I have been in many “Christians and politics” discussions in the past year or so. My personal conviction is not align myself with any party, because of the belief that no political ideology represents the full interest of the reign of God. So, I am one who promotes policies and politicians as “lesser evils” that may create more good than the alternative. This has often frustrated some of my more “politicized” friends, especially when I say that I am in favor of government programs that alleviate the most suffering. By some definitions this sometimes means that I am favorable toward “big government.” And the conversation for why my views are flawed usually starts with the comment “if government is allowed to alleviate suffering or poverty, then God is stripped of the glory he deserves.” In other words, justice matters BUT it is the role of the church, NOT Uncle Sam. The church should fight poverty, not the greedy government who want to steal both our hard earned money and the glory that God deserves! My response is that unfortunately the church has not taken up this calling in the way that it should (although the trend is starting to change). If there are suffering people that the church is not helping, shouldn’t we be glad that children are getting their basic needs met (even if by welfare and other programs)? I want to suggest that the way we vote in regards to issues of poverty and justice can also direct the glory to God. Consider the following conversation…
A non-church friend asks: “why do you vote this way?…
I tell them: It’s because Jesus has a heart for those in need, and that I want to do my best to vote in such a way that reflects those values….
(Friend) Really?! I never heard that or saw that from any of the preachers I have seen on TV. I thought you bible believing Christians were anti-gay and anti-women’s rights, and only concerned about what happens after death. I never would have guessed that as a Christian, that social justice is a strong value… at least not based on what I have seen on TV. Can you tell me more about this Jesus who you says takes up the cause of justice?
(Me): Yep! The bible teaches that people need to be “Justified by faith” (root word, Justice), and that one day when he returns, the whole world will experience ultimate justice in “a new heaven and new earth (the Greek word for new here implies ‘renew’ not destroy and recreate).” We will eventually live on this planet in the “new Jerusalem” where all pain, sorrow, death, poverty, and conflict will cease! The hope of the Christian life is that some day Christ will return to bring shalom (Hebrew word for ‘peace, wholeness, right relationship’) to the whole earth and those who are in relationship to him, will be made new in resurrection.
(Friend): That sounds a bit crazy, but also so filled with hope. But here’s a question: If you believe that God is coming back to purge this world of evil, why do you have to do anything about it now? You don’t think that Christianity will bring this about on their own, do you? Something this good, it seems to me, would have to be an act of God… if you believe in that sort of thing.
(Me): Your right! It will ultimately be an act of God. But as followers of Jesus, we are drawn towards this future day in great anticipation. Romans 8 actually says that: “the whole creation has been groaning” “on tiptoe for its liberation” because it has been “subjected to frustration.” But then it says something that is critical and often missed in the Christian world. It says “those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly” awaiting that day. We groan with the pain of all creation that is obviously damaged by evil; and this draws us to do something about it! The groaning within our souls compels us to make God’s future intention for this world a reality now. Not to mention that Jesus talks more about issues of justice, than he does about the afterlife.
(Friend): That sounds very interesting. I haven’t read the bible since I took “the bible as literature” class in college. I would have to look that up to buy into that. Not that I think your lying, but I am a bit suspicious of religious stuff in general and will look into it myself.
(Me): Great… you should explore it on your own! Don’t accept anyone’s view until you have taken the time to invest some time and contemplation into it. Let me give you one last scenario to help you understand why Christians ought to stand for justice in the present as a sign of the future. Suppose that someone converted to Christianity, but decided that they were not worried about following the standards of the bible in their personal life. They believe that God will eventually give them a new body that is ‘sinless,’ so why should I care about the ‘sins’ I do with my body now? Wouldn’t that be crazy?! Of course how you live matters! In the same way, if we know what God is eventually going to do in the area of justice for the whole earth… it seems like we ought to do something about it now.
(Friend): That makes sense… So, let me get this straight. You vote for issues of poverty and justice, because you believe that it is important to value what God values, demonstrated by his plan for the whole world. I never would have guessed that a Christian really cared about poverty, based on the TV preachers of the religious right. If I had heard more voices like yours, I probably would have given Church a try. Maybe I will… where do you go to church again?……
Well, I don’t know how convincing the above is, but maybe it is an example of a possible way that how we vote in these areas can make a difference in our witness to Jesus. Simultaneously, we must call out people in the church to be the kind of community that the New Testament gives witness to! The church must be the mediator of the glory of God, and this includes the various politics that we advocate. ANY THOUGHTS?