Holding Back the Gospel With Politics

This is a longer post than I intended it to be. If you are (as I am) tired of reading posts about this election cycle, skip to the end and read just the last two paragraphs.

I tried not to post about politics today, I really did. Unfortunately, the third separate article I saw today telling me that it is my duty as a follower of Christ to vote for a particular candidate has made silence untenable. I try not to write direct responses to other blog posts or articles, and I will endeavor to hold to that here as well, but you may well recognize the articles I read simply by some of my responses. Sorry about that.

First, here’s what I’m NOT saying: I’m not saying that a Christian cannot vote for one candidate or the other; nor, on the flip side, that they must vote for one candidate over the other. I’m not saying that it’s a sin to vote for either party or candidate. I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad or foolish about voting for the candidate they find less odious between the two awful choices before us. I’m not even trying to sway you from one candidate toward another – I just want believers to stop yoking the cause of Christ to either of these candidates.

What I am saying, most emphatically, is that we make a terrible mistake when we misappropriate the cause of Christ to try to pressure, ‘encourage’, and outright bully others into voting our conscience instead of their own. Christ came, in His own words, “to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10), and when we tie that mission down to ANYTHING of lesser importance we not only hamper the spread of the gospel, we create a cult for a christ of our own making.

In Deuteronomy 4:2, God says, “Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you.” This principle is found not only in this passage, but also in Deuteronomy 12:32, I Corinthians 4:6, Revelation 22:19, and Proverbs 30:5-6. Why do I mention this? Because nowhere in Scripture are we told to vote for one candidate over another. There are principles in Scripture that can be applied to the current political situation, but no one (if they are being intellectually honest and Scripturally/theologically accurate) can tell you that there is one right candidate in this Presidential election, or that to vote in some other way is a sin.

Some have pointed to several different passages as reasons why all Christians must vote for Trump, probably the most striking of which is Luke 9:49-50. Unfortunately for those quoting it in the context of this election, it doesn’t at all say what they want it to. In the passage, a man is casting demons out of people in the name of Jesus, and the disciples get upset about it because he isn’t “with them.” Jesus rebukes them, saying “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you” (v.50). Here we see someone who is doing the work of Christ, but outside of the structure that the disciples expected, and He tells them not to fall into infighting, like that seen so often in the time of the gospels between different groups of the religious establishment. This statement by Christ applies to someone else who is obeying Jesus, doing the things He demands of us, but is not a part of our “group,” and would be far more appropriately applied to a commentary on how churches of different denominations can (and ought) cooperate for the growth of the Kingdom. It cannot rationalize political support for someone who disobeys Christ and disregards His principles on a regular basis. One can make a case that Trump is the ‘lesser of two evils’, but one cannot make a case that this passage in any way shows that we must or ought yoke ourselves to that evil, however ‘less’ it may be.

While on the topic of Scriptural principles for believers interacting with democracy, it’s important to note that apathy is never acceptable- from Nehemiah to James we see examples of Scripture saying that we are responsible for acting out our conscience, so long as what our conscience says is in line with Scripture. I believe we as Christians should vote, should run for office, should be engaged in the political dialogue, but we CANNOT and MUST NOT tie our faith down to the temporary concerns of American politics. The Kingdom of God is eternal and will last forever- America is 240 years old and could fall tomorrow. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). How much of our time is invested in a political race instead of seeking out the lost to share eternal hope?

Allow me to digress for one moment on one of the arguments I find particularly atrocious: “Failing to vote for candidate X is simply a vote for candidate Y.” This is, at best, an untruth or fallacy, and, at worst, a purposeful deceit to coerce others into voting your conscience instead of their own. If you have reasons for choosing your candidate, which I assume you do, please give them, don’t fall back on a platitude that is inaccurate, both factually and philosophically. This election will have consequences – every election does. No matter what those consequences are, they are not nearly as dire in the long-term as the consequences of the Church diluting the gospel message to something that can be equated with politics. Dragging the name of Jesus Christ, the name Scripture describes as above every name, down to the level of any politician is a pretty pitiful way to treat our risen Savior.

I saved the best for last. This nation is not our hope. This election, these politicians, what happens in the coming years- none of these are the source of our hope. Should we be engaged in the process? Sure. But when our identity comes more from our political party or our identification with a candidate than from our identification as a follower of Christ, we have an idolatry problem.

Psalm 2 is among the most often-quoted parts of the Old Testament by New Testament writers, and it’s because this psalm deals directly with the fear that we experience when nations and rulers choose unrighteousness. The New Testament writers knew what it was to live in a time of uncertainty, in a land governed by those opposed to the gospel, and their response was to preach the Word. Their response was, as ours should be, to obey Christ by joining together in prayer for this nation. We should be on our knees praying that God will send conviction, repentance, and revival on our country. We should be praying for those we call our enemies, not lambasting them in blog form. Let’s do something with eternal consequences this election year: let’s pray.


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