Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thoughts on Politics and the Church

I was listening to my favorite Christian radio station this morning, and an idea was posed that really got me thinking. The guest on the morning show submitted the idea that if Christians were to take half the energy they spend on politics and put it into fixing problems within the church, more people would come to know Christ. His point was that when we come out strong politically against homosexuality, abortion, and other hot moral topics, we become the enemy to the other side. If we’re the enemy, how are they ever going to come to know Jesus? And if they see us as hypocritical, how can we be expected to be taken seriously? I see his point. The best way for people to come to know Christ is through personal relationships with Christians. The guest on the radio likened it to introducing someone to a friend. It takes the middle person in the relationship to introduce the outside people. If someone sees Christians as so offensive that they don’t even want to be around them, who will introduce that person to Christ? I’m not saying that we as Christians go soft on social issues. I think voting and being involved in our political process is important. However, I do think we need to go back to Jesus’ basic instruction in Matthew 7:3-5, which is “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” (NIV). It is hard for non-Christians, who are enslaved in some type of sin, to listen to Christians when they see us enslaved in the same types of sin. They see us as hypocrites. We need to look at ourselves first. We need to strengthen marriages within the church. We need to be known as people of integrity and people who freely love our fellow man. In loving our fellow man, however, we must remain true to God’s Word. We cannot compromise our faith. It sounds cliché, but we must hate the sin and love the sinner. We need to learn to separate people from behavior. People are not the enemy. Satan is the enemy. The Bible says that “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NIV). We need to constantly keep in mind that those who do not know Christ are not going to view the world the same way we do. They are not going to be won over by arguments and debates. I feel convicted on this point. I love a good debate, but sometimes I fear I come across as hateful toward the people I’m debating. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have a lot of compassion toward people, even if I don’t always agree with them. So what is the answer? For me it is to support my fellow Christians. Be involved with them, so when something starts to go wrong, we feel comfortable turning to each other, rather than putting on a happy-everything-is-fine face. We need to get real; be authentic. We need to not be afraid to admit to each other that we’re falling prey to sin. How often have we seen a couple divorce, and then afterward everyone is dumbfounded, because nobody knew anything was wrong? That needs to end. We need to be willing to admit our shortcomings, and then we need to have the courage to fix them. When our church is strengthened, I believe we will be set apart as different, and in a good way. We’ll be seen less as people who want to force our religion down other people’s throats, and more as people who genuinely care about the future of those around us. In the meanwhile, we need to treat non-Christians with respect, as people created by our Holy God. Even if we don’t agree with them, even if we think their political position is 200% wrong, we need to remember that God still loves them, and we need to show them love, even as we disagree with them. In summary, we always need to look to our own behavior first. And we need to be honest and authentic with each other. And as Jesus said, “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).

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