HOW ARE YOU HANDLING THE CHALLENGE OF LETTING CHRIST BE VISIBLE IN A POLITICAL ELECTION SEASON?
- The success of our political and corporate life has been at the expense and neglect of the soul. As a result, very sick souls are making important decisions (Michael Leunig)
- Almost all crimes of Christian history have come about when religion is confused with politics. Politics, which always runs by the rules of ungrace, allures us to trade away grace for power, a temptation the church has often been unable to resist (C. S. Lewis)
- Be careful not to measure your holiness by other people’s sins (Martin Luther)
- The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members (William Temple)
- Will Christians turn once again toward an approach that imposes its will on the rest of society? By doing so we would betray our founder, who resisted a temptation to authority over “all the kingdoms of the world,” and who died a martyr at the hands of a powerful state. (Philip Yancey)
- The world is a dangerous place to live. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it (Albert Einstein)
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
To be Christlike in word and deed during a democratic election year is not a walk in the park. ‘Those who overcome’ must be ones who choose love when the generally accepted view is to pick one person and shun all others. Since the content of Christian faith is to love God and love one another, it requires special love that says no to another while still loving the person. That navigation demands that a Christian takes time to think through; otherwise one gets swept by the current of the prevailing worldview. Since my country gained independence, 58 years ago, we have at times had to bear with acute political polarization intensified by the five-year cycle of elections. Almost all the communication platforms are barraged by partisan and toxic tones of candidates’ advertisements. The closer it gets to the election date, it is made clear that it is no longer an issue of telling the truth, but it is about telling the version of truth that agrees with one’s preferred view which advances the candidate’s victory. The bruises of political differences can run deep and derail Christians from the most noble calling that has eternal consequences. Jim Denison says, “If we do not seek intentionally to honor Jesus in all we do, we will honor ourselves instead. Our default position as fallen people is to be on the throne of our own hearts, seeking our own glory”. It is possible to make the season of political elections to be a time to let Christ be visible.
THE PRIVILEGE OF MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE IS POSSIBLE WHEN OUR VIEW OF POLITICS IS INFORMED BY OUR FAITH
Get a clear definition of politics – The perception of what politics is comes from beliefs observed from activities of those who engage in people’s governance. The narrow angle uses vernacular ’Siasa’, ‘ateti’ terminologies that denote deception, conflict, describing another person in the worst terminologies while glorifying self or your candidate , bribery, cheering and jeering. Politics is about human beings organizing their affairs, including their neighborhood, learning for their young, trade, and all that dignifies the people. It is important to understand that politics is about maintenance of social control and communal decision making. A politician is one that embodies the norms, goals and aspirations of the community and so seeks what is best for the common good. Since politics is about healthy relationships, it is inseparable from the command of ‘loving your neighbor ‘. David Closson in his article, ‘Biblical principles for political engagement: worldview, issues, and voting’ says, “If we convince ourselves that politics only deals with a narrow subset of clashing politicians, and thus choose to withdraw from politics at large, society—and our neighbors—will be worse off”. Engaging in politics is a matter of stewardship and so Christians should seek to vote in a way that honors God and advances the wellbeing of their neighbor.
SOME OF THE CHALLENGES CHRISTIANS FACE IN POLITICS
Misplaced Ethnocentrism – Ability to distinguish Christianity as a relationship not religion is a major challenge. When Christian faith is treated as a religion, the implications are different from when it is a living relationship with God through Christ. Ethnocentrism is evaluating and judging another and their views based on one’s own cultural beliefs instead of the beliefs of that person or the group. Christians who act like their political point of view is the only one that matters, have an attitude that results in the believer consciously and unconsciously, communicating that their point of view must be imposed on people, even if that hurts the cause of Christ. That ignores Jesus’ teaching of being rooted in love that requires listening and obedience to what Jesus taught. ‘“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (Matthew 5:43-45). Some of the problems that result from ethnocentrism include unhealthy competition, jealousy, hurt feelings, pride, lack of trust, greed and selfishness.
The multitude of numbers –Where it is one person, one vote, the Christians are likely to be in minority and so their voices tend to be drowned in the sea of haters, abusers and people not guided by the fear of God. That makes people shy off and chooses to focus on business that has direct bearing on the kingdom. It takes courage to remember that light however weak is the only way to get rid of darkness. That firm consistent voice of a praying person is what is required to change the toxic environment. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). To avoid politics is to endorse the status quo which includes perpetuating corruption and injustices
Attitude to service – In a culture where all personal pursuit is to benefit the individual, serving others becomes a tall order. Hierarchy culture strips power from the people so that it trickles down from the top of the ladder to those in lower ranks. That model contradicts what Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated. In the kingdom of God a leader is one who focuses primarily on the growth and wellbeing of others. It is the Christian to live and demonstrate what Christ taught by refusing to accumulate and exercise power at the ‘top of the pyramid’.
Ability to engage with what is different – It is a hallmark of Christian maturity to listen carefully, dialogue and learn from those who have different viewpoints. That is what the great commission requires, to go to those whose values and aspirations are different. Joseph, Daniel and Esther served in policy decision making positions and used their Godly values to shape and implement policies that benefitted society. It is possible to make Jesus Christ visible in a political campaigning season if believers are ready to engage with real issues.
Appreciation of the Gospel – ‘Full’ gospel or holistic message is inclusive of all aspects and areas of life. It is a kind of atrophy to restrict the gospel to the walls of the church. The Bible has instructions about government and political authority. It is those in whom the word of God dwells richly (Colossians 3:16) that actively engage in every aspect of life, faithfully applying Biblical principles, even in political issues.
HOW TO MAKE CHRIST VISIBLE IN A POLITICAL SEASON
Examine the prevailing mindset – Do not be intertwined into worldly thinking and react using the very tactics of the world. This begins by understanding one’s biases and the forces that are not only demonic but historical influences that subdue people’s thinking. Those are the standards of this world (Romans 12:1) that include the education system that filter some people out and so result in self -doubt and self- hate. A Christian who will make Christ visible and honored has the political persuasion that every person is made in God’s image and likeness and therefore deserves honor and respect. To have a different view does not make the other person your enemy, it is Satan who is the enemy. Renewal of mind by God’s word is necessary so that one is able to discern what is likely to cause deception, division and destruction of God’s image bearers. The real path to significance should be based on what our heavenly Father thinks about us but not what our political allies think about us.
Listen carefully to God’s leading – “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1) means that the living arrangements and the people are all in God’s all-encompassing plan. That means His people are to take dominion over historical developments, economic, judicial systems, education, health, global interrelationships among others. Christians who are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) are then inescapably political. It is strange to view politics as a special calling that requires special anointing while not anointing the teacher fully aware that education is political. There is a need to examine the source of the fear and an attitude that would make an important field out of what interests God. If the Lord has called you into political life, trust Him and follow the lead.
Have the Big Picture – While ‘Sphere sovereignty’ involves the idea of all-encompassing created order, and its proper organizing increases productivity and human dignity, it is still short term. There is an end of this world as was revealed to John. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (11:5); “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). In the meantime there should be Christians who engage with what enables people to give glory to God in heaven. It is important to be clear that political entities are not the savior of the world, Jesus Christ is.
Focus on the mission – While others may seek the public political office because of the fame and gain to resources, a Christian who is living in communion with the one who has called Him, will listen carefully to Gods instructions. The campaign is an act of being a witness of Christ and so one cannot use the conventional language. If there is an aspect of the campaign where one cannot say ‘the Lord led me’, then it is important to retreat and listen again.
To make Christ visible in the political arena, one has to have an authentic, genuine and living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is in knowing that the Living God knew about our world’s need for saving long before any national government was ever founded. He demonstrated to the world that redemption could not be accomplished through the power of man, his economic strength, his military might, or his politics. It is in humility that one takes assignment in the sphere God sends including politics and God’s work must be done in God’s way, otherwise the enemy will sabotage it. To be the light of the world means one is present and engaging, displaying the fruit of the Holy Spirit which includes loving even those who hate you, praying and blessing those who curse you (Matthew 5:44). Every Christian is called to live a life that displays Godly /biblical principles, leaving a foundational legacy that makes God be honored and worshipped. A Christian who has eternal perspective in mind, dependent on God’s guidance and provision, will use every moment for His glory and that is what offers true and lasting hope to a broken world. When you are in heaven, how will you wish you had lived this day on earth? (Jim Denison)
“Religiousness may shield people from a shattering contact with God in Christ. Religiousness without serious commitment can be a protection against the demands of real faith” (Don Smith)