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The Church and Politics, Part 2

From the series Culture Shock

In our political system, we are either in, or preparing for, upcoming elections, referendums, or initiatives. Do you ever wonder how God expects His Church to engage in the political process? Join Chip as he takes a hard look at what scripture says about the Church and politics.

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Message Transcript

The role of the Church. Principle number one: Let the Church be the Church. The Church’s highest calling, the Church’s purpose for living, is to fulfill the spiritual, eternal, invisible kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Church’s goal is to exalt Christ and to preach, teach, and model the message of redemption, over and above, and more important, than anything else.

That’s the goal of the Church. So let the Church be the Church.

Well what’s that look like? How does the Church be the Church when it comes to the area of politics? Three specific ways Scripture says. First way, are you ready for this? Is to pray. The Church, when we’re gathered together, is to pray.

I Timothy 2:1 says, “I urge you, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and those in authority that we may live,” notice the purpose for the prayers for political powers and people that be, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases our God and Savior who wants all men to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

See the Church’s first priority is we pray for the government, not so the economy gets better. We pray for the government, and for candidates, not so our lives are happier or easier. We pray, first and foremost, for those in authority so that there would be peace in the land so the gospel could go forth by what we, not just say, but the freedom to live in a way that people could see the reality of Christ.

Now I’m going to have a little experiment here, are you ready? Put your pencil down just for a second.

I want you to think of the candidate, that if you were pressed for this next presidential campaign, that you’re most excited about and let that name pop into your mind. Okay.

Now I want you to think of the candidate, in this next presidential election that you have the most distaste for. I’d like you to have that person come to your mind. Have you got it?

Now what I can tell you, in Christians all across America, those would be two different faces.

With that said, are you ready for this? For every time, let’s go to the person that you distaste, that you think is the wrong person, that you’re very, very concerned about, could become the next president.

For every time that you have spoken, criticized, written, or said something negative about this person to another believer or someone else at work or in your community, how often have you prayed for that person?

Just flat out convicting, isn’t it?

What the Bible says is that person, whoever they’re going to be, will be established by God. And that the requirement of the Church gathered and for individual believers is to pray for them and to pray for them from the heart, “God, will you bless them? God, will you give them wisdom? God, will you draw them closer to you? God, will you enrich their family relationships? God, will you cause there to be…help these justices. Help these people in congress. Help our mayor. Help our city council. Help the Board of Education.”

See, my observation among Christians, Christians tend to be often the most negative, critical people who blog, and email, and send little things to one another that you open with these little ads toward one another on both directions.

And I just wonder what would happen if we prayed, and cared about the souls of those people, and asked ourselves, first and foremost, if there’s a kingdom of heaven that’s spiritual and eternal and my allegiance is first to Christ, maybe that ought to be my priority first and foremost.

Especially, as we’re gathered together.

The second priority, when the Church is gathered, let the Church be the Church, is to preach and teach the truth of God’s Word, so that God’s people would be informed and have a biblical worldview about His values.

I have news for you! God is not looking for a democratic vote or a republican vote. In fact, I have news for you! God is neither a Democrat or a Republican. Shocking. And when He wants you to vote a little bit later on and we talk about your individual responsibility, He’s not looking for you to say, “Well this is the, my republican or my democratic…” He’s looking for a kingdom vote.

He’s looking for the children of God, who understand these worlds will always be in conflict, and you have dual citizenship and the government doesn’t have the power to change the world but only restrain evil. But you have the power, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to make a difference.

Oh, God, I am your child. I am your son or your daughter before I’m a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. What do You want me to do, what do You want me to say, and how do You want me to vote on these issues and these people that would honor You?

So how can Christians know what those issues are unless we teach? That’s the role of the Church gathered. It’s with intentionality that this is the last message and it’s with intentionality on what I’ve taught the last five weeks.

None of these were political issues. These are issues about kingdom and truth. Did you notice when Jesus was talking to Pilate He said what? “Everyone who listens to the truth listens to Me.”

You notice when they came to catch Jesus and what He says, “We know you’re a man of integrity because You live according to the truth.”

So the question is, is there absolute or relative truth? What’s the truth about human sexuality? What’s the truth about homosexuality? What’s the truth about abortion? What’s the truth about the environment?

That’s the job of the Church gathered. After we pray, this our best understanding of the truth.

Now we’re going to learn in just a minute you have a moral responsibility to participate, to know the facts, to examine, and say, “I want to be a kingdom voter. And my first allegiance is first and foremost not to what I think will make life more comfortable. Not even do I think it’s going to have more or less impact depending on what I do. But it’s to be faithful to God.”

And so prayer is number one, preaching and teaching, and the third is modeling. The Church is to model truth, and justice, and righteousness. The world changed because of the Acts 2 verses 40 through 47. That picture of those people, how did they live?

They lived in a corrupt culture, with a corrupt government, where there was tremendous injustice, amazing immorality, and all kind of gods and they came together and they loved each other and they followed Jesus and they made sacrifices and they met the deepest needs in the community.

So that’s what we do. You help runaway teens, and you figure ministry is to help sex trafficking, and help people that are HIV positive, regardless of how they got it. You don’t judge. You care. You feed the poor. You live in community. You don’t talk negatively. You don’t gossip.

When Christians live like Christians you’re the most winsome, powerful group on the face of the earth.

But what’s happened? Jesus’ Church has been hijacked by the Right and by the Left. And what’s come out of pulpits across America for the last twenty years is, “This group” or “that group.” And so the props of the state and the agendas that people think…

You know, at the end of the day, who wins? Who wins presidential elections? I’ll tell you who wins. Whoever the populous believes can make the economy better. You just go, do all the history, we have all this, “Uh, these are my views and these are my values.” Or, “These are my views and these are my values,” and “I’m an Independent,” and “I’m a swing person.”

It’s about the economy, stupid. It’s about the economy, stupid, which means what? At the core, people, far more than kingdom voters, we’re materialists. And what we’re asking, not, is, “God, what do You want in this country, and what do You want me to do?”

What we’re asking is, “How do we get this thing moving in a way that makes my life better, and my future better, and my personal economy better, and my prosperity better?” That’s not a very biblical or godly role but it’s how most people vote.

And so let’s let the Church be the Church. Let’s radically live out and model, not subservient agendas around smaller issues, but the big agenda of Christ and Him crucified. That’s the role of the Church.

Well what’s the role of the government? And by the way, as I say that, there’s a role for activism but what you’re going to find it’s not when the Church is gathered. The role of real activism is going to be placed squarely, specifically on each individual.

Because you’re not just a citizen of heaven. You are a citizen of this country. And God has a calling and specific responsibility. But that’s on you, not the Church gathered.

Second principle: Don’t expect the government to achieve what only the Church can accomplish. See that’s, so often, it’s subtle. If we could just get the right guy in the office, whoever “we” is. By the way, the “we” when we say “Christian” could be very, very different politically. Very, very broad.

This is another “a-ha.” I think God, since He’s not a Republican or a Democrat, is absolutely committed to having born again, kingdom-minded servants of His in both parties.

And that they’re commitment to the King would superimpose any shallower commitments to their political parties. And yet, over time, we’ve thought somehow, it’s a subtle presupposition, “If we could just get the right guy and then the Senate, and then the Congress, and then the Supreme Court justices, and then the governors, and…”

We unconsciously believe that the political process has the power to change the culture and to change people’s hearts and make, quote, the world the way many Christians believe the world ought to be.

That’s a deeply held view. The Bible says the government doesn’t have that power. So it has the power to restrain evil. Now when you make certain laws that punish unrighteous things, God says the, what’s the foundation of God’s throne? Justice and righteousness.

What exalts a people? What exalts a nation? Righteousness. Governments can’t create righteousness. Only individual people can.

Let me ask you this, just relax a little bit. Some of you are getting really nervous. In the last forty years, isn’t it true that both parties have had a season of time where their party had the president, the majority in the senate, and the majority in congress? Right?

If you know your history both parties have had seasons where, “So, how’s America looking to you? So everything’s okay, right? It’s really working?” See, unconsciously what happens is the Church has fallen into thinking there’s some messiah and whether it’s a governor, or a president, or a Supreme Court justice, that if we can just line those people up, the government has the power to bring about righteousness, and justice, and change, and they don’t.

They can restrain evil.

And by contrast, there’s a very important role for government that’s amazing and we live in a world where we the people get to help make those things and can be very active in bringing about change.

I often hear people say silly things like, “Well, you can’t legislate morality.” And if they mean by that, you can’t change people’s hearts, to have them do the right thing for the right reason, I totally agree.

But what you need to understand is what laws are, is legislating morality. It’s morally wrong to drive drunk. Puts you in jail. Morally wrong to kill someone. Puts you in jail. Morally wrong to steal or not pay your taxes. We put you in jail.

Those are moral issues. And then sometimes the laws change - and it used to be illegal to kill a child under this age or that age. The laws change, it’s now legal. The laws, they draft morality. But the government creates these boxes but they can’t bring about righteousness. They can’t bring about change. Our hope can’t be in candidates or the political system.

Well then you should be asking, “Well then where is our hope?” The role of the Church: Pray, preach and teach the truth, model and live this out in radical ways. The role of government is limited political limitations. I love what Chuck Colson has said.

He says, “The danger with Christian political movements, per se, is that they tend to make the gospel hostage to particular political agendas. You may wrap the cross in the flag and make God a prop for the state. And this is a grave danger.”

I would say that has happened on both sides of the aisle to the Church and for reasons I can’t quite get, Christians seem to be among the most naïve of all people and are used and abused by both political parties and what we’ve lost is our greater and most important message. And we’ve been tagged because of how we’ve behaved, especially when gathered, that we’re really the people that are just for this or against that.

And that’s happened on the Right and it’s happened on the Left. This is not a Liberal or Conservative issue.

So what’s the answer? Principle number three: Don’t expect the Church to accomplish what only individual believers can achieve. See what a lot of people want to do is say, “If you would do this, if you preach on this, if we do that, if we interview candidates, if we do that, if we take a stand on proposition 1, 4, 7, 9, 2, 13, if we have flyers, if we have voting guides, if we do…”

Don’t ask the Church to accomplish what only an individual believer can achieve. All those things are too low and too small a priority of the overarching message of exalting Christ and the message of redemption, when we’re gathered.

However, the Scripture is clear, believers have dual citizenship and we’ll be held accountable before God for faithfulness in both arenas. Separation is not the answer. Activism in the Church gathered is not the answer. The answer is one word. Are you ready for this? Individual penetration.

At the end of the day, we want the government to change things, we want the Church gathered to change things, and here’s what Jesus would say: “You are the light. You are the salt. And you are the leaven.”

Changing in laws, changing in Boards of Education, changings in values, changing in the greatest needs, that’s not the Church gathered, that’s you and me, individually, saying, “You know what? I’m going to be informed. You know what? I’m going to vote. You know what? I’m going to find a calling on my life to meet the deepest needs and I’m going to engage. I’m going to get off of talk radio and blogging about stuff and I’m going to get out and do stuff that brings about real, concrete change in hurting people’s lives, in laws that need to be changed.

“I’m not going to ask the Church to do that. I’m not going to just be a mouth that talks about, ‘We ought to do this and we ought to do that and can you believe how terrible things are?’”

I love what my friend, Tony Evans, he wrote a tiny, little book called How Should Christians Vote? And he has one chapter, I loved it, it’s on, “Is God a Democrat or a Republican?” Classic.

And what he says in this is probably different than you could ever imagine. It’s very insightful.

Tony writes, “The Scripture clearly states the role of the believer, in the midst of society,” and then he quotes a very famous authority on what our role in society, individually, should be.

“You are the salt of the earth but if the salt becomes tasteless how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under-foot by men. You are the light of the world. You are a city set on a hill, a city that can’t be hidden. Nor does anyone take a light or a lamp and put it under a basket but they put it on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house.

“So let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Does anyone recognize that authority? It’s Jesus. He’s quoting Matthew 5. And then I love the paragraph:

“Our job as Christians is to infiltrate where the bacteria of unrighteousness and darkness have permeated and made themselves at home. It is our job to act as salt and light in both parties and offer the kingdom’s point of view. One way you do that in a constitutional republic is through your vote.”

See at the end of the day I think what’s happened is that many of us want someone else to accomplish what God says is your job. My job.

What’s your calling?

Now for all of us – informed. All of us – registered to vote and vote. Are you ready for this? If we believed in dual citizenship, how in the world do we have sixty million evangelicals in the United States, and in the last presidential election only twenty million voted?

The research I did on very specific propositions, on very specific judges, on very specific candidates, often the swing of who wins is by a few hundred or a few thousand votes. Two thirds of all the people say, “I love Jesus with all my heart,” and listen to talk radio, and probably blog about how terrible things are.

Two thirds of them don’t participate. See, I think you’ll be held personally accountable, and I’ll be held personally accountable.

Now, if I was in Communist China I don’t get to vote. I get to be a citizen, I get to live out my faith, and the moment they tell me I can’t do something that God says I have to do, then I exercise civil disobedience.

So I might be a Daniel and say, “You know, I’m sorry, you know something? You can tell me I can’t pray. I’m going to pray. You put me in jail, you put me in jail.”

But there’s a role for participation. And then there’s a calling. There are some people in this room that you ought to be on a Board of Education. There are people in this room that you ought to be leading the precinct in your party.

There are people in this room that are probably younger, you should be asking yourself, “Does God want me to be the governor of this state?” For some of your kids you ought to be training them saying, “You know what? We’re going to need a godly, Christian president someday.” And maybe one of your sons or one of your daughters…

We’ve retreated and we’ve said, “The government solves the problems or get the Church to be a big political bully.” Both of those are wrong. The government can restrain evil and the Church can make disciples and we are the salt and the light and the leaven.

And we gotta be careful about how we talk. And we gotta be careful that we don’t get pictured as, “Oh, you’re that hardcore Republican.” Or, “You’re that Democrat.” Or, “You always look at these things and you’re the person who sends me these emails.”

People need to know you, first and foremost, as a man, a woman, or a student of God. Humbled by your love for God, humbled by your winsome, holiness. Humbled by the tactfulness in which you share what you believe and why you believe it.

And then they ought to watch a life that’s making a difference. And who participates. And lovingly, tactfully, caringly shares, “These are my convictions about these issues that are going to frame our culture for the next fifty years and this is why.”

That’s what the early Church did. Turn the clock back fifty years. Christianity was almost foreign in Korea. And then what you saw the birth of the Church that created an entire system where laws got changed and different people, the president of Korea right now is a born again Christian. I have a friend that meets with him on a regular basis.

Think of Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe and the Wall didn’t fall out of political, external. The Wall fell, and if you understand the story of what happened among the believers, and the prayer movements, and the… all of a sudden the people said, “We can’t live under this anymore.”

Can I tell you something? The Bay Area doesn’t have to stay the way the Bay Area is, and this country doesn’t have to stay the way it is, but it’ll only change when you change.

It’s not going to, you know what? I don’t know who’s going to win the next election. But I’ll guarantee, we’re not going to have, “Chhh, chhh!” But I know whoever wins I’m commanded to pray for him.

But I’ll tell you what, it can change in your neighborhood, it can change around here, and as it changes with believers, that’s how God’s always worked.

I have a word to the separatist. Do not ask others to do the work that God has called you to do. Okay? You have dual citizenship. Don’t you say, “Well I don’t want any involvement in politics in any way, someone else take care of that.” Sorry. That’s not one of the options.

And my word to the activist: Please don’t demand that your personal calling and your personal passion in your views, politically, become one that all of us have to share and be promoted from the Church gathered. Okay?

I’m glad you know more than anyone else, you can Facebook all your friends, you can help people learn, you can run for office, you can make a difference. But we have different people and different calling and more than anything else you need to sit next to people and realize that your commitment as a citizen of heaven and a brother and sister in Christ must override any of your strong, passionate political views that would cause division in the body of Christ.

They’ll know us, according to Jesus, by our love, not our political activity. Should you have political activity? Absolutely. But that’s your personal calling. Do what God shows you to do. Don’t demand that when we’re gathered that that becomes the agenda.