The last several weeks in the political world have certainly been fascinating. This election cycle has been a microcosm of the political divide present in our nation. Personally, one of my hopes over the last several weeks was that Election Day would bring finality to at least some of the controversy. Unfortunately that appears not to be the case. Protests and arguments persist. In such a polarized political climate, what is the church’s role? Is there anything we as pastors can do to proclaim peace to our culture?
I’m sure some readers, like many congregants in our churches, will find themselves on different sides of the political spectrum and on different sides of various issues. As I write this, I’m mindful of friends, pastors, and church leaders across the political spectrum that I follow and befriend. Fellow leaders, we must now more than ever emphasize the healing and hope offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, his perfect life, death, burial, resurrection and our response to it of repentance and faith, is the ultimate hope for our world. Specifically, I believe the gospel provides the framework for us to address many of the political tensions that face our nation. By preaching and applying these gospel solutions, we offer hope and challenge to our congregants.
- The gospel teaches us there is something more important than politics. The last several months have drawn much attention to the political arena. I’ve heard and read imprudent comments from Christians on both sides of the political aisle regarding the twists and turns of this election cycle. While politics is fascinating and can inform us about the pulse of the culture, it is not preeminent. What truly matters, our standing before God, is apolitical and is based on our acceptance or rejection of the gospel.
- The gospel points us to the only Savior. Presidents are not saviors. Certainly, as citizens we can and should vote our values and hope for the best for our country. But given the polarization of the last several political cycles and the hope envisaged by the electorate on at least the last two presidents, much has been left undone (and much will be left undone by the current President-elect). Politics, and the flaws it reveals in human nature, show humanity’s desperate need for a Savior that can only be found in the message of the gospel.
- The gospel reminds us that we are equal in our need for redemption. Many in the New Testament church faced the tension of the Jew/Gentile theological controversy. That tension is one of the reasons Paul wrote that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). Applying that truth to today’s context, we could say that in Christ there is no Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. Labels divide. Jesus unites—through the gospel. Please don’t read this and think that I’m suggesting political perspectives and values don’t matter. They do. But God forbid if we let our political views and identifications become an idol or keep us from sharing the gospel across the political aisle.
- The gospel humbles us. Because the gospel powerfully points out our sinfulness, pride has no place in our Christian lives. Humble people are less concerned about being right than they are about being made right with God. Humble people are willing to listen to the problems and tensions of others rather than ignore those who think differently. A dose of gospel-birthed humility would greatly aid the church in this tension-filled political atmosphere.
- The gospel propels us toward actual, not just political, solutions. As much as anyone, I value the sanctity of life and the biblical view of marriage. I want what’s best for our country politically and economically. But more than that, the gospel propels us to long for spiritual renewal and healing. The problems of rampant pornography, cultural rot, relativized truth, bi-partisan corruption, substance abuse, etc. (I could go on and on) certainly have political implications. We can and should pursue legislative and political solutions to many of these challenges. But we must realize that ultimately the power of the gospel and the heart change it brings (that will affect many of the aforementioned problems) is what our nation needs most. A word of caution, we must be careful to avoid identifying our political brand as part and parcel of the gospel itself.
- The gospel models the love we should have toward one another. Racial tension and the need for reconciliation remain with us in this broken world. But the love that took Jesus to the cross, the love that redeemed us, is racially blind. Christians changed by the gospel must be as well. This means that we should listen to the hurts, fears, injustices, and concerns of people who don’t look like us or affiliate politically like we do and love them. We should all be disappointed by the loveless political spin surrounding us. As Christians, the gospel’s love must be reflected in our dealings with others, especially those who identify differently than we do politically.
- The gospel gives us hope. In the last several election cycles, I’ve watched different friends and acquaintances appear to lose hope. Their candidate or party lost and deflation ensued. Hopes attached to political views or candidates are fleeting. Hope attached to the gospel is eternally permanent. Christians, above all others, have the gospel to give them hope. We do have a Savior, a King, and a Ruler who inspires awe and provides the hope of something better. We can walk in hope regardless of which party is power and who is President.
These are general solutions, but they can be found throughout the biblical record of God’s interaction with people. As we have opportunity (when the biblical texts provide the content) we should apply these gospel solutions in our churches to the current political climate. What other gospel solutions have you observed regarding culture and politics?