Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christian American citizens

Are there distinctive ways that Christians think and act in social and political situations? Are there eternal issues at stake in this election? Can we know God’s will for us as Christian American citizens? Does it make sense to do politics our way instead of his?

If we make him Lord, the biggest struggle will be with ourselves. I don’t know about you, but as a Christian, I do believe that the Lord’s thoughts are not my thoughts and that his ways are higher than mine. That being the case, I cannot base my political choices on my judgment and preferences alone. I have (reluctantly!) brought my own reactions to the candidates and issues to the Lord: “But, Lord, I don’t trust John McCain to be consistent, self-controlled, and objective.” “But, Lord, why should an election be dominated by one or two issues—like gay marriage and abortion? Surely, it’s more responsible to look at the whole spectrum of issues. There are others that are important in your eyes, aren’t there?”

What I have learned is that the Lord does have a plan for solving the very problems we are concerned about, but he can only implement it when we buy into it. I have learned that the Lord doesn’t leave loose ends. He doesn’t address some problems and ignore others. But his program of problem-solving starts when we begin to cooperate with his strategy.

The following three stories have been part of my learning process in this area.

A widow who was gathering wood to start a fire, prepare one more meal for herself and her son, and then face starvation, was confronted by a hungry prophet who said, “Fix a cake for me first.” She did, and her supply of meal and oil miraculously continued to be replenished to feed all three of them.

E. Stanley Jones, in his youth, was called to be a missionary. His mother was so devastated by the news that she ended up in the hospital. In the train on the way to see her, he said to the Lord, “If you want me to go to the mission field, I will go, but I’m trusting you to do something about my mother’s attitude.” Amazingly, his mother recovered and lived for many years, proud of her son’s commitment to the gospel and supporting him fervently with her prayers.

When my good friend Carol’s children were approaching school age, she and several other mothers began to pray about the formation of a Christian school for their children. Carol’s husband stepped forward to handle most of the business of organizing the school. Since Bruce had to devote so much time to this project and had limited time to devote to his own, this commitment promised to put a strain on his family’s income. However, the Lord prospered him greatly. Without having to advertise, clients came to him. Not only that, the work they requested were large-ticket items. In short, his family enjoyed a higher income than usual!

What did these people have in common? They could have refused to do what the Lord asked them to do, on the basis that it would put their families in jeopardy. That’s what I wanted to do when I said, “But Lord, what about ____ and what about _____?” I wanted him to discuss the issues with me, within my paradigms of what would work and what should happen. I wanted some assurances that all of the details would be taken care of (to my satisfaction) before making the plunge of supporting the issues I felt that God was showing me to support.

By contrast, the widow, E. Stanley Jones, and Bruce and Carol trusted in the Lord and did not lean on their own understanding. They held the kingdom of God as their first allegiance, entrusting the care of their families to the Lord. They believed the Lord when he said that if they would seek first the kingdom of God, he would add to them what their families needed.

The challenge that the Lord has impressed upon me as a Christian in this election season, is two-fold:
· Agree with God’s agenda
· Do politics his way*

How can we know God’s agenda? Even Christians are divided on the issues. That doesn’t mean that we can safely go in either direction; it means that we cannot count on other Christians to lead us in the right direction! We need to search his Word and listen to his Spirit for ourselves. As I have remained open to the Lord and fairly considered the Word, not only has my mind been renewed but my heart has been galvanized with concern for kingdom issues.

This is something that each person has to do for himself. You might want to accept the challenge now to stop and rethink your political position and approach. Or you may want to read on, especially for some important Scriptural references to consider.

God’s Agenda
It is very true that the Bible strongly urges us to help the poor, afflicted, and downtrodden. This would include those who are financially strapped as well as minorities who still, to some degree or other, need a champion. So a Christian might feel obligated to support the candidate who seems most closely aligned himself with these causes. On the other hand, the gay and abortion-rights agenda are large pieces in the puzzle that the voters will put together. These two issues have been downplayed in the campaigns, not because they will not be vigorously by either candidate once he is in office, but because they are so explosive to touch upon during the election season.

There are Christians for whom these two issues are non-issues, because they do not believe that gay marriage or abortion are wrong. Let me present some pertinent Scriptural references and some conclusions to which they have brought me.

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders . . . will inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor. 6:9 NIV).

" 'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. . . Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants (Lev. 18:22, 24-25).’ ”

This is sobering, because the Lord not only calls homosexuality detestable, but says that a whole nation is defiled by such practices and is liable to punishment. Does this seem harsh? Outdated? Judgmental? The Lord does not think the way we do. It behooves us to question our thinking—not his.

If this practice is so unacceptable to the Lord, should we look the other way while children are being taught how normal and beautiful it is? Should we open wide the portals of marriage and family, which the Lord invented, to an interpretation which grieves and insults him?

We are seeing the breaking down of the family already. Is this not because the concept of commitment to spouse, children, and society is being abandoned on a wide scale and being replaced by an interpretation of marriage as being primarily for personal gratification? Gay marriage is an acceleration of that attitude of ignoring God’s purposes for marriage and turning it to purely personal purposes.

There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood. . . (Prov. 6:16-17)

Open your mouth for the speechless,

In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy (Prov. 31:8).

Is a fetus just a blob of tissue? An identical argument was made 100 years ago to justify slavery: “Slaves are not people; they are property.” How shocking that sounds today! So, is a fetus just a blob of tissue, or is it a speechless, helpless unborn child? If it is the latter, we as Christians are obligated by Proverbs 31:8 to plead its cause. It seems pretty clear that we will either defend it or forsake it by how we vote in November.

To me, as a human American citizen, it makes no sense to focus on one or two moral issues—much as I may believe in them—when so much else needs to be fixed, and needs to be fixed immediately. But as a Christian Amerian citizen who believes that the blessing of God is needed more than the cleverness of man, it makes abundant sense to attend to righteous matters first in order to gain God’s blessing. Did this nation become as healthy and wealthy as we are because we are a superior race of people??? Or have we thrived and prospered because “righteousness exalts a nation” and “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord”? Then putting God’s principles last is suicidal. On the contrary, mending the fences of godliness and righteousness first is our smartest investment toward healing all that ails us.

*For the second challenge--Do Politics God's Way--please see the September 20 post called "Political Style."