Monday, November 3, 2008

MONDAY MUSINGS: The Church and Politics

On election eve, some wise thoughts from Greg Boyd.

No matter what happens in tomorrow's election, God will remain in control and the church will still be called to be Body of Christ in this world. Some may lure us into thinking that the political process is the only effective way to get things done, and those in positions of power may get the most press for their decisions, but the world will only truly be changed when ordinary people of faith begin getting involved in the world as Jesus did, laying down their lives day after day to benefit others.

By the way, if someone thinks I am picking on the "Christian Right" here, the article from which these thoughts are taken is an extended criticism of the "Christian Left." Both are misguided when they buy into the notion that exercising power over others and passing laws to enforce desirable behavior is what God's people are to be pursuing as their primary agenda. Jesus' words could not be plainer:

"You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
(Mark 10.42-45)

It is in the context of this radical approach to changing the world that Pastor Boyd writes:

The church should provide leadership to the world by our spiritual and moral example of how we live together and serve the world, not by our self-designated superior wisdom on how to fix society by political means. Swearing allegiance to Christ doesn’t mean we know more than others. It just means we are willing to sacrifice more than others. Swearing allegiance to Christ thus doesn’t mean one has more wisdom on domestic or international social issues. It just means one is willing to bleed more to bring God’s love to domestic and international social issues.

This willingness to suffer gives the Church a unique and powerful authority to address issues and transform the world. But it does so only if the Church in fact is willing to sacrifice more than others. If the Church would model the beautiful life as a community and in our Christ-like service to the world, we would win authority to speak into domestic and international issues. But when we focus on how we should speak into domestic and international issues before we ourselves model the beautiful life, we have no more authority than anyone else. Like everyone else, we have only our opinion to offer.

Trying to get the Church to participate in the political process the “right” way is like trying to motivate a secular person to pray the “right” way. So it is, for example, that we have the “Christian Right” trying to get Christians to vote to “save the family” by outlawing gay marriage while Christians happen to have a higher divorce rate than the national average. And the “Christian Left” is trying to get Christians to vote to end poverty while the vast majority of churches in America don’t have any of their day-to-day budget or activity allocated to helping alleviate poverty. What Jesus said of individuals applies to the Church as a whole: first take the plank out of your own eye before you look for a dust particle in your neighbor’s eye (Mt. 7.1-3).

Our singular focus ought to be on the church simply being the church, manifesting the beautiful life of the Kingdom. And we ought to do this not as a practical step toward gaining some of Caesar’s power – as though this was our ultimate goal — but because this is simply what it means to faithfully follow Jesus.

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