Why the Church is Political

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October 26, 2020

The gospel is utterly political, but not in the way you might think. Many Christians have been taught to over-spiritualize their faith, to see the Bible as speaking to the salvation of the soul for all eternity but not addressing life in the here and now, especially in what we would call our “public life.” Others have been taught to politically weaponize their faith, to see the church as an outpost of their political party. The church is a “city on a hill,” and America, somehow, is also a “city on a hill,” and these two should come together to bring God’s kingdom to earth.

Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

You may lean more in one direction than the other, but I submit to you that both of these positions are misguided. The most political thing you can do is give yourself fully to the life of the church. Let me explain.

The church is utterly political because it answers to a King, Jesus, who claims all authority in heaven and on earth. His kingdom is not of this world, as he claims in John’s Gospel (18:36) and, therefore, his kingdom has a different character than the kingdoms and nations of this world. His kingdom is advanced and sustained, not by the power of the sword or the rule of law, but by the power of His Word.

What, then, is our role as Christians, followers of the King, in the kingdoms and nations of the world? The answer is we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

We represent our King and His ways to the nations — His sacrificial love, His forgiveness, His justice, the utter lack of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander in His ways. And how do we do that? By advocating specific political policies and not others? Sure. We are not only citizens of heaven. We are also citizens of our nation on earth, and we should seek the good of our nation. Hence, we should promote policies that lead to human flourishing.

But that’s neither the beginning nor the end of our role as Christ’s ambassadors. There’s far more to it. It’s more complicated, more personal, and it demands far more from you. Let’s look at some examples. Let’s take some hot political issues in our land: the poor, taxes, race relations, and immigration.

🤲 Take the poor or people in need. One of our beloved members, a widow, needed a ramp in her house so her son-in-law, who’s been in a wheelchair for years, could have access to the outdoors. Many people in our church family came together to provide the funds, design, and construction of this ramp. Do you see? At that point, helping people in need is no longer theoretical or merely political. It has a face and a name, and it requires more from us than our vote. It requires our compassion, time, money, and love.

⚖️ Or take the issue of taxes. We know the financial picture of millions of people in America is bleak. So what a member of our church family has done for years is help families get a handle on their debt and, better yet, get rid of it through Financial Peace University. His help has been instrumental in assisting many families in breaking ruinous habits when it comes to money.

🤝 Or take the issue of race relations. Some dear members of our church run (and others volunteer at) Shiloh Detroit. This ministry invests deeply into the lives of young people from Detroit, who are watching responsible, godly father and mother figures, big brothers and sisters, equip them for life and teach them the transforming power of the gospel. This work can affect, for generations, the way some black people see white people and the way some white people see black people.

🛂 Or take the issue of immigration. Just a couple of weeks ago, Eric and Suzy Schindler, members of our church family, prayed and raised money to get a car for a mother of two who is from a different country and has been through much, much hardship and abuse.

We could keep going issue after issue. But I think you get the picture. It is under the grace of the rightful King of the universe that we learn to correct oppression. As we proclaim the gospel and get our hands dirty being instruments of healing in the lives of countless brothers and sisters, God will transform us, and the witness we give to the world of His eternal kingdom will become bright and compelling. But we must be immersed in the life of the church.

We’ve all inherited our political thinking from the binary options given to us in our country by the Left and the Right, Democrat and Republican. But if you’re a Christian, you must think for yourself, and you must think with Scripture. The options on the menu are chicken or beef. But what if you want fish? I tell you for a fact that when it comes to politics in our country, the gospel is neither chicken nor beef.

And where your thinking — politically or otherwise — is going to be shaped and reshaped is in the crucible of the sticky relationships that are only possible within the church.

So neither over-spiritualize the faith nor weaponize it politically. As an ambassador for Christ and his ways, your hands-on, sacrificial love for the people of God and all people makes a huge difference.

And never lose sight of the future. All of history is moving to a time when “the kingdom of the world [becomes] the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).