Is that a loaded question, or what!? The obvious answer is neither, right? Jesus walked the earth in a time before Republicans, Democrats, and even democracy. However, one of the biggest gripes non-Christians have against the American church is that it lines itself up too closely with one political party. There are many individuals who are resistant to get involved in church because they equate the church with a political party and agenda. In fact, I recently received an email from my Christian friend, Bruce, who expressed some of the same frustration. He wrote: “Some of my church brothers and sisters were appalled when I showed up at home group sporting my Obama tee-shirt and parked my ‘Obama-mobile’ front-and-center in the parking lot (pretty much assuring that I’ll never be an elder . . .). It’s almost as though they question the legitimacy of my faith because I don’t support the Republican viewpoint (I’m not a Democrat, either—I’m a ‘decline to state’ dude).”
Before we go any further, let me state that it is not my intent to push any agenda or promote any candidate, but instead to honestly explore the role of the Christian (and Jesus) in politics. I am not picking on any party, but just stating the fact that these are the honest perceptions of many people. This being a presidential election year, emotions and opinions are running high in the political realm. But I think it’s sometimes good to be reminded that as Christians our moral compass is not set by political parties, pundits, or personalities (most of which are here for a season and then forgotten). A Christian’s “true north” is found only in the Word of God, which never changes.
I recently noticed a big Christian campaign called “Jesus for President.” While the intent is great—getting people to vote for people and issues through a biblical lens—the message of the slogan may be a little off-base. When Jesus walked the earth, there was a similar slogan. “Jesus for King!” In John 6, Jesus had just fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish. The crowds were astonished. They correctly perceived him to be the promised Messiah. John records that when Jesus realized the crowds were going to try to make Him their king, He ran away! Jesus had no interest in that position. In fact, time and again, when Jesus was asked about the Romans and the current political situation He was entirely unconcerned. Jesus had a singular focus. He knew who He was and why He was here and wouldn’t let anything distract Him from His mission of being the Savior of mankind.
The fact of the matter is that Jesus does not want to be your king, your governor, or even your president. He wants to be your Lord and Savior. I believe Jesus is entirely unconcerned with whether or not America is a “Christian” nation. But He is absolutely obsessed with individual people like you and me experiencing the life-change that only comes through following Him. Legislating morality will not bring this nation closer to God. If you don’t believe it, read your Bible. Israel had become experts at legislating morality. They took God’s law and “improved” on it to the point that you could hardly walk down the street without being in jeopardy of breaking the law. But the more steeped in law they became, the further from the heart of God they wandered.
So if this is the case, we should probably just abandon the whole democratic process, right? Absolutely not! Just as your friendly neighborhood Spiderman learned that “with great power comes great responsibility,” it’s also true that with the privilege of democracy comes great responsibility. Christians should be involved in the democratic process. We are blessed beyond all nations to live in a country where we have the freedoms we have and opportunities that we have. We should never take it for granted. But contrary to popular belief, the United States of America is not the new Israel. We are not the new “chosen people.” God is now a God of individuals, not nations. As the individuals God has chosen to serve Him in America, we should vote on all the issues and candidates using our best judgment as to how they fit in with God’s plan and God’s Word.
We run great risk when we vote straight down the party line (no matter what party we support). My grandfather was a Free Will Baptist preacher and an old-school democrat. As a kid, I can remember my family joking around that grandpa would vote for Satan if he ran on the democratic ticket. While I know they were joking, it is seriously dangerous to have that kind of allegiance to an earthly institution.
So how should we interact with people with different political views than ours? It may be oversimplifying things, but the same way we interact with anyone we disagree with—with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If you are walking in the Spirit, these qualities should be evident in ALL areas of your life. Unfortunately, many of us have set aside compartments of our lives where we sort of throw these qualities out the window. A perfect example of this is the internet. I’m amazed how often people’s values go out the window when they’re on the internet. They say things to people they wouldn’t normally say and view things they wouldn’t normally view.
All too often the same is true of politics. When we get into political discussions, the fruits of the Spirit are forgotten. Instead of love, we demonstrate anger. Instead of peace, we become combative. Instead of patience, we show frustration and close-mindedness. And don’t even get me started on gentleness and self-control!
Imagine with me a spirited conversation about politics where at least one of the individuals involved chose to engage the other by demonstrating the fruits mentioned in Galatians 5. I believe the results would be very different than a typical Republican VS Democrat argument. What if when we discussed politics, we tried to act less like Bill O’Reilly or Wolf Blitzer and more like Jesus? I know we’re not supposed to mix politics and Jesus, but I think that’s exactly what the world wants to see from Christians. I think those outside the faith would find it refreshing to interact with Christians who acted more like Jesus and less like their favorite political pundit.
In Joshua 5, Joshua meets an angel carrying a sword on his journey but doesn’t realize it’s an angel. He asks the angel “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The angel responds, “Neither, I’m for the Lord.” You see, God’s agenda is bigger than our agenda or our enemy’s agenda. A political party could never assume to speak for the Almighty anymore than you or I could. So as an American Christian, it’s your responsibility to study the issues and candidates, pray for wisdom, and vote accordingly.
I know great men and women of God who are Republicans, Democrats, and everything in between. Both parties have issues that line up with the teachings of Scripture and both parties have issues that don’t. The bottom line is that we are called to something higher than nations and politics. We are to be a peculiar people following a magnificent Savior and leading others to do the same. That calling is the same whether you are living in democratic America or communist China.