discipleship problem. We are far more worried about our temporary life, rights, circumstances, and future of our country than we are in remaining humble, obedient, faithful, passionate Christ-followers who stay fiercely loyal to him alone no matter what and no matter who is in power.
Are you praying for revival? That’s all well and good and right, but revival begins in God’s house, among God’s people. And what we need is not a revival where stand up and angrily demand our rights, but a revival of humility, godliness, character, and witness in this world in a way that draws others to also see the beauty of Jesus and uniqueness of his eternal kingdom. We need a revival of God’s people becoming more like Jesus no matter the situations they find themselves in. Some things are far bigger than politics. We need a vision that is greater than politics.