Saturday, May 03, 2008

politics and our place in it

Being Anabaptist to some extent in my theological understanding makes the consideration of politics a bit more difficult for me (see Bob Robinson's thoughtful, good post related to this, along with my comment). Of course Anabaptists differ among themselves as to what Christians should do related to the state and politics. Some withdraw completely (the Amish and some Mennonites) and others actively engage in it (other Mennonites, Ron Sider among them).

Christians are salt and light in Jesus in this world, and this is to be evident to others. I don't see much in the New Testament which tells us that we're to Christianize government as in trying to see it changed. Yet our influence should be felt everywhere, including government, so that at least the new way of being human in community in Jesus will be evident to them.

Of course in this our lives should be full of good works. And we need to live out and speak the truth which often will contradict the values of society at large, in our case often bent on pursuing "the American dream" and protecting all "individual rights" such as "the right to choose."

Yes, Jesus is Lord; therefore Caesar and any other human government is not. But this was lived out and proclaimed in a way that seems above the world, and in that way to hopefully influence the world. A good case in point in my mind is Martin Luther King, Jr. He refused to live as the world does in protesting against the maltreatment of African-Americans. Instead he sought to follow the way of Jesus in nonviolent protest outside of the system. And that's the major reason we still remember him today.

Of course I think we also need the William Wilberforce's (also here)- to go along with the John Woolman's- working in government. I think a Christian can do that according to their calling, and should. Not an easy road. But think of Daniel and Esther. God will guide one, and we have to decide just how we'll do this in working with others and knowing what we should do. Not an easy calling, but then again what is easy in this life? To follow Jesus in his way will be challenging for us all in whatever way we serve here.

What do you think about this?


Bob Robinson said...

Thanks for your input on this! In an election year, we Christians need to talk about the basics of a political philosophy before we get into who we think would be the best president based on our Christianity. How can we do the latter before we do the former!?

A Christian's influence must indeed be felt everywhere, including government. MLK was very much influencing government - not just through rallying a movement to nonviolently bring about change in regard to race, but also being outspoken about poverty and the Vietnam War.

Also, I think that the message of the New Testament is that Christ is reconciling ALL THINGS to himself. This includes government. I notice that in Colossians 1:15-20 that among the "all things" listed that Christ created are "thrones, powers, rulers, authorities," and that these things were "created through him and for him."

And I also notice that the passage says that "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Christ), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

Therefore, I think that part of the Christian calling in this present world is to take part in God's reconciling to himself ALL THINGS, including government.

This is our hard work of being a redemptive force in the world!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, Bob. Especially hard in that the ways of this world and the way of Jesus are definitely not in sync. Yet as you say, and what happened in South Africe with the Truth for Reconciliation Commission is a great example of this, we do need to think of God's redemption in Christ in terms of government in this world as well. I need to work on that thought.


Anonymous said...

this is what i am thinking...

as a body we are called to Love God and Love one another...which is a 24-7 job right there.

we are also called by God to do things individually for God. these things are a sacrifice of our worldly desires to allow God to do things through us.

the Spirit works in ways that is not of this world. we must work in the ways that we are called to.

as american citizens we have the freedom to vote, to run for office in our communities and beyond. we have the right as citizens of this country to be involved in our government in many ways. but we see corruption in our government, in our communities, in our nieghborhood, in our own family and yes, even in our selves.

so, what do we do and where do we start? i think the answer is in who we follow.

Anonymous said...

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.

He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.

He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.

He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king."

daniel 2: 20-23

Anonymous said...

faith in the power of God
for all belongs to Him.

Mike said...

Good post. I think balance can exist here. We should neither run from politics or lose ourselves in it.

Right now I tend to feel Christians have made an idol out of politics. We believe that a party can change the nation. What idolitary.

Ted M. Gossard said...

From what you're saying I think you hit on a key point. Jesus is not enthroned through his ascension as king over all. But the kingdom he is working out is quite different from the kingdoms or governments of this world. Yet it is a kingdom that is over them and can impact them, but is to do so primarily through his people, the church.

So there's all kinds of ways we can impact government. I think it's where we draw the lines and how we do it that is likely important, and that's where good Christians will differ.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think I tend to think the same way you are saying here, across the board. We each need to be true to our unique callings of course. But generally speaking we need to steer a course that is not beholden to the system or to any one political party. That is present but challenges all and does good works, as God's kingdom workers in Jesus. Something like that.