I Peter 2:9-17
This message is about political campaigns!
It is not really much fun but it might be important!
The campaign “season” is heating up. It is all we will hear about for the rest of this year.
(Does it seem to anyone else that the campaign is non-stop…when one finishes, the next one begins? Perpetual campaigning…that may be a glimpse of hell.)
The campaign season is a force that does strange things to us.
We are deluded into thinking the fate of the civilized world hangs in the balance.
Worse, we think the Kingdom of God is hanging in the balance!
It brings behaviors out of us that don’t look like anything like Christ!
Our fear and anger are more clearly on display than just about any other time.
So, let’s talk about this business of living in a society beset with non-stop campaigning.
Note: this message is not about the issues…we will touch on some of those in the coming weeks.
This message is about the campaign itself…
Because how we choose to engage this process reveals great deal about us as Christians and how the Bible informs our attitudes and behaviors along the way.
- Explore how Christians should think, act, and talk in this process.
- Continue practicing being accurate handlers of Scripture.
About campaigns in our time: Ideally they give candidates the opportunity to present themselves and their ideas. Actually, they can be great spectacle and sport. They are an inevitable symptom of a free society that values peaceful transitions in power.
They are, however, not harmless. The products tend to be confusion, bluster, fear-mongering, empty promises, negative campaigning, and divisiveness. Partisan politics fuel campaigns—which is why hoping for less partisanship is like hoping you will always be young—ain’t gonna happen.
The surgeon, engineer, and politician were arguing about which had the oldest profession.
Surgeon: “Eve from Adam’s rib; obviously surgery.”
Engineer: “Yes, but before that order was created out of chaos. That’s engineering.”
Politician: “Aha! Who do you think created the chaos?”
Pertinent to us:
Political campaigns turn their sights on Christians—not to make the country Christian but to get those votes.
- Politicians will come calling, cozying up, pandering and promising, flip-flopping on issues, and filming toothy appearances with various religious leaders desperate for their 15 minutes of fame.
- Strident Christian voices will play upon the polarizing paranoia and suspicions of plots and conspiracies that traditionally stalk the edges of reasonable society.
- Do you fall prey to these slick, well-orchestrated efforts to get the “evangelical” vote?
- Does it bother you at all that you are considered a “bloc”, a target audience, to be manipulated and purveyed into votes, with little or not regard for who you really are as a follower of Christ?
- Does your following of Christ affect at all how you respond to this?
We have identified and put to use several interpretive principles over the past weeks. Which of these might be useful today?
- Know the type or genre of literature.
- Relate a passage to its historical situation: discover when it was written and to whom.
- Look at the passage in context (the narrative of the chapter, book and Testament in which the text resides).
- Use the whole Bible when drawing conclusions; Scripture will interpret Scripture.
- Don’t build a big theology on a small base.
- Look for the obvious sense; don’t make it more complicated if you don’t have to.
- Be aware of your presuppositions; i.e., what you bring to the text. Don’t add to the Scripture what is not there.
When we read and grasp the broad narrative of the Bible, we realize what it doesn’t say: understand that the Bible…
It doesn’t say much about politics (and nothing about political campaigns.)
It doesn’t say that a leader has to be a Christian.
It doesn’t stipulate a certain kind of government.
Christians should bear in mind that the Bible does not specifically outline an ideal form of government or provide much direction for how rulers (especially in a democracy) are to be selected. Its emphasis is primarily on how God’s people ought to live whether the government is theocratic, monarchical or totalitarian.
It doesn’t say that Christ-followers should overthrow the government. (be subject to rulers Titus 3:1; submit to human institutions/governors; honor the king, I Pet. 2:13-14, 17; pray for the king, I Tim. 2:1)
What the Bible does say:
There is a place for secular government and we obligations to it.
The legitimate role of government to establish and enforce the law for the common good, punish evil Rom. 13:1-7).
Our ultimate allegiance belongs to God (Mt. 22:37-38; cf. Deut. 6:5).
the believer’s “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20)
Character matters: anger management, moral rectitude, faithfulness, integrity, and dignity (Matt. 5:21ff)
Christ’s followers are known for love for all people, even our opponents (Mt. 5:43ff; 22:36-39; cf. Rom. 13:8-10).
The Bible strongly affirms the value of peace-making (Rom. 12:18; 14:19; cf. Mt. 5:9; Heb. 12:14; James 3:17-18).
1. We should be interested in what interests God:
God is interested in His plan—which He will make happen, politics or not.
God is interested in people being reconciled to Him—which is what the Book is all about.
Can politics advance any of His interests?
So, we do not inflate the importance of politics.
God did not create secular politics to advance His cause.
He can certainly use politics, politicians, leaders
God created the church to carry out His business.
That is why we do not conflate politics and church.
God calls us to be His people, a certain kind of people, distinct in the world.
He has given us a message I Pet. 2:9-10
He tells us how to think and act in this world—I Pet. 2:11-17.
That is why we do not act like typical politics and we do not allow ourselves to be used by politicians.
2. Never play politics with the gospel.
Christianity is the property or platform of no party.
Since the early ‘80s, evangelicals have slithered into and out of Washington in increasing numbers, indulging in power politics and seeking the ear of the highest offices in the land. The unpleasant truth being painfully discovered is that playing “political insider” is turning out not to be the answer to saving the culture, keeping the traditional family from disintegrating, or staving off the insidious creep of self-indulgence and cultural decay.
Some very wealthy people are working feverishly to sway the nation’s most influential religious leaders to support particular candidates.
From an article I read the other day in a secular magazine: “Keep the Promise” a network of super PACs run by evangelical leaders hopes to consolidate the support of conservative Christians…to gain endorsements from scores of top Christian leaders in key states…one leader, the “evangelical kingmaker”…”blurring the boundary between stump and sermon…plan to leverage the power of the pews”…for months prominent evangelical leaders held private meetings to weigh their options… “poring over fundraising reports like Scripture”…they voted to support one candidate over the other and “have been rolling out endorsements at intervals ever since to win media coverage and avoid any appearance of theocracy.”
We are no one’s “base” or “bloc” to be manipulated for party purposes. In our heart and in our public service, we must keep Christianity separate from party politics.
Most thinking Christians know, deep down inside, that aligning the faith with any political party or platform leads generally to disappointment and ultimately to a thorough-going degradation of the original message into a mish-mash of confusing, often misleading, lukewarm stuff that is highly subject to forth-spewing.
We do live in the world, and we seek to be salt and light. We can and should be involved in the political process. But we never forget that ours is a prophetic role—we proclaim an eternal Kingdom and what it offers a lost humanity.
We will not perform that role effectively if we are identified too closely with either donkeys or elephants. We know who is ultimately in charge and He is neither Republican nor Democrat.
3. Practice true Christian behavior:
Seek and practice peace
Rom. 12:18; 14:19
avoid actions which demonize opponents and polarize the country.
practice civility, insist on fairness and be bridge builders
Act wise and graciously… (wise as serpents, innocent as doves Mt. 10:16; wise in what is good, innocent in what is evil. (Rom. 16:19)
address hard issues with thoughtfulness, listen to divergent views
be humble yet confident (I Cor. 16:14)
seeking to do what is right, good and true before God (II Chron. 31:20).
I Pet. 2:12, 15-17, 18-20).
Reject demeaning, misleading language towards anyone
(Eph. 4:29, 31; Col. 4:5-6)
Don’t wrangle about words…avoid worldly empty chatter
(I Tim. 6:4; II Tim. 2:15, 23; Titus 3:9
We build bridges and promote civil dialogue.
We should be the voice of calm and peace in the frenzied chaos.
We should look for ways to talk to people of all stripes, eschew divisive, mean-spirited battles, and strive for justice, aiming to meet the needs of real people. We can probably do a better job, while recognizing ideological differences, of modeling ways to build bridges rather than hurl fiery darts.
God is possibly interested in how we vote.
He is more interested in how His people present themselves in this world—because how we act often (if not always) is how other people in the world see His Son.
4. Prayer is our best weapon (Eph. 6:18; col. 4:2-3)
Christians should pray
for God to raise up true statesmen (that will have to be an act of God).;
5. Make the church a safe haven from the weariness of the world, a place reserved for worship, reflection, encouragement and remembering. We leave politics at the door. . . . a place wherein we might restore courage and renew confidence for returning to the world, taking the Message, bearing the cross, running the race.
6. Christians take the long view.
This election is not the end of the world nor necessarily even the end of America.
People on both sides somehow came to the conclusion that this election is one of huge eschatological significance. One Christian spokesman I came across propounded his conviction that this election, which was of great interest to God, set the course for America for the next 200 years (the purposes of God to the contrary notwithstanding!)
Come on, people—this is secular politics. We are ushering in neither the Apocalypse nor the Kingdom of God with our little election. No candidate (as far as we know) carries the official imprimatur of God as the chosen one or His condemnation as the enfleshment of the anti-Christ.
God could do what He wants to do, regardless of who is president of the United States.
We can afford to lighten up a bit. The election should not overwhelm us.
We live in the “in-between”. We have one foot here and one foot in heaven. We keep one eye on what is going on around us and one eye on the prize. Life is lived in the space between the temporal and the eternal, the finite and the infinite.
The heavenly messenger said to Daniel, “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance” (12:13).
Good words for us—let’s go our way, love and encourage each other, enjoy the gifts of each day . . . and anticipate the inheritance!
So, we’ll take seriously the challenges in this world, and work to address them appropriately—but we will do so with awareness that what we see is not all that is going on.
Christians live with confidence (but not with overly strident, loud or obnoxious behavior), with graciousness (long-suffering, living with some uncertainties and ambiguity), and persevering (understanding that faith is in that which is not yet seen.)