Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Politics and the pulpit

Earlier today, I wrote an apolitical post referencing an apolitical segment from Pastor Andy Stanley's sermon of this past Sunday. In it, Stanley urges Christians to "cool it," to be so wrapped up in their politics that they forget who someone's Lord is is more important than who they support for president. (This too, is an apolitical post, by the way.)

I went on to say that some Christians--and among my acquaintance or awareness are Christians who are Democrats and Republicans--end up engaging in an unintentional idolatry, confusing their political preferences for Jesus, the Gospel, and the Word of God.

These comments were not political commentary. They were meant to urge Christians to take care to always put Christ first.

In fact, after watching the denomination of which I was once a part spiral into being more of a political entity, driven by ideologies and social commentary, rather than acting as the body of Christ commissioned by Jesus to make disciples, I have very strong feelings about the need for the Church to refrain from political activism. And for Christians to take care that their political involvement not devolve to fear, faithlessness, or idolatry.

I have been in the wrong when it comes to this business of equating my faith with my political preferences, by the way.

Early in my ministry, I was quite vocal about equating Jesus and my political preferences.

And sixteen years ago, I ran for political office. That was a mistake because, despite all my efforts to tell people I didn't claim to be a better Christian or a better person than my four primary opponents, there were people--both among those who voted for me and the big majority who didn't--who assumed, by virtue of my office as a pastor, that I was equating Jesus with my politics.

I was wrong, as a pastor, to have been politically engaged and I have repented for it.

Since then, as a pastor, I have imposed a personal edict on myself: "Never talk about politics."

The reason for that edict is simple. The Gospel, the teaching that God took on human flesh and died to protect us from death, the consequence of the sin that lives in every human being, is offensive in itself. It's difficult enough for people (including me) to accept that we are sinners in need of the Savior, that we need to surrender to God's grace and not try ourselves to "be like God."

So why would I create an impediment to people receiving the good news of new life through faith in Christ by interjecting my political views into things?

The last I checked, Jesus belongs to no particular party, adheres to no political philosophy. Why risk offending people with personal political beliefs that have nothing to do with Christian faith or being Christ's disciples?

The Gospel.

The Bible.


These are the things we're about.

Christians should feel free to be politically engaged and active, if they choose.

But we should trust the Holy Spirit to guide believers to make political decisions, not guided by pastors or parachurch or denominational entities, whose politics can be wrong. As C.S. Lewis warned, once we get involved with talking up "Christ and" anything, we risk losing the Christ in our proclamations altogether. We should proclaim God's Word, not our words.

We can get our politics wrong. But the Word of God is never wrong!

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