Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How Christians Might Think About the 2008 Presidential Election, Part 1

Last year, I wrote a series of posts on How Christians Might Think About the Immigration Issue. The purpose wasn't to proscribe a particular stance on this political hot potato. Instead, I wanted to present some Biblical faith lenses through which Christians might want to consider US immigration policy.

In this series, I intend to do the same thing while considering the upcoming presidential election. That we need to begin thinking about an election that's some twenty-one months away is indicated by the fact that, sadly, the race is already on in a very public way. Even now, candidates are seeking our support. And they're doing so aggressively, engaging in much more than laying the groundwork of their campaigns or courting contributors. They're in the thick of seeking the support of voters and volunteers right now.

I won't tell you how to vote. One reason for that is that I don't even know how I'll vote, especially since there's no way of knowing who the nominees will be. But another and more important one is that I would be loathe to suggest that any candidate is more Christian or more preferred by God over others in the race.

So, lens #1: The Bible teaches that we should care about what happens in government. Our active concern becomes a means by which we can share the love of Jesus Christ with others.

The apostle Peter says:
For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. (First Peter 2:13-16)
Peter was writing to Jewish Christians facing rejection and at least the possibility of rejection because of their faith in Christ.

Politically, of course, these believers were subject to the Roman Empire. From time to time, the Empire was known to lash out at religious groups whose beliefs were at variance with Rome's worship of multiple deities. In time, of course, Christians would be subjected to widespread and violent pressure to renounce their belief in Jesus as the one true God and King. The latter belief--in Jesus as King--was seen by the authorities as a threat to the rule of the emperor.

Christians have no interest in insurrection or political power plays. Jesus told Pilate, the Roman governor who sentenced Him to be executed on a cross, that His kingdom was not of this world.

What Christians are interested in is sharing the Good News, whether in their words or actions, so that all who renounce sin and entrust their lives to Jesus Christ can receive forgiveness of sin and everlasting life with God.

That's where Peter's words come in. As is true today, those who weren't part of the Church to which Peter wrote, suffered from all sorts of misconceptions about Christ, the Church, and Christians.

I've told the story before of meeting with one couple, she a lifelong Christian and he a guy who had barely been around Christianity his entire life. The woman announced that her husband had some problems with the Church. I smiled and told him, "I do too. Why don't you give me your list first? Then I'll tell you what I don't like." He answered, "I don't like the way they blow up abortion clinics." Apparently, news reports about people who claimed to be Christians and perpetrated violence at clinics where abortions were performed were all this guy had to go on when judging what Christian faith is all about.

As citizens, candidates, and voters, we Christians have an obligation to behave in such a way as to dispel the myths and misapprehensions and yes, the evil done by some in Christ's Name. Baptist pastor Gerald Mann says that one of the primary missions of Christians is to clean up the bad reputation given to God by other Christians.

The call to love God and to love neighbor given to Christians by Jesus isn't a call to a vague sentiment of favor for either God or neighbor. It's a call to active, respectful living toward God and others. We're called to live lovingly even when we feel neither sentimental or favorable toward anyone but ourselves. Concerned citizenship, including familiarizing ourselves with issues, candidates, and platforms as well as voting, and doing so without rancor, disrespect, or prejudice, is among the ways we can express love for neighbor.

Christians live in social orders, under civil authorities. By conducting ourselves honorably, paying our taxes, and exercising civic responsibility, we put the lie to notions that Christians are "so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good." Those Christians who are involved as citizens--including engaging in thoughtful conversations, Christian and non-Christian about who our next Presdient should be--earn the opportunities to fulfill our highest callings as Christians: sharing Christ with those who experience our love, rationality, earnestness, and concern.

Peter says this in another place:
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light...(First Peter 2:9)
The Bible teaches that we should care about what happens in government. Our active concern becomes a means by which we can share the love of Jesus Christ with others.

[Next installment: Another reason why Christians should care about the upcoming presidential election.]

[THANK YOU TO: Andy Jackson of Smart Christian for linking to this post.]

[THANKS ALSO TO: Rick Moore of Holy Coast for linking to this post.]

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