Should I take a stand on public matters that are political when I am a church? This is a question, in various forms, asked of me in the last month. In my prior article on this topic, found here, I address areas where repentance is needed. After putting off the old and renewing our mind, here are some suggestions to moving forward.
Suggested solution #1: Think. Judge. Redeem.
Find or build a tribe of people who will help you think. You may not agree with them theologically in all respects, but find pastors who will make you think. A professor of mine said he wanted to be able to wake us up in the middle of the night and ask us what discernment means: Think. Judge. Redeem. Thinking involves understanding something for what it is. Judging looks to see what is truth or not, and how does it hold up to Scripture. Redeem asks the question of how or if we can or should use something for God’s glory. This is a faith exercise in navigating areas where the Bible may not be clear. To develop this ability you need people who will push you to think, think clearer, and think better.
Suggested solution #2: What the Bible speaks to, we speak to
If it is in the Bible, we can speak to the matter. Where the Bible is silent, perhaps we should be more circumspect, but we still engage. Romans 12-16 or 1 Peter make little sense if we do not engage in public life. Part of the great commission is to teach what Christ, the Word, commanded. Staying silent on what the Bible speaks about lacks faithfulness to Christ. There are times to speak and times to listen. The question is are we listening or afraid to speak what the Bible says? My sense of late it’s fear and not listening. Speak to what the Bible speaks.
Suggested solution #3: Teach a biblical theology of government
God intentionally designed Israel and how they should govern themselves (Torah). God intentionally put safeguards in when Israel decided to mess things up (Dt. 17). God warned them what messing up would create (1 Sam 8). God shows us how He judges governments (Dani, Nah, Rev). The Holy Spirit taught the apostles who recorded for us how to relate to government (Rom. 12-16, 1 Tim 2, 1 Pet). This just scratches the surface, but ask how many sermons have you heard in your lifetime about the biblical view of politics? And without such, how do we pray for or call out the sin of our nation? We must study more.
Suggested solution #4: Focus on local over national politics, principles over parties
History is made by those who show up. While national politics is awful, you can make a difference locally. We are called to make a difference locally. We should also be concerned with biblical principles rather than national parties. From my perspective, parties have grave issues from a biblical standpoint. For example: political parities in DC are more about team sport than actual principles and getting things done. Hence, one party votes for or against raising the debt ceiling depending on whether or not they are in power. You and I do not have much influence in that debate. We do have a voice in our local communities. However, in all the meetings I attended, the seats are mostly empty. The times people are heard is mostly when there is a complaint. If we do not show up when it doesn’t matter, why should they listen when it does? We need to participate and engage. Evangelicals simply do not show up. Show up.
Suggested solution #5: Man up!
Paul gives this exhortation in 1 Cor 16:13ESV: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Stop pleasing people, and focus on pleasing God. While this exhortation is couched in doing all things in love, such does not negate the call for Godly men, especially pastors, to man up. This means we will likely take a hit. Speaking what the Bible says will tick off political figures of our day (note John the Baptist). Government officials sin corporately, not just privately. We over emphasized being liked to such a degree that we sacrificed the prophetic voice we should have. We focused so much on pragmatics, that we lost our call to be watchful. Let us start doing what the Bible commands us to do. There is a gaping hole in our society and stand in the gap.
The bottom line:
The Bible gives instruction for a better way. It is not silent on the matters of today. We need to stop pulling our punches when it comes to calling out the sin and idols of our day. For too long we have not equipped our people to handle this. So let us put off the old man by repenting from our fear, apathy and/or negligence, let us renew our mind by sharpening our minds and developing all areas of our theology, and let us put on the new man which engages our communities to make them better places for God’s glory and our tranquility. Engage!