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Christians and the Public Sphere: What are we to do?

In the past few years, on social media and in interaction between Christians that I have witnessed, there have been many assertions made with regard to the responsibilities of Christians in the public sphere.  These have revolved around candidates for office, persons in office, social justice, racism, etc.  And what I have noticed is that often people who identify as Christians will take one of two positions, both of which I believe are dangerous with regard to following Christ and maintaining the doctrines of Apostolic Christianity.

On the one hand, there are those who see particular politicians almost as saviors.  They are convinced that Christians must get behind these people, and they sing their praises, even when things said or done by their political heros are quite unbiblical - not to mention immoral.  These people get behind their chosen politicians, unreservedly campaigning for them.  They ignore flaws, and see only the “good” of the one they have chosen.  And they sometimes give the impression that their candidate or politician in office is the only hope for the country - maybe the world.

On the other hand, there are those who have extra-biblical agendas that they want to force upon everyone else - and those who do not comply or agree are labeled as a part of the problem.  To them, racism is incipient in everything.  So then even those who love and treat kindly people of various races - but who disagree with their contention that racism is imbedded in all of culture (especially white culture) - including most of the evangelical  church - are criticized as part of the problem.  Many people on this side are passionate about “social justice” and have certain ideas about what must be done.  But woe to the person who does not agree with their particular agenda.  They are made to feel guilty - and again, part of the problem.  Those in this group have decided for themselves what is the greatest sin of the culture, and have decided (without biblical warrant) that any who have been guilty of this sin, or who have not spoken out enough against this sin, really aren’t “preaching the Gospel.”

And both groups, I have discovered, often appear to believe that not voting for the person they are convinced is the right one for office, is itself a moral evil.  So, depending on who you vote for, you may be accused of being either a racist or a communist.  And for both of these groups, there is no such thing as voting for “the lesser of two evils”, for to each side, their chosen leader is only good, and the other side only evil.  And how can a Christian, after all, vote for evil?

But I think both sides have lost what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ in the world - as well as what the Christian’s responsibility is with regard to government and ministry in the world.

First, I would say, there are no perfect political candidates or national leaders.  Not even close. Just read the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah if you doubt this.  So do not be guilty of hero worship.  And be careful not to be duped by what may well only be political rhetoric from persons in any political party. 

Second, no political leader is going to change the culture.  Only God can do that.  Judah in the Old Testament is a prime example.  They had the greatest king ever in Josiah, There was no king before or after him who followed the LORD with all his heart.  He got rid of all of the public evils (which was very important and good) but that did not change the people (2 Kings 23:25-27).  They remained committed to idolatry until God judged them by sending them into seventy years of captivity by their enemies.  And ultimately they were only changed when God Himself changed them internally by giving them new spiritual hearts (Ezekiel 36:24-28).  Perhaps, then, we as the church should spend more time in prayer that God would do just this, than in political debate.

Third, it is sometimes (if not most of the time) necessary to vote for the “lesser of two evils” if you are going to vote at all.  Sometimes the choice is between someone like Nebuchadnezzar on the one hand, or someone like Jezebel on the other, and you have to make a choice as to which person is likely to do the most or least damage.   Voting for someone cannot be considered an endorsement of all they say or do.  It is not intended to be that.

Finally, we need to remember that Christians will answer to God themselves as to whether they were just, and loving, and kind to others, regardless of race or social status.  They will not be judged according to some other well-meaning Christian’s agenda.  The fact is, biblical justice is not a program, it is personal commitment.  God will not ask each of us when we stand before Him, “Why did you not get on board with so-and-so’s social justice agenda or philosophy?”  He will simply say, “What did you do when you saw me naked, hungry, thirsty, or in prison?”  Of course, Jesus already knows our thoughts and actions - but we give an account nevertheless.  Now do not misunderstand.  I am not saying we cannot make absolute statements about justice.  Jesus said we must not neglect “ justice and mercy” (Matthew 23:23).  That is absolutely true.  But we must be careful not to make our own personal application of absolute statements with regard to justice and mercy the only possible application, making it the basis of our judgement of others.  “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4).

So let us follow Christ with all of our hearts and minds, knowing that He is our master and to Him we give account as to how well we followed Him in this world.

 

Pastor Dave

 

 

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WIC – WIC will resume their monthly meetings on September 10th at the church. Please join us for a light supper prior to our meeting at 6:30. The meeting will begin at 7:00 and we will be studying “The Envy of Eve”. If you are planning on attending the supper, please let Susan know by Monday, September 9th. She can be reached at 478-972-8843.

Operation Christmas Child – OCC Kickoff – Thursday, September 26th at 7:00 PM. We celebrate the great work that God has done last year through the shoeboxes and look forward to packing this year.

Central Ga Presbyterian Women’s Ministry – Fall Conference – September 7 from 9:30 to 2:00 at Houston Lake Presbyterian Church in Kathleen. $7.00 per person for materials and lunch. Please let LouCindy know if you plan to attend.

Pearls of Great Price -The Pregnancy Center of Monroe County is celebrating 30 years of service with a Celebration Dinner featuring Joshua Edmonds. Tuesday, October 1 at New Providence. Seating begins at 6:30 and program starts at 7:00. RSVP before September 13 at 478-994-3173.