This political season has exposed the loss of direction the church has been struggling with for years. Divide and conquer has always been a tactic of the devil. Even Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I can remember the Moral Majority movement in the 1980s, where there was a campaign to get a republican presidency, congress, and senate. The claim was that if the republicans were in charge, they would turn America around. For a short time, they succeeded, but America’s morality did not change, and the problems that faced the nation continued. Since then, there have been times when the democratic party has been in charge of all three, and the republicans in all three. This is the normal struggle of power, but there has been a shift in mindset that is very destructive in recent years.
During elections, mud slinging is the norm, but in the past, the nation united under whichever leadership took office. However, in the last 20 years people are divided to the point where they say, “Not my president,” if their party wasn’t elected. After Trump got into office, people were getting assaulted if they wore anything that was associated with the president.
Instead of being a light to the culture, the people in the church have drawn battle lines and are divided. Social media is filled with Christians calling other Christians evil because they don’t share the same political beliefs.
Both sides have blinded themselves to the problems on their own side, and refuse to acknowledge the good in the other side. It has become “My side is all good, and your side is all evil.” When the truth is that politicians use people to push their agendas. One side is focused on correcting social injustice, while the other side is focused on individual rights. Both sides are willing to step on the other side to push the agendas they feel are right, while being completely blind to the issues outside of their agenda.
Instead of addressing the concerns of either side, it’s easier to label opposition as evil or ignorant.
But there is a greater concern. The church has lost direction and is joining the political war of the culture instead of being ambassadors to influence the culture. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us to be ambassadors for Christ to plead with the culture to be reconciled with God. 2 Timothy 2:4 says:
No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life.
We have lost focus on the spiritual warfare and have entangled ourselves in the political warfare of this life. As Christians, our agenda is not to push a political party, nor is it to stamp out those in opposing parties. Once we escaped the world through Christ, we moved our citizenship to heaven (Philippians 3:20).
We see a great example in Jesus. In order to discredit Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees decided to tempt him. The hot political issue of the day was Rome taxing the people of Israel. It was so divisive, that anyone who was hired to collect taxes was considered the worst of all sinners. If they could get Jesus to commit to one side or the other, it would cause division among the people, so they asked him, “Teacher, is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
It was a crafty question. If Jesus was critical of the tax, He would be a threat against Rome. If He said to pay taxes, He would offend many people. Instead, Jesus gave an answer we would do well to heed today. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.
The same is still true. We live as citizens of heaven, but we are journeying through this world that the Bible says is not our home. Christians forget this. They begin living for this life, and joining sides in this culture. Jesus never identified Himself with any movement, nor did He alienate Himself from any people group. The leadership alienated themselves when Jesus refused to support them, but sometimes that is the cost of living for heaven.
We forget that God is in control, and He is able to raise up any leader. In fact, the Bible says that all leadership is appointed by God. Look at Romans 13:1-2
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
There are some important truths in this passage. You are commanded by God to be subject to all governing authorities. We see this played out when the apostles were being persecuted. There were times when they acknowledged that they had to obey God when the governing laws required them to refrain from speaking about Jesus, but they remained subject, and acknowledged that they were willing to suffer the cost of obedience. They didn’t disobey just to fight against the government. They had the mind of obedience, and obedience to God was in conflict with obedience to the governing authorities.
But this is not what is happening in our political church culture. The church is not obeying God and putting themselves at odds with laws. They are disobeying God in order to rebel against the government. God clearly stated that to resist the authority He has put in place is to rebel against God.
We cannot expect God to bless the ministry of the church while the people of the church are in rebellion against God’s clearly given word. Just because we don’t like the leadership does not give us the right to rebel. Even the Apostle Paul demonstrated the proper way to address these things when he was on trial for preaching Christ.
In Acts 23, Paul began his defense by saying that he lived with a right conscience before God until this day. Then someone ordered the soldier near Paul to punch him in the face. Paul rebuked him by calling him a whitewashed wall. This is in reference to the Bible’s reference to grave sites. They are washed and painted white, but inwardly they are filled with decaying bones.
Someone said, “Do you speak this way to God’s High Priest?”
In that time, the High Priest was the highest religious and political figure in Israel. Even though the priest was clearly in the wrong, Paul said, “I did not know he was the high priest, for the scriptures say, ‘You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.’”
In today’s culture, Christians regularly speak evil of their leadership, and boast in rebelling. When Trump was in office, I saw a non-stop stream of hate from Christians who believed that because they labelled him as evil, they were free to reject God’s appointed authority. Now that Biden has been elected, I’m seeing a non-stop stream of hatred from the other side. Just because we label someone as evil does not give us the right to express hate. Consider 1 Timothy 2:1-2
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
What would happen if we obeyed this exhortation from scripture? What would happen if instead of posting messages of anger against our leaders, we instead started interceding for them with prayers with a heart of thanksgiving toward God?
This passage tells us what would happen. We would lead quiet and peaceable lives in godliness and reverence. We would become lights to the culture and would have more impact than politics could ever have. We would become the people of Philippians 2:14-15
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing,
15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.