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Monday, November 24, 2014

The politicalization of the gospel

Posted by Gary on November 11, 2005

The recent Supreme Court nominations have renewed in me a concern that I have had for many years, the politicalization of the gospel. Watching this process with an eye for the matters of Christ has led me to wonder what we are really after as the people of God.

I am as concerned about abortion and the Biblical view of marriage as anyone else but I must say, when I step off the whirly-gig of the political sphere and think about Jesus and the gospel and the work of God in men’s souls I wonder what we are accomplishing. I wonder if we realize that for many years now we have been reducing the Christian faith to a political party in the United States.

I am not wiling to blame the press and its portrayal of Christianity here, there is a sense in which the media’s portrayal of us is true, we are I fear far more about the business of politics than we are the matters of the Kingdom of God.

Yes, I know, God’s matters cross the political realm the question is, is the political process the way that we are to be about the matters of Christ? I ask you if you are a Christian to stop for a moment, how do you see the gospel being furthered through the tremendous political effort of Christians?

In particular I wonder how the revelation that Dr. James Dobson was told things he, "probably shouldn’t know" by Karl Rove concerning the nomination of Harriet Meirs helps the cause of the gospel? To me it just declares that there are many well known Christians who have achieved a place of standing in Washington, ok, now what?

Do I want someone who is pro-life to replace Sandra Day O’Conner? Of course I do. But here is the issue, get everything you could imagine you want, nine Justice Scalias, Ronald Reagan back from the dead and in the Oval Office, a super majority in the House and Senate and what will all this mean in the hearts of men? I really believe that for many this has become the goal. While I join my brothers and sisters in Christ in longing to see abortion declared illegal let me remind us that Roe does not have to be overturned to stop women from killing their babies the gospel and only the gospel is going to truly deal with abortion. Murder is in the heart and women who are determined to kill their babies are going to do so.

I think of the early church, consider how little say they had over the government that ruled them and over the laws that were established in the Roman Empire and yet what do we find? The early believers are spoken of this way:

Acts 17:6 "…These men who have upset the world have come here also…"

While reading the book of Philippians the other day I came across this verse:

Philippians 4:22 "All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household."

Saints in Caesar’s household? How do we imagine this happened? Probably by Paul submitting a petition against offering incense to Zeus right? No, Paul tells us how earlier in Philippians:

Philippians 1:12-14 "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear."

How have we come to think that changing laws (I grant you a wonderful thing in its own right) and getting the steering wheel of the political process is going to result in the advancement of the gospel? I wonder comparatively how much time Christians who went door to door with petitions in recent elections have spent witnessing to their unsaved neighbor? If they had a conversation with their unsaved neighbor would it be about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come:

Acts 24:24-25 "But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you." 

Or would it be an attempt to get their neighbor to see the light of Conservative politics? Is it our goal to make men moral or to see them be saved? You would almost think that we have been called to make disciples of Ronald Reagan.

I marvel at how many church goers tell me that they can’t understand the Bible yet seem to very fully understand all the ins and outs of current political battles and strategy. To me it is a sheer matter of time and "where your treasure is there will your heart be also." Many of these people probably spend 3 to 6 hours a day listening to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and how much time in the Bible in comparison? Bring up taxes or border control and they become red faced and zealous, speak to them about matters of doctrine and they snore. Petitions? Yes! Witnessing? "Um, well…"

Without question the gospel has a tremendous effect on the morals and behavior of individuals and nations, the Great Awakening is a clear proof of this but again, come back to the priority, the method, were Whitefield and Wesley out to change government or convert men?

One last consideration…Our attempt to change the moral climate, how willing do we think the unsaved are to listen to people who are as immoral as most people in churches are today? Do we really think that God will add His power to our calls for people to change while we refuse to repent of our own sin and obey? Who are we kidding? Not the unsaved and not God.

Comments

3 Responses to “The politicalization of the gospel”
  1. Bill K. says:

    Excellent post. I would say we have not seen any advancement (concerning saving souls) with the Conservative push. If anything, I think the country is more divided than ever because of it. I also suspect that sincere Christians who get politically involved, have done so feeling that the Christian faith is under attack, and they seem willing to use any tactic to fight back. Ultimately, you hit the nail on the head when you point out the willingness of Christians to petition for politicians and policies, but fail to witness for Christ.

    I think in today’s culture Christians must be involved in the political process with fervor not only to advance but just to maintain any resemblence that the U.S. is/was a Christian nation. What suggestions for improvement or ideal conditions would you like to see regarding Christians involvemnt in politics?

  2. Gary says:

    Dear Bill,

    To be quite honest I am feeling more and more that political fervor is not our call or responsibility. Again I return to Scripture and the Biblical model, I don’t see the command to reform our nations at least not through means that will hinder the work of the gospel. The ultimate question to my mind is not what we should be doing as it concerns political activity but what should we be doing about gospel activity?

    The truth is our real hope to see our nation changed is through concentrating on the gospel and its power, not through politics. Knowing me you know that I am not passive in the realm of political ideas, I have strong beliefs about things like the size of government and taxes and defense and of course moral issues.

    Yet I think of my work as a pastor, is it wise of me (from a gospel sense) to parade my political views and to engage the unsaved people or new converts I meet with political arguments? “But it is truth” many will say. Yes, I agree but is it the primary truth that we are to fight our battles over?

    For example, Rush Limbaugh says that he is on a “relentless pursuit of the truth” and as it concerns politics you might believe him. But the truth is Jesus (“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life”) any pursuit of the truth that does not end up at Jesus is not a real pursuit of the truth. I can (and do) listen to Rush and can say a political “Amen” to almost everything he says but at the end of the day what effect has it had for the gospel? None.

    I can argue for smaller government, lower taxes, strong defense and I believe these all to be the way to pursue national life. But what if arguing these things is going to cost me the opportunity to be heard concerning Jesus? Do I say, “Well, it’s true and if they can’t handle it too bad”? Our great obligation is to deal with the unsaved in a way so we can speak to them about Jesus. I may have to (and probably will have to) forgo discussing my political convictions to do so.

    As to your other point; I don’t believe America is a Christian nation and I actually think it has been quite dangerous for us to speak as if it is. I don’t really have a concern to guard America’s standing as a Christian nation I am concerned to see Americans become Christians. I am not trying to sound pious (as if other Christians don’t want to see people be saved) but zealousness about our nation’s heritage without zeal to witness to our neighbors strikes me as false.

    I think that Christians should vote, contact their representatives as other citizens do; attaching Christ and the Church to organized political lobbying needs to stop. I believe we need to take up whole heartedly the issues and work of our realm, the Church, believing that when we do this God will take care of “upsetting the world” Acts 17:6.

  3. Bill K. says:

    I see what you’re saying. Do you think the U.S. was ever a “Christian” nation?

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