Cautions for Christians in a Political Season
In America, politics is all around us, whether you want it to be or not. But as we anticipate the election of 2012, it is reaching a fever pitch. Being a political junkie myself, I find myself being, at times, so consumed by it that it distracts me from my main calling as a follower of Christ. So I thought perhaps it would be good to consider a few guidelines that might govern our conversations, activism and online discussions in this political season.
1) Don't Convince Yourself that One Election Will Solve Everything. Elections do have consequences and good leadership can effect social change. Still, the root of our problems in America is as old as civilization itself: its the problem of sin. And the solution is not a politician or a platform. It's not the tea party or the Republican party or the Democratic party or any party. The solution is the gospel. And as good as we try to make life on earth here, it will never be the utopia we desire. This longing will only be fulfilled when Jesus returns as King and establishes the New Heaven and Earth.
2) It's Ok to Favor a Candidate, but Don't Do it at the Expense of the Others. Politics is strange in that you not only line up behind a candidate you like, you have to do so by convincing yourself and others that the other candidates are inept, incompetent, dangerous, malicious and the cousin of Hitler. It could be that good men and women are running on all sides, but you favor the polices, experience, and character of one in particular. Can you do that without tearing down the opponent? That may seem impossible in this environment, but I think its worth a try.
3) Remember There is More to Life Than Politics. I know some people (myself the chief), who can't have a single conversation without it breaking into a political discussion. Every social ill is traced back to the ideology they oppose. But everything doesn't have a political component and every single wrong thing in the world isn't the fault of the politicians you despise. And remember that while politics is important, it's not ultimate.
4) Remember You Are a Christian. Yes, even in your political discussions and activism, you're a follower of Christ. Is your faith so intrinsically tied in with your politics that people think the gospel equals low taxes, less government, and ending Obamacare? And do you obey the Scripture's commands to love, forgive, honor, respect,and pray while you're discussing political leaders with whom you disagree? It doesn't really matter that "the other side does it." Christians don't play by this calculus. We're different. We're followers of Jesus, called to a higher standard. In this, we demonstrate the gospel.
5) Reaffirm Your Belief in the Sovereignty of God Over All Things. Every year they tell me this is the most important election of my lifetime. And maybe this election is really that vital. We want to elect and appoint men of character and competence. But ultimately God holds all things in his hands. He's not limited by voter turnout. He can work with rulers of all kinds and ultimately will use what happens to bring about his Kingdom. In other words, God won't be in Heaven on Tuesday night, November 6th, nervously watching CNN. (And no, my conservative friends, he won't be watching Fox either.)
6) Remember That the Most Important Thing Already Happened. Elections may be hugely important in America. But the most important and most consequential event in history already happened. Jesus rose from the dead. He's alive. He's coming back as King. And Christians live in light of this profound reality. So in spite of the decaying world around us, we have hope. So we can smile. We can shed cynicism. We don't have to give in to the anger and despair of our age.