I am writing this to (what I think is) a large group of Christians who were disappointed and even discouraged by the choices presented to us in this year’s presidential election. Perhaps you didn’t vote, perhaps you voted for a third-party or write-in candidate, or perhaps (like many) you held your nose in disgust and voted for one of the two main candidates. Whatever you chose to do on election day, I want to ask you to think about some things.
This campaign was contemptible. It was not an exchange of ideology or plans for the future of the country. It was a gladiatorial arena of personal attacks and angry rebuttals. Christians who supported either candidate found themselves trying to defend their candidate, explaining away words and actions which are anathema to servants of the Kingdom. It is no wonder that so many followers of Christ had a hard time personally choosing between the two main candidates. When the deciding factor in voting is which candidate will be the least destructive, we have found ourselves in a position that has reached the point of absurdity.
So, looking at such an absurd situation, might I ask you to think about something? Can we all just take a step back and think about our role as followers of Jesus in a society that seems to have left Him behind? Are we doing what Jesus called us to do? Are we following the example of the early Church as they sought to follow after Christ? My gut feeling is that we are not.
Jesus did not call us to be political activists. He did not call us to avoid persecution. Please forgive the imagery, but He did not call His bride to prostitute herself by getting into bed with political parties for the purpose of gaining power and influence. And that is what we are doing when we give our focus to earthly kingdoms over our heavenly Kingdom. Brett McCracken recently wrote, “The word ‘evangelical’ no longer has anything to do with faithfully following Jesus Christ and advancing his kingdom.” That is certainly the view that many outside the Kingdom have of evangelicals. They look upon evangelicals as a political movement whose members happen to share some common faith points.
What DID Jesus call His followers to do? He called us to obey Him (John 14:15), to love each other (John 13:35) and to make more followers (Matthew 28:19). So I ask you to think about this, does our focus on politics fulfill those things which Jesus has called us to do? Is there a possibility that our political activities DISTRACT us from what He has called us to do?
I ask that you consider these questions, but you have probably already guessed my feelings on this matter. I believe we have replaced discipleship with political action. For over 30 years, the American Church has become more and more political. The results of this politicization are a nation that is more immoral than ever, a Church that makes little impact in our communities, and believers whose lifestyle choices differ little from those outside of the Church. Studies show we are divided and practically illiterate when it comes to Scripture and the history of God’s interaction with humanity.
How do we get back to what Jesus called us to? How do we refocus on BEING righteous rather than trying to legislate righteousness? How do we return to our duties as soldiers of the Kingdom rather than getting entangled in the civilian affairs of the politics of this world? I’ll be honest and tell you I don’t have the answers. But I am on a journey to find them. So far, I can say with a measure of confidence, that part of the answer involves looking at politics in a different light. Politics is not my hope, it is not my calling. In so many cases, politics is the world’s attempt to find temporary answers to eternal problems. I need to stop exerting so much energy on temporary solutions when I know the One who has the everlasting answers. Isaiah 31:1 says
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.
For too long, we the Church have looked to Egypt for help, or we have married the LORD and Egypt together so much so that we cannot tell them apart. I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t vote or shouldn’t pay taxes or shouldn’t be concerned about issues in our culture and our community. And certainly governments can and should provide help for its citizens. What I am saying is that we need to stop looking to Egypt as the focus of our passion. We need to stop looking at politics for the answers and realize that it usually distracts us from being a part of God’s answer.
In 2017, my church and I will be taking a journey to refocus on becoming a church that matches the character of the New Testament Church. I hope to record our progress and the mistakes we make on this journey. I know that part of that journey is taking a step back from the politics of the world so that we can focus on the power of the Kingdom. The steps we take on this journey may be hard, and few will be as difficult as stepping back from our focus on politics. We will stumble, but we will get back up again. Our purpose will be to keep in step with the Holy Spirit on the path God has chosen for us. My hope is that others may learn from our mistakes and successes. Any successes along our journey will be completely due to the grace shown to us by the work of Jesus in our lives as a Church. May we decrease so that the cross of Christ may increase.
About Dan Stanley
Dan serves as pastor at Riverside Assembly of God. He studied Christian Education at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. He is married to Christina Joyce Stanley.