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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Here are some final thoughts on the election. Today, the word is – Don’t be fooled. Politicians and political parties can make it sound like they are here to save the world. They say, the fate of the nation is at stake. They say, they are needed to make things right. This is called a Messiah complex.

Well, sisters and brothers, we already have a Messiah, who is Jesus, the true Lord and King of kings. And he started a movement very different than the political entities found in any nation of this world – the kingdom of God. And he has called us to continue it.

Yes, God uses governments to keep order. But he has chosen us, his people to bring his transformation to the world, not them. And so when we look at the problems around us, why do we look to politicians to fix them? That is our God given job! Lowly as we are, God chooses to work through us, not the high and mighty. He works through simple followers of Jesus like us.

And we should not try to accomplish our mission by the power of the flesh. For you can’t accomplish a work of God through the power of the flesh. We are to follow the way that Jesus taught and modeled. Preaching the Gospel, calling people to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, incorporating them into the kingdom community, standing up for righteousness, working and praying for the peace of the cities and nations where God has placed us. And, of course, waiting for our Lord to return to bring forth the new creation.

This is our mission, and we need to get busy.

 

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A word about the election. Last week – don’t be driven by fear. We are to be a people of faith and hope because our trust is in God, who both chooses political rulers and guides the course of history to his ends.

Today, the word is – don’t be divided. As Christians, we are a part of an international community that goes all the way back to Abraham – the people of God. We are made up of people from every tribe and tongue and nation of the earth, but we are not identical with any particular tribe or tongue or nation in this world.

Indeed, we the church, are God’s nation. As 1 Peter 2:9 says, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation . . ..” Like the author of Hebrews says, we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (v. 13) “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (v. 10).

And as we pilgrimage through this land, God calls us to bless the place of our exile. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

Let’s not allow the politics of this world, which is passing away, to divide us. Rather let’s be united in being a blessing to our city, state and country, knowing that other Christians will be doing the same wherever they live.

 

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You may not have noticed, but there is an election coming up. Some of us will vote, some will not – out of Christian conviction. Those who do vote will  have to decide their approach – are you a single or big issue voter or are you more pragmatic looking for some smaller Christian issues where you think a candidate can make a difference.

Given all this, I thought I would say a few things over the next few weeks about the election. And the word for today is – don’t be driven by fear. Politicians and political parties love to motivate by fear. But we are, of all people, to be a people of faith and hope. And that is because we look to God and not the resources of the world or the flesh.

Psalm 146:3 says, “do not put your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation . . .” Rather we need to understand what Daniel 5:21b says, “the Most High God is sovereign over all the kingdoms of the earth and  sets over them anyone he wishes.” Now I might just add, either for blessing or judgment, depending on God’s purpose.

As a follower of Jesus, do what you think is right in this election. But know that it is God at work. It is God’s choice that matters. He holds the key to the forward movement of history. And we can trust God.

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Occasional Series: Christians and Politics

Well, it’s that time again! A presidential election is upon us. And that can only mean one thing – it’s time for the next installment of our once in every four years, series on Christians and politics. I’m sure you all remember everything I said from the first installment (: But for those who weren’t here, I have some fliers in the back.

This time we look at the perils of partisan politics. This is an important topic since: 1) We don’t all share the same political views. And so partisanship can quickly become a divisive and destructive force among us; we whose real allegiance is to our Lord Jesus, who is our unity. 2) The frenzy of partisanship can lead us to act in ways that are not consistent with our Christian values and commitments.

Let’s begin with a bit more on the question of –

What is partisan politics?

A partisan is a firm adherent to a party or cause, in this case a political one. But I mean more than this. I’m talking about someone who has:

  • an overwhelming certainty about their views which leads them to assume that something is wrong, intellectually or morally with anyone who disagrees.
  • a zealous intensity about their views so that the feel that it is absolutely crucial that their views gain political power.

Such partisanship is fed by 24 hour media outlets who are themselves fully partisan and who make their living on keeping things stirred up.

Well, this certainty and intensity often pushes a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, where you will say or do what you need to, to make sure your cause wins. The end justifies the means.

Partisanship often leads to a ‘politics of destruction’ so that the other candidate cannot be acknowledged as a decent person who has done decent things. They must be torn down and destroyed. And partisanship often leads to a ‘politics of fear.’ You know, if the other candidate is elected it forebodes the end of the world as we know it.

Now there are many who decry the problems of partisanship, for instance the loss of civil discourse and the lack of a focus on the common good. But our interest is Christian. And so I have identified three perils of partisan politics for Christians – things that we all need to beware of in this election season and beyond.

Peril #1. Slander

By slander I mean spreading half-truths, distortions or deceptions regarding a person’s character, record or statements. I’m thinking here of what you say in conversation with others, in emails – your own or those you pass along, in internet posts, texts, you name it.

Slander in politics is so common today that it has to be really outrageous for us to even notice it. And it has been with us for many years. Here’s an example from the presidential election of 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

  • Jefferson’s camp called Adams neither a man nor a woman in character, having “neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” He was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal and a tyrant.
  • Adam’s camp called Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow” and a half-breed (I’m cleaning things up a bit). He was also called a weakling, an atheist and a coward. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201112/political-slander-is-nothing-new Perhaps we are a bit more refined today? Maybe?

Now, I’m not saying you can’t strongly disagree with a politician, just that the same rules apply with regard to slander for a candidate as for any other person – your  neighbor, co-worker, whoever. So –

  • Don’t accept negative information if you’re not sure it is true. There’s so much slander flying around from both sides. Become friends with a good fact-checking site or two.
  • Don’t be involved in character assaults.
  • Even if the information is true, don’t say anything that is simply meant to tear someone down. Yes, we can speak the truth, but we must do it in love (Ephesians 4:15), not in hatred for the other person, or simply to further our political ends, or to delight in their downfall.

This is serious stuff. Regarding slander the ninth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” – Exodus 20:16. Jesus tells us that slander morally “defiles” us – Matthew 15:19-20. Paul says, “Let all . . . slander be put away from you, along with all malice” – Ephesians 4:31.

Brothers and sisters what business do we have engaging in such practices? We are called to love others, not destroy their reputations. Do you think that because the person is a political leader that it’s OK? That they are not a real person? Do you think that God is not watching? Do you think that politics is an area of life where God’s righteousness doesn’t apply? Where you can be worldly? Where you can be un-Christ-like? Where you can walk in the flesh?

Peril #2. Dishonoring authorities

I remember when George W. Bush was president. And many Christians, progressive and anti-war Christians, treated him with disrespect. I certainly didn’t agree with everything he did. But that doesn’t justify what I often heard – slander, ridicule, insults and name calling.

Well, not to be outdone, since the election of Barak Obama many conservative Christians have responded in kind. I certainly don’t agree with everything that he has done. But my point is that this doesn’t justify what I often hear –  slander, ridicule, insults and name calling.

It’s one thing to disagree with someone based on the issues. It’s another to dishonor them. I am concerned that we are systematically training our children and young people to disrespect authorities, not just political ones, but in all areas of life. We don’t model for them disagreeing with respect.

Scripture has very strong teaching on submitting to and honoring authorities. Here is one example: 1 Peter 2:13-14 – “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” So we have submission here. But notice this also includes respect too. The text goes on in v. 17 to say, “Honor the emperor.”

Now our culture in general is not very good at honoring or submitting to authorities. We may well live in one of the most anti-authoritarian cultures ever. But as Christians, Scripture is our guide, not our culture. And we need to work on this.

But you say, “Pastor, you just don’t understand, this politician is really bad!” Well let’s think about this for a moment. When Peter wrote, the emperor was Nero. I can assure you that he had no Christian values. He was a worshipper of idols, one who had near absolute power, one who allowed himself to be viewed as a god. And then later in his career he persecuted Christians in the city of Rome mercilessly, most likely killing the apostle Paul and also Peter, who wrote this instruction to us. So, really, you think that your political enemy is bad? Really!?

The point is, whoever the leader is, we are called to show respect. Yes, you can oppose them or call out sin. But honor does not include slander, ridicule, insults and name calling.

Rather we are called to pray for authorities. Paul says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions . . .” – 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Pray regularly for your political opponents (not for their downfall but for God to lead and help them) and see what this does to your heart and attitude.

Peril #3. Arrogance

When someone is certain that their views are right, it is very easy to become arrogant. I’m talking about political self-righteousness. I’m right and if you can just be quiet long enough to listen to me you will soon see that too. And if you can’t you must be stupid or depraved.

Peter says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” – 1 Peter 5:5. Humility means confessing that we don’t know everything. And that it is at least possible that we are wrong. It means making space for others with different views on matters of worldly opinion.

Also, political arrogance causes division and hurt among us, all so that you can say what you feel you need to say about your political views. But God calls us to live in peace with one another and to respect one another.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up . . ..” That is, when you think you know everything it makes you arrogant and hurtful to others. He goes on to say, “but love builds up.” Love leads us to respect and serve others, even those who hold different opinions in the matters of this world.

A final thought –

Watch your words!

Politics has much to do with words, especially campaigning. And there is a ‘word theme’ in the message today – words of slander that tears down, words of disrespect, arrogant words that hurt and divide.

David may well have been talking about political opponents in his day when he talked about those “who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows” in Psalm 64:3. And when we are filled with passion for worldly politics we can easily go astray in our words so that they become like arrows and swords.

So let’s remember these Scriptures as we end. Jesus said, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” – Matthew 12:36. If our careless words of slander, disrespect and arrogance are judged how much more our intentional words of slander, disrespect and arrogance?

Peter taught, “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil” – I Peter 4:10. As James said, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” – James 1:26.

William Higgins

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Election prayer

A: God we confess that you are the one who is charge of history.

P: You raise up leaders, nations, kingdoms and empires and then bring them down according to your purpose and will.

L: So we lift this election into your hands. Act according to your purpose for this country – whether for good or for judgment. But just as you have instructed us, as those who live as exiles in this county, who are passing through on our way to our true country – your kingdom,

P: We pray for the peace and well-being of this country and for this election to work toward that end.

L: Help us not to give in to fear, so that we act like those in the world who have no hope and who do not walk in your ways.

P: Help us to trust that you will watch over us and shepherd us in the midst of all the circumstances of this life, whether good or bad.

A: And for that we give you praise and honor, O Lord, our great and awesome King. Amen.

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Christians and Politics

Well, I’m talking about politics today. They say there are two things you should never discuss in polite company – religion and politics. They stir up too much controversy. And here I am doing both at one time!

My desire in this, of course, is not to cause conflict, but to help us get focused on who we are as Christians in the midst of this highly charged political environment, and to encourage us to think and act in ways that are in line with our Christian identity.

I had wanted to share with you before the political conventions, but decided to wait – although with everyone all fired up now, I hope that you will still be able to hear what I want to share with you this morning. (more…)

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