Tag Archives: Christians and Politics

Politics and Evangelism: The Question of Submission

22 Feb

“Then I’ll go to jail!”  I stormed away from the table in a rage.  Couldn’t my parents understand what I was saying?  What the government was doing was wrong!  How could I comply by giving them money from my hard-earned income?

When questioned about paying taxes to Caesar, Jesus had replied, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:18-21)  Since Washington, Lincoln, and Grant were all dead, it was clear that this command did not apply to me as a U.S. citizen.  For the government to demand that I hand over part of my salary to support all sorts of nefarious activities wasn’t just unconstitutional: it violated God’s written Word.  And I would have none of it!

I’ll admit that my motivation had more to do with wanting to retain my pay than any desire to avoid funding sin. I’ve come around since my teen years and I have paid taxes ever since I got my first job… despite my concerns about what they might be funding.  Why?  Because God said to.

Perhaps one of the hardest commands Scripture gives us is that of 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…”  Such submission doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  We want to see, do, and know for ourselves … even when that seeing, doing, and knowing might harm both ourselves and others.  What do we do when we don’t understand the purpose for a rule or, worse yet, that rule is unjust?  We break it.

Of course, this may not be our intent at first.  After all, most of us want to be viewed as law abiding citizens, even if we don’t like the laws by which we must abide.  So we look for wiggle room or try to find a loophole.  Yes, the speed limit is 25, but police officers only stop drivers if they’re going 30 … so it must be okay.  Of course the sign says “No Swimming”, but the city put that up to warn weak swimmers, not Olympic quality athletes like myself … no problem!

While these little “fudges” may not look like much to us, they are often a very accurate reflection of our attitude towards sin … an attitude which can make or break our efforts to share the Gospel message.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at what the Bible says about submission and how our actions and attitudes influence the way others view our faith and, more importantly, our God.  We’ll examine some common pitfalls and take a look at practical ways to avoid them.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

Advertisements

Politics and Evangelism: Tips for Speaking with Honesty and Grace

15 Feb

Last week in “Politics and Evangelism”, we took a look at the dangers which can sometimes accompany our eagerness to express a political opinion.  We examined the importance of speaking the truth when we represent those who don’t agree with us and (in passing) the importance of doing so with grace.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t express our views … just that we take the time to ensure that we are expressing them in a godly fashion.  But what do you do if, like me, you find it hard to keep your tongue in check?  This week, we’ll be taking a look at a few good tips for developing a more diplomatic approach to political involvement – one that will reflect well upon both us and the God we serve!

  1.  Practice in private what you want to portray in public.  This should go without saying, but it doesn’t.  I remember plenty of Sunday mornings’ spent yelling at the members of the “Meet the Press” crew like they could hear me through the thousands of miles of cable that stood between my television and their studio.  I’ll be honest, the things I was saying weren’t flattering … and sometimes they found their way out of my mouth when I was nowhere near the TV.  If we want to behave gracefully in public, the place to practice is in our homes.  That means holding our tongues whenever we find ourselves compelled to express our opinions in a way that degrades or belittles others.
  2. Think twice before hitting the “forward”, “repost”, or “share” buttons.  We’ve all seen those cute, sarcastic cartoons taking stabs at those with whom we disagree.  We love those witty one-liners and scathing reviews.  But what may be funny in private, isn’t always so amusing when diffused throughout the internet.  Before you share that brilliant repost, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”  Odds are, He wouldn’t be taking cheap pot-shots at His opponents … and neither should we.
  3. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  We learned this from our grandparents, but I’m inclined to think that very few of us listened.  (I know I didn’t!)  Grandma wasn’t advising us to speak only when we were in agreement with others, but rather to season our speech with grace.  In other words, if you’re going to disagree, do it nicely.  Jesus would have put it, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  If you can’t speak without taking a stab at the opposition, you’re better off just keeping your mouth shut.
  4. Pray.  I know.  It’s one of the simplest suggestions, but it’s also one of the most effective.  I’ve never found it easy to pray for someone and slam them as being worthless at the same time.  The two simply aren’t compatible.  Try it the next time you start to get riled.
  5. Avoid temptation.  If you know you have a tendency to go off the deep end when others express opinions less well-formed than yours, avoid placing yourself in situations where you’re “overexposed” to those opinions.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to what other have to say or take the time to acquaint ourselves with someone else’s world view, but it does mean that we don’t do so in a way that leaves us with the steam coming out our ears.  If something consistently gets you worked up, turn it off or put it down.  You’re better off being ignorant than   blowing up and dishonoring the Name of Christ.

Following these rules doesn’t always come easy.  If you’re like me, you’ll still periodically find your finger hovering almost irresistibly over the “share” button or trying to “sneak a fix” from Fox News or CNN.  The question isn’t whether we occasionally slip and fall back into these negative behaviors, but whether we’re actively trying to represent the cause of Christ in our political expression.  When we succeed, we gain credibility – giving others a reason to trust our testimony when we speak of things more important than the latest bill to pass congress or the most recent EU crisis.

Politics and Evangelism

8 Feb

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard more than your share of political news over the course of the last few months.  A presidential election, a school shooting in Connecticut, and a fiscal cliff have left everyone with plenty of opinions to share and not enough listeners to go around.

I’m not saying that there’s a problem with expressing one’s opinions.  I understand the impulse.  Events like these often leave us feeling helpless.  Our votes don’t count.  Our opinions don’t matter.  People think we’re worthless and that our thinking is defective.  No one hears what we say.  No one cares.  All that’s left it to yell – to make people listen whether they want to or not.  And when nobody listens despite the noise?  We yell louder.

But what happens when, in the course of exercising our “freedom of speech”, we get it wrong?  I’m not talking about simply calling names (though such behavior is never becoming of a Christian), but about an even more grievous offence: misrepresenting the other side of the argument.

We’ve all seen it happen.  A conservative angrily flings the term “baby killer” at a pro-abortion liberal.  A liberal asserts that all of those who oppose gun control want to see convicts given access to deadly weapons.  In a moment of frustration, such statements may express our feelings… but they certainly don’t express the truth.  And it’s the truth with which we, as Christians, ought to be concerned.

I’ll be honest.  I know a lot of liberals and if any one of them genuinely believed that abortion was murder, they’d oppose it with all of their hearts.  I also know a lot of conservatives and I’ve never met one who wanted psychopaths to have access to firearms.  So what happens when we express these emotional reactions on Facebook and Twitter?  What’s the result of our forwarding misguided e-mails in order to “rally the troops” or posting anti-(insert the political view you most dislike here) statements on our blogs?

The answer is that we lose credibility.  And this is where evangelism comes in.  As Christians, our primary charge is that of Matthew 20:18-19, also known as “The Great Commission”.  It is our duty to “Go into the world and preach the Gospel…”  Not just to our conservative friends.  Not just to our liberal pals.  But to everyone.

Accomplishing this commission becomes a challenge when we’ve already clearly and openly misrepresented the views of those with whom we intend to share.  After all, if we can’t accurately explain the liberal/conservative/green party view – why would anyone believe that we can accurately represent God’s point of view?  Perhaps, obedience to Christ’s command requires that we spend a little less time exercising our constitutional right to “freedom of speech” and a little more time exercising our listening skills.  After all, wasn’t that one of Jesus’ chief commands, “He who has ears, let him hear?”

If you don’t already have a selection of friends who don’t agree with your point of view, I suggest you take time to make some.  Treat someone from “the opposition” to a cup of coffee and ask them to explain what they believe and why.  Then listen.  In a world full of shouting, such genuine enquiry is often quite refreshing!

When they start to express ideas with which you don’t agree: don’t rebuttal.  Don’t try to question them until they contradict themselves.  Don’t try to convert them.  Just listen.  You may be surprised at what you learn.  And you may even make a friend.

The last time I checked, George W. Bush didn’t turn out to be the Antichrist and, the way things stand right now, it doesn’t look like Barack Obama will either.  So the next time you feel like sharing your opinion about someone else’s politics, take a breath, say a prayer, and remember that God is in control regardless of who holds office or what the politics of “the masses” will or won’t allow through Congress. It’s not our job to expose every error in the opposition’s thinking and it certainly isn’t our job to create error where there is none!  Speak the truth and, if you don’t know what the truth is, take time to find out.  A little less angry noise will do a world of good.

%d bloggers like this: