Thursday, January 17, 2008

politics again- how should we respond?

(sorry about the length; too long!)

Here in Michigan we just had our presidential primary. It's hot now on both major party sides, and interesting, as to which candidates will come to the fore. Though I must say, while I'm paying some attention, I'm not caring alot about which two they are. Though I do want to study where each stands on all the issues, as much as possible.

I try to look at this American political scene, as well as the international scene through the lens of the kingdom of God come in Jesus as well as from what we can tell from Scripture. In doing so, I must say I have a hard time being so personally invested in either my country's government, or for that matter any country's government, as well as the United Nations as a whole. I find my own country, the United States, good for a good number of reasons, while having its fallacies, and even enormously so- as it carries on as the world power of this moment and time- and this, just in comparing it with the rest of the world. In comparing it with Scripture and what I understand about governments and their responsibility before God during this present time, I again find much that is commendable, and some things that seem to me questionable or worse. But in comparing our country with the kingdom of God come in Jesus, I find that it's just another kingdom of this world, destined for the dust bin like all other "kingdoms" and empires.

For me all this means that we must honor our country as God calls us to in Scripture. We ought to honor our president, whether we would vote for him or her, or not- and the same with other elected officials. Here in America, thankfully there are term limits on the presidency (2 terms, 8 years-max) and other elected officials face reelection. There is something to be said for the say we have here, which is seen in other countries as well, though in other countries- not.

But what are we to do as Christians? How should we live, in view of civic activities? What are our responsibilities?

To start, I see us as Christians as the one holy nation of God in Jesus, scattered throughout the earth. We are citizens in many nations, but our allegiance is to one nation under God in Jesus, the holy nation. But it's of a kingdom not of this world, refusing to fight as the world does, but rather taking up the cross in following our Lord Jesus. Consequently I believe we must be careful about what kind of allegiance we give to any governing state on earth. While at the same time, we should seek to exert influence, according to God's revealed will in Scripture and in Jesus, where we can.

Being a part of the one holy nation which is of the kingdom of God come in Jesus, and really, which is the church- we do want to know how we're to live out what we are, as salt and light in Jesus, in this world. Not easy. Some think we need to be completely devoted to the one nation in Jesus in the sense that we give no place to any of the governing authorities of this world. Others seem to advocate the kind of allegiance to their varying countries, so as to obey them rather implicitly, unless clearly called to break one of God's commands. To fight in the wars of each, etc.

I'm not sure from Scripture that either of those options are right for us in Jesus. Scripture indicates that we're to honor the emperor. If we're to encourage the overthrow of any ruling authority in the name of Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not, then this command seems contradictory to that. Scripture also indicates that nations and kingdoms are held accountable by God for the righteousness and justice they administer. To turn a blind eye to what a governing authority does, because it is a "minister of God" (Romans 13) is to miss the point that they are ministers or servants, to carry out God's will in restraining evil. Maybe there is a place to resist evil done by governing authorites. Think of John the Baptizer. But even in considering John, and this, it seems to me there may be another way of looking at, and approaching this.

Yes, we speak, and above all, seek to live out truth in grace in Jesus, in this world. But in a sense, we end up living above the world, yet very much in the world. In the world, but not of it. Contrary to the book, "Colossians Remixed", we don't see Paul advocating, in Colossians, a direct confrontation with "Caesar" (see Scot McKnight's series on "Colossians Remixed" on "Jesus Creed"). Rather, those in Jesus are to live in this world, in every realm, as those of another world and kingdom, destined to take over all. And seek to live out and see, the anti-world, flesh and the devil, and the pro-Christ and the will of God values, lived out individually and together.

Let's not retreat into the wilderness in caves, in evangelical "ghettos." Jesus didn't. But neither let us think that the kingdoms of this world are going to be swayed into becoming bastions for the kingdom of God come in Jesus. Jesus didn't go there, and the book of Colossians doesn't seem to go either route. There is one holy nation, and we in Jesus are all a part of that.

But let's not think that there can't be pockets of resistance against the powers of this age, pockets of doing good in the Jesus way and of thus promoting God's will and kingdom come, in Jesus. There is much good that can, and thus needs to be done, and this could happen, I surmise, even in the White House. As long as we recognize the limitations any earthly kingdom has in the here and now. Remember, we in Jesus, alone, are the one holy nation (1 Peter) and with that, part and parcel of the kingdom of God come in Jesus.

What would you add to this sketch, written rather hurriedly, for me, with plenty of questions remaining, in my own mind?


Betsy Lin said...

This politics stuff can be really confusing, especially when the church never talks about it- haha
I try to keep up- but it is hard to learn how to filter information..... there should be a class on it!!! Haha.
Most people my age I feel have the attitude of " dont teach me about politics and governments, just tell me who to vote for" haha...that line is actually in a song by Derek Webb- an awesome singer and writer!
Thanks for putting the topic out there- and reminding us to see it in light of Gods Kingdom!!

Anonymous said...

"To start, I see us as Christians as the one holy nation of God in Jesus, scattered throughout the earth."

I like to the picture in my mind and heart of the citizens, of the nation of God, being spread throughout the earth now...and that we are also united in and by the Holy Spirit. the time of the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Betsy Lin,
Thanks. I think we have to pray, study the candidates as to where they stand on the issues, try to think well critically in light of God's revealed will in Scripture and in Jesus- according to kingdom of God come in Jesus, pray again, and then make a decision.
Better, in my view, than all Christians voting the same way, because "that's the way we should vote." Christians need to learn to think well critically, and our critical thinking will certainly be different than the rest of the world.

Thanks again, for giving us your perspective. I enjoy hearing what you younger people think on this.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks. Yes, that is important, and has been most helpful to me in trying to know better how to respond to political concerns. Still not easy, though.