By Pastor Lucy Wynard
“Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:37-40
In case you have missed this part of the news – it’s an election year! The next few weeks will be full of political ads, robo-calls, personal conversations (or avoiding conversations), sensationalized news, presidential debates (maybe?), and almost certainly downright ugly partisan politics.
So what does it mean to be a Christian in these particular weeks? From voting to conversations on Facebook to anticipating the next family get-together… what does following Jesus look like for us in difficult political times? I know many people who would like to keep faith and politics utterly and completely separate – “politics doesn’t belong in the church pastor!” is a sentiment I’ve heard more than once. To that I say, “Faith belongs in every corner of our lives! Including our politics!” Besides, at its most basic, politics is simply the way that groups of people make decisions and figure out how to live together. Politics is about how people live in relationship with one another. And the Bible has a whole lot to say about that.
So if we can’t keep our faith and our politics apart – what does it mean to be a political Christian? Or what faith principles guide us in our political decisions – from how we vote to how we engage (or not) in political conversations? Let me offer a few suggestions:
- To be political as a Christian always means putting love of God and love of neighbor first. Jesus leads us in a way of being in relationship that lays down our rights and privileges and instead honors others’ needs before our own. Ask yourself, “What does it mean as I look at my ballot to consider others’ needs first? What does it means to think about the least, the marginalized, the “lost sheep” as I evaluate the choices before me?” We know God cares about the poor, about the hurting, about the forgotten and the persecuted. We know God speaks up for justice for the oppressed. A political Christian does their best to follow God’s greatest commands in all that they do.
- To be political as a Christian means to conduct ourselves with humility, patience, forgiveness and love. To listen with compassion to one another. To see the image of Christ in others. To refuse to engage in gossip or slander that tears down but to speak the truth in love. Christians will disagree about what it means to love God & our neighbor as we think about laws and who to vote for – but can we listen and speak to one another with humility, with compassion, with a desire to keep unity (not uniformity) in Christ? ** Note: Political attack ads and memes poking fun at “the other side” are almost always some form of gossip and slander. Commit to scrolling right on by, not reacting, not reading the comments, and not passing them along! **
- To be political as a Christian is to realize that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and only Jesus can save us. There is no political party platform, no politician, no law of human beings that can bring the salvation, justice, peace and hope that we so desperately need. Only Jesus saves. And though God is highly political, God isn’t partisan. The gospel stands as a critique against all human systems and structures. As Christians we ought to make those politicians we support a little nervous and always on their best behavior, because they know our ultimate allegiance is to God’s Kingdom, not their campaign or any political party.
Finally, I hope you’re praying this election season. Praying for our country – and for all the countries of the world, many of whom will also be affected by the outcome of this election, and all of whom are beloved by God. Praying for your neighbors, especially perhaps for those who have different political views than you – not that God would change their mind so much as that God would enable you to love them. Praying for your own heart – for God to fill you with hope and joy in God’s work, regardless of the outcome of the election.
May God raise up elected leaders who honor the biblical values of justice, peace, and care for the least of these. And may God make us – God’s church – a physical sign of a radically different Kingdom in this hurting world.
With you in the hope of God’s goodness,
Pastor Lucy Wynard