Politics or love
Can make you blind or make you see
Make you a slave or make you free
But only one does it all
– “Love Is Not Against Law” by Derek Webb
This week Dr. Russell Moore posted a timely article on placing the call of Christ above the desire to rant about the world’s problems. This post was inspired by Dr. Moore’s post. It is not an attempt to engage him. I just wanted to give you the background piece that led me to write here.
It seems that most of my political conversations go the same way these days. Usually, we start talking about latest overreaching of the Obama administration (if there is nothing new to talk about, then we readily bring one out of the archives). After we have pounded out the unconstitutionality of this decision or that infringement, we proceed to talk about what our nation needs in order to turn around. As we throw out our own prospective 2016 presidential candidates (e.g. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, etc.) and discuss their merits and demerits, usually the conversation denigrates into the despair that a conservative leader might never be elected again. In order to escape this dismal future, usually the conversation awkwardly veers off to a “safer” subject such as sports…
If you have spent any time at all studying the roots of America’s heritage, her liberation from tyrannical and negligent rule, her experiment in government constraint and personal liberty, then you quickly realize that as a country “We ain’t in Kansas anymore”. What I mean is that we have left the path of government constraint and personal liberty, and we are on the “straight and narrow” toward 1984-esque socialism (see the NSA and unchecked executive function), which hales personal liberty while undermining it.
It’s easy to see why some people avoid these political conversations altogether. There are 4 major reasons that come to mind.
1. They do not understand politics, American history, or the current political climate, so they don’t feel comfortable talking about something that they feel is beyond them.
2. They avoid these conversations because they can become quite contentious, sometimes bringing out the worst in people.
3. They believe that God doesn’t care about such matters, He will “rapture” us out of this doomed world, so we don’t need to concern ourselves with such trivial things.
4. They feel hopeless when they look at the nation’s plight, so they avoid it because they feel like they cannot change it.
We could spend hours upon hours, pages upon pages discussing each of these points, so that’s not what I want to do here. I want to focus on the fourth point. Let’s assume that 1. you feel somewhat comfortable talking about politics, 2. you are OK with conversations getting a little heated, though you do your best to keep a cool head and the steer the conversation away from personal attacks, and 3. that you believe that God is interested in such matters.
So that leaves us with #4. How do we discuss politics in a way that inspires hope rather than despair.
1. God can change the hearts of Kings.
One of the most encouraging verses in Scripture when I think about politics is Proverbs 21.1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” No Pharaoh, Caesar, Genghis Kahn, King John, Napolean, Stalin, Hitler, or Putin intimidates God whatsoever. There has never been a U.S. president (including the current one) whose heart has been outside of the turning and guiding hand of The Sovereign Lord.
2. God has different plans.
Imagine living as a Hebrew slave in Egypt before the Exodus. Things looked pretty dismal as Moses confronted Pharaoh, but his heart remained steadfast and cold. Citing Exodus 9.16, Paul says, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.‘” (Rom. 9.17). Again and again, the Scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Many have tried to explain these texts away to attempt to make them say something other than what they say, but the meaning of the text is clear. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (see. Exodus 7.1-5). If you take issue with this, you are not the first; read Romans 9.
3. God uses simple, “insignificant” people to change the course of the history of nations and empires.
Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Esther, the disciples. All of these seemed rather insignificant figures in a world of nations and kings, but God used them all in unexpected ways “for such a time as this”. It is no insignificant detail that the Son of God, Christ Jesus, was born in a no-nothing town in a remote corner of the enormous Roman Empire (Micah 5.2; Matthew 2.5-6). Don’t feel like you’re too small to make a difference. God loves to use “small” people to confound the “big” ones (1 Cor. 1.26-31).
4. We don’t grieve like the world grieves.
We often quote (and rightly so!) 1 Thes. 4.13 at funerals, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” But I want to consider how this verse, by analogy, might be applied to our political hopes and fears. In this verse, Paul establishes two important points. 1. It is OK to grieve those we have lost and 2. We have hope in the midst of our grief because Christ has saved and will save. Because God is sovereign over all things and He is ultimately going to work all of history together to His own ends and glory (see the book of Revelation), we must have hope. I believe that it is OK for us to grieve our current state of things. It is OK for us to look out at the political landscape of our nation and to grieve, to warn, to seek to change.
I believe that people who completely dismiss political action and/or engagement as foolishness are in error of an over-simplified understanding of God’s work in this world. But it is true that those who follow, comment, and warn about the dangers of our current political situation can have a despairing tone, which should not mark the speech of believers.
As we maintain this “dual-citizenship” between Heaven (Phil. 3.20) and our own nation where God has placed us (Acts 17.26-29), let us keep in mind that we do have hope in Christ. Let us keep in mind that God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by Him (Rom. 8.28).
There is True Hope in the God, who has created and sustains every single molecule and person in the entire Universe (Ps. 24.1; Col. 1.15-17)! May this be evident in every conversation!
Even in our political conversations, let us apply Colossians 3.17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
– “This Is My Father’s World” by Maltbie Babcock