Prayer

God, motivate us to seek justice, even when the outcome won’t affect us.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Politics – Arghhhh!

Politics and racial, social and civil injustices are my biggest downfall, my quickest route away from the center that is Christ. I hear the Spirit yelling in my head, “Be in the World, not of it!” over and over. Only occasionally does the Spirit break through to reach my stubborn, out-spoken, opinionated, human self.  (Confession is good for the soul, by the way.)

And, I admit I went into this chapter with no small amount of hesitation, fearful I would come out the other end having been told my assessment of certain political positions and/or personalities were sinfully wrong. (Multiple confessions are even better for the soul.)

That’s why this chapter may ultimately be the most important one in the book for me personally. Only time will tell.

signed-no-onePolarizing Express

Another confession – in the graphic to the right, I would not be the writer.  I would be the “Dear person”. And that’s how it’s working right now, isn’t it? Your parents, your parents’ friends (and maybe you and/or your friends) are sharing articles, memes, and trading jabs about this or that politician or issue?

Author Scott Sauls gives us some important points (and scripture) to consider about both/and, neither/nor, left vs. right, conservative vs.liberal, and red vs. blue.

  • God is in favor of government.
  • The Bible recognizes three institutions that God established to resist decay in society and promote its flourishing: nuclear family, the church, and the government.
  • Jesus paid taxes and encouraged his disciples to do the same.
  • Paul encouraged “ministers of God” to submit to the governing authority.
  • Peter told believers that part of their service was to fear God and honor the emperor.
  • The Bible talks about God-fearing men and women who served in public office.

I admit, it pained me to read that. But it’s backed up by scripture from Matthew, Romans, and 1 Peter.  And there’s more, because Sauls went on to talk about Christ and what His position would be.  And we all have our presumptions about that one, regardless of which side of the aisle, right? Wrong.

“When it comes to politics, the Bible gives us no reason to believe that Jesus would side completely with one political viewpoint over another. Rather, when it comes to kings and kingdoms, Jesus sides with himself.”

 

Are you as disheartened as I was? I was certain that the rebel, refugee, subversive, resistance leading Jesus I know was fully on my side politically, only to be told by Sauls that He doesn’t take sides, and the references Sauls uses to Joshua, Matthew and Ephesians makes that clear for me, now.

sauls-political-paradox

“Our loyalty to Jesus and his Kingdom must always exceed our loyalty to an earthly agenda, whether political or otherwise. We should feel “at home” with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith. If this is not our experience, then we very well may be rendering to Caesar what belongs to God.”

Sauls goes on to discuss and give an example of world politics during Christ’s time, then relates that situation to modern politics in that “the goal of politics is to get people to support a particular vision for the world and to conduct their lives according to that vision,” and how, like the historic example, politicians will misuse power and manipulation of truth.

We’ve seen politicians do this regardless of which side of the political aisle we sit on, haven’t we? And, in an ever shrinking world, we’ve been witness to the importance of power to politicians and how they rely on it and manipulate the truth through spin, omitting context, creating a false narrative, whatever it takes. And, nearly all will tell you the ends always justify the means. As long as the end is they end they set forth in their political world vision. And not even if the means are sacrifices expected of you.

The thing is, we’re a globe full of passionate humans with access to more sources of information than the world has ever known. To say we know what we know is fair. And, sometimes, it’s even factual.  But now days, we’re at risk or guilty of becoming complicit when it comes to manipulation of the truth. You can see it in our social media interactions. You may witness it in family discussions or when socializing with friends. And it can totally blow your mind, mess up your day, and make you question their sanity and yours.

But, honestly, is it possible you’re doing the same thing they are?

“On this side of the aisle is our candidate, the answer to all of the world’s problems. She can do no wrong. On that side of the aisle is their candidate, the reason for all the world’s problems. He can do no right.”

Feel free to swap the pronouns around. It works no matter who, which party, whether your candidate leans left or leans right. By the way, try changing out the “On this side of the aisle”, too.  On this side of the: issue, tracks, town, state, country, church … see? It’s universally accurate in almost any situation. In every situation that results in conflict.

It’s just about the only human constant in the vitriolic, volatile world we find ourselves in today.

So Where IS God, What’s He Doing, and What Should I Do?

For many reading this, that question is a big one. It’s so big, a lot of you are considering giving up on Him altogether, are clinging to Him but walking away from your church … or already have.  But, He’s here, He’s with you, He’s the reason you were drawn to read this. So stick with me just a bit longer.

Sauls points out and you should take heart in that it isn’t wrong for you to favor one party over another. God’s given us the freedom to do that.  Sauls wants us to understand and remember:

  • Both sides have good things to say.
  • Both sides have problems.
  • You will cause yourself damage if you don’t acknowledge both of the above.
  • One’s faith doesn’t determine right or left, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.
  • One’s political party, etc, does not determine one’s faith or lack thereof
  • You will cause yourself damage if you don’t acknowledge both of the above.
  • Jesus is neither conservative nor liberal, yet Jesus is both.
  • Jesus is, in many ways, more conservative than the far right, and, in many ways, more liberal than the far left.
  • You will cause yourself damage if you don’t acknowledge both of the above.

Sauls goes on to explain how each of the above statements is true using historical, biblical and relevant contemporary examples. He discusses how to know if you are on God’s side, and then he makes some very critical points:

  • Christianity has always thrived most as a life-giving minority, not a political majority.
  • Christianity embraces both conservative and progressive values.

“If only there were more people in power who followed Jesus,” the reasoning goes, “that would be the game changer that would finally be the game changer that would finally make the world what God intends it to be.”

That’s a voice that’s growing louder by the day here in the US, so loud that repeal of laws passed to ensure separation of Church and State are actually being considered. But is it a good voice? Is it a right voice? Is it God’s voice?

I want you to read this book with me, so I’m not going to give you all the answers. Sauls has spent this chapter explaining the politics of the world, the Kingdom politics of God, the good … and not so good … events achieved by Christians and the Church throughout history, and our role in politics as Christians using actual historical events so effectively, even a non-believer will understand and agree.  And he leaves us with a closing reminder:

“Seek first the kingdom of God …, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

I realize that this is only the first chapter, but get this book, if only for this chapter.  It will make a difference!

OK, find peace, find rest, (read the book).  Next up – “Chapter 2 – For the Unborn or For the Poor?”

Credit: All quotes in this series are directly from “Jesus Outside the Lines”, including those by others Mr. Sauls used in his book. Mr. Sauls has included a list of end note citations for his sources in the “Notes” section of the book.

Note: Please understand that I have not finished the book, nor even read ahead of a chapter as I write my take on it.  This is truly a “read-along” experience for me.

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