Redeeming Politics

June 22, 2008 Series: Redemption

Topic: Gospel Passage: Joshua 5:13–5:14

Redeeming Politics

June 22, 2008

Sam Ford

 

Jesus and the Ballot Box

Reformer John Calvin described our hearts as "idol factories."  As creatures designed to worship, we are always looking to someone or something to find meaning, purpose, and ultimate satisfaction.  God designed us to find those things in him, but because of sin, we make idols out of all kinds of things.  Sometimes this results in "sinning it up" as we indulge in some aspect of creation/culture in the pursuit of our own self-pleasure.  Other times, we fearfully avoid all those things that been abused in creation/culture, feel "good" about ourselves, and in the process work toward our own self-glory

 

Today, we I'm going to share about REDEEMING POLITICS.   Admittedly, this is a difficult subject to talk about because it's so "private" and "personal".  I believe that Jesus cares about how we vote and about how we involve ourselves in politics.  I also believe, however, that politics has become a powerful idol.  It has become a savior many; for both those who believe in Jesus and many of those who don't.  

 

In today's political culture, I can't help but feel like everyone wants to whore out Jesus & Christianity when it's advantageous for them to get elected. 

  • Candidates tell us that Jesus is their favorite philosopher or that they often ask "What would Jesus do".
  • One political leader claims they have faith in the Bible, then proceed to tell you their favorite New Testament book is "Job"; others quote Scripture out of context to serve their own immediate needs, all the while butchering God's Word.
  • Candidates seek out endorsements from well known pastors (few who preach the gospel) then denounce them publicly when they begin to explain their real beliefs.
  • Then, to make matters more confusing, influential Christian leaders tell us that one party understands issues of faith, moral values, etc. and the other does not.
  • That true "Christians" would vote for so and so, and anyone who does not is silently allowing Satan to take over our culture.
  • It doesn't take long to see what they really mean is that one group is against abortion and gay marriage, while the other is not to which the "other party" will respond by claiming their opponents are indifferent toward the poor and the environment-too things that God charges us to take care of.

 

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for today, whose platform is more like Jesus', or even how Jesus would vote on particular issues.  The fact is, we do not know how or if Jesus would vote-he did not live in a representative republic like we do today.  Some people might argue that Jesus would be leading marches on Washington, others that he would quietly vote, and still others that he would not participate in politics at all.   I'm more concerned with making Politics less of an idol to take God's glory, and more of a tool to be used for God's glory.

 

Jesus is on God's Side - Joshua 5.13-14

Joshua was the one of 12 spies who went and spied out the land God promised him.  He and another spy named Caleb returned with a good report saying, "God has given us the land."  The people believed the other 10 and as a result, God waited for the entire generation to die before they entered the land.  After Moses died, God installed Joshua as the leader of Israel to conquer the promised Land of Israel.   Just as Moses had led Israel across the Red Sea, Joshua led them across a parted Jordan river on their way to conquer the land of Canaan.  On the night before he was to go into Jericho, a pre-incarnate Jesus showed up:  Joshua 5.13-14    13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" 14 And he said, "No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, "What does my lord say to his servant?"

 

Politically, God is in God's party, He's on God's side.  Believing that Jesus is the God of the Republicans or the Democrats is like arguing that God wants the Seahawks to Win but wants the Patriots to lose.  During the Civil War, in response to someone suggesting that they hoped God was on the union's side, Abraham Lincoln said, "I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right.  But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."

 

Should we be involved in Politics?

As we approach politics, I don't care we should care less about whether we are a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian, or Independent...and more about whether we are a COMMITTED CHRISTIANThe question doesn't seem to me whether or not we should be involved in politics, but HOW we should be involved in politics SO THAT we are in fact on "God's side."  

 

We need to be discerning and not dogmatic. In 2004, some religious leaders organized MAY DAY for marriage, a rally to support God's biblical design for same-sex-marriage.  Those in opposition to rally called it "an ultraconservative anti-gay-marriage" and encouraged all people to, "knock bigotry out of the ballpark"[1]  Many of the Seattle area churches led this charge. One fast-growing church in Seattle decided not to attend or promote the event.  This caused a tremendous amount of tension between churches.  They responded by stating that they didn't believe that was the most effective way to reach the homosexual community.  In short, while they agreed with all of the churches position          morality, they preferred different methods to reach an immoral community for Jesus.

 

We can't legislate morality...right?

Many people will say then, "that's right, you can't legislate morality."  While I believe this is true in some sense; I'd also agree when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Even though morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated.  While the law cannot change the heart, it can certainly restrain the heartless."  That's right, even though GOOD LAWS don't guarantee GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD LAWS punish BAD PEOPLE.  So we need leaders, a government, a president to make sure that our nation is moral! 

 

God as President

Consider that, although God causes the rise and fall of ALL nations, He built on nation Israel.  It was a theocracy, meaning, God led the nation and gave law, direction, and judgment through His prophet.  God was the King.  It doesn't take much reading to see that after Exodus and through Judges, having God as President did not guarantee a moral people.  And the problem wasn't with the President...it was with the sinful people.  Finally, after hundreds of years of "perfect" leadership, they wanted to install an "imperfect" King because they thought a man led government would do better.


We want a King

1Samuel 8.4-18   4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations." 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them."

Samuel's Warning Against Kings

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said,  "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day."

 

In many ways, we are no different than the Israelites.  We reject our true and perfect King, and put our faith in a king of our own. 

 

Christian Jihad

Christian Jihad is the belief that the solution to society's obvious moral decline is to place solid leaders with Christian political agendas in office.  Many well-meaning Christian leaders believe that if we CAN change laws we will in some way change behaviors.  If we CANNOT change laws, then we will open our world to increased sinfulness which will result in lost souls.  They believe that GOOD LAWS will result in GOOD PEOPLE.  As a result, Christian organizations are created and their leaders throw all of their time, energy, and resources in trying to REDEEM society through politics. 

 

Theologically, the Christian Jihadist believes they have too much power.  Those who believe that they need to throw all their hands and hope into politics are living a life of fear believing God is not in control, that He is not reigning as King, that He is not authoritative unless we have a "Christian" in the white house.  The Bible clearly teaches that God institutes ALL governments Christian or not: Romans 13.1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God and that God is powerful enough to be glorified through those governments in some way.

 

Christian Jihad is wrong because I believe that a single-minded focus like this is short-sighted at best, and a complete waste at worst.  The solution to "fixing" our society has less to do with a pragmatic approach to "helping people help themselves" or providing "programs" to help those who can't, it's about recognizing the true nature of the problem.  Sin is the problem, not bad legislation. The reality is that you could have the best and most godly laws available and it won't make a lick of difference.  Just ask Adam and Even how a perfect environment, with a perfect relationship with God, and a perfect law worked for them.  Don't get me wrong, I want laws, I love laws.  I want a world where people are punished for wickedness, where I am protected, where I am free.  But Laws cannot save.  Paul says in Galatians 3.11, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for  "The righteous shall live by faith."

 

Christian Silence

The other reaction I see in Christendom is the opposite extreme.  Instead of Christian Jihad you have a Christian

 

Christian Silence is the belief that some Christian leaders promote suggesting, that "God does not call the church to influence the culture by promoting legislation." [2]  Those who hold to this view don't educate themselves except to look to various leaders of the Christian Jihad to make their decisions.  They fail to study Scripture to learn what issues are important to God, thereby basing their decisions on whatever will ask them to think the least.  They believe that there is on possibility if a "Good" Government and they would build their own schools, sew their own clothes, and grow their own food in their own theocracy outside of culture if they could.

 

Theologically, the Christian Abstainer believes they have no power.  They believe that their vote is meaningless, that their living here is at best a good example with little impact on those blind people around them.  Their lives will be full of good "Christian" works, but those works do not extend to any "secular" institutions.  Just as we cannot throw our hands IN, we also cannot throw our hands UP and say-well, God is in control.  I don't need to tell people the gospel because their eyes are veiled...I don't need to pray because God already knows what I need...I don't need to vote for godly laws because people won't follow them anyway. 

 

Christian Silence is wrong because first, Jesus calls us to fulfill our civic responsibility.  In other words, we're supposed to vote. Matthew 22.21b  "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."  Second, we have a stewardship responsibility to fulfill.  A significant amount of your money goes into funding the practices of our government.  We are blessed to live in a society where we can have a voice in how that money is spent.   You may not choose to march, protest, or otherwise campaign for a particular issue, but we should all choose to vote when God provides an opportunity to effect a kingdom value in our community.  Many Christians are not even registered to vote, but my guess is that if a law to ban bibles was to be voted on, they would quickly get registered.  Third, Christian Abstention is wrong because fails to recognize our kingdom responsibility to not only live but proclaim God's Counter Cultural Kingdom values in ALL areas of our lives.

 

Third Option: GOSPEL POLITICS

Redeeming Politics requires that we first understand the gospel, then believe it, speak it, and live it out in our politics.  If government is the body responsible to administrate, shape, and set direction for a community AND if politics is the art/science driving government, then our politic should be the gospel.  As individuals, the gospel should shape the affairs of our life and, as a result, should naturally shape the affairs of our community. 

 

We must begin to view the world as created in harmony under the rule of God.  We rebelled against God's authority and our sin led to the unraveling of Creation.  Our relationship with God, other races and classes, individuals, and creation itself were ruined because God is not acknowledged as King.  Poverty, Racism, and other forms of injustice are ALL a result of SIN.  The world and some Christians attempt to fix the injustice problems we all see in the world without God through politics. 

 

The Church's Words (Speak the Gospel)

Swiss Reformer John Calvin said,  "The task of the church is to make the invisible reign of Christ visible."   The churches must not only call people to vote for good people and good laws, but we must call people to REPENTENCE.  It is not that God does not care for what we call "political issues", it's that all of these issues are a result of people not believing the gospel. 

 

•1.      God cares about the poor - we don't see how much we've been given

  • 2. God cares about War -- we only see a God of love
  • 3. God cares about the environment - we don't view creation as fallen

•4.      God cares about racism and prejudice - we don't see us all as sinners

•5.      God cares about marriage - we don't recognize God's designs, died for bride

  • 6. God cares about our birth (abortion) - we don't see the image of God
  • 7. God cares about our death (euthanasia) - ""
  • 8. God cares about how criminals are punished - we don't see a God of justice
  • 9. God cares about how kids are educated - we don't see difference in wisdom
  • 10. God cares about how we spend our money - we don't see what we've been given

 

I simply want to make sure that we are speaking BIBILCALLY about ALL of these issues and not picking and choosing the ones we want to politicize.  In speaking of the Church Jesus said, Matthew 5.13 13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. Salt is an amazing mineral.  It can be used to PRESERVES PURIFIES, and ENRICHES.  In ALL of culture, politics included, we must discern what our moment in history demands of us:

 

  • Sometimes the church is called to PRESERVE the truths of God that exist in our culture now. We the voice that calls people back to the fundamentals that our country were based on, fundamentals that will lead us into a morality that is rooted in Scripture.

 

  • Sometimes the church is called to PURIFY at times and call for change. This is when we use our salt to clean out that which is rotten. It is a call to, at times, draw a land, take a stand, or march on government much like what the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did in leading the Civil Rights Movement. It is a call to stand up for Jesus

 

  • Sometimes the church is called to ENRICH. This is how the church avoids demonizing all of culture and making it richer by salting it up for Jesus. We do not throw politics out, we make it more palatable. We do not throw out all TV, movies, language, art, food, drink, etc. because of its bad taste. We restore it to something tasty by injecting some Jesus into it.

 

The Church's Religion (Live the Gospel)

James 1.22-23  22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirrors.  In recent years there has been a ruckus about 10 commandments posted around communities-whether or not that blurs the line between church and state.  Christians leaders would argue about the foundations of America and whether and what it means to remove God's Word from our courthouses.  All the while, I couldn't help but wonder how many of those guys had the 10 commandments posted in their own homes. 

 

I do believe we have a responsibility to reweave the disintegration caused by sin in our community.  In other words, we must love with more than our mouths.  Before we call people to enact laws politically, I encourage us to live out what we believe personally.  We must make sure that our faith is genuine in more than words before we call others to action. 

 

The Church's Hope (Believe the Gospel)

Finally, we must put our hope in the RIGHT things for our world.  Jeremiah 17.5-6 Thus says the Lord:  Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord...Without God, without the gospel, REDEMPTION of individuals or society is not possible.  The only thing you will accomplish with POLITICS MINUS JESUS is creating RULES that prevent or encourage BEHAVIOR but do nothing to change their hearts.   As the people of God, we are called to manifest a KINGDOM perspective through our language, our food, our marriages, our work, our money, and our politics. 

 

Jeremiah 17.7   Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord The Bible teaches that people enter the Kingdom of God through repentance and faith initiated by the Spirit as a response to God's word, NOT, as a result of creating an environment that is friendly to God's truth.  True change does not happen from a top-down way.  It happens when people encounter the gospel of Jesus which the Bible calls the power of God for salvation.  When individuals are transformed by the grace of God then families are transformed.  When families are transformed then communities are transformed.  When communities are transformed, then governments are transformed and God receives all the glory.   

 

In other words, the best politic is the Gospel.

 

Conclusion

In the meantime, God has called us to avoid making an IDOL out of man's government as we participate in it with a kingdom mentality.   In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested and brought before the rulers and elders and scribes in Jerusalem for preaching the Resurrection of Jesus.  After telling them that they do it by the authority of Jesus of Nazareth, the one they rejected, the one they crucified, the one in whom alone salvation rests....they commanded them to not speak in the name of Jesus.  Peter and John responded with....

 

Acts 4.19    19 But Peter and John answered them,  "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." 

 

  • Pray to know what is right in the sight of God, not men.
  • Pray for our leaders, that those who do not know Jesus will repent and believe.
  • Pray for those whom have made an idol out of church, believing the hope of our society rests in better laws and punishments.

 

And pray for yourself, that you will be known, loved for, and hated for your love for God, love for people, and a hope that is in Jesus who isn't a Republican or a Democrat...who is according to Ephesians 1.21, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come."

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[1] http://exploitseattle.com/1697/%22Mayday_for_Marriage%22_counterprotest.html

[2] John MacArthur, Why Government Can't Save You, 2000

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