Psalm 60:3-5 O God, you have been very hard on us, making us drink wine that sent us reeling. But you have raised a banner for those who fear you—a rallying point in the face of attack. Now rescue your beloved people. Answer and save us by your power.
Perhaps you think I’m going to write about the coronavirus as “the wine that sent us reeling.” Perhaps that would be appropriate. So many of our beloved ones in Latin America are being hit hard by the virus right now.
But what’s on my mind today is something with potentially greater and more long-term consequences for our country, and for the Body of Christ not just here but worldwide. So, if you have strong feelings about politics right now, I ask you to briefly set those feelings aside and take a moment to ask God to help you think carefully about what I say here.
I’m a 9 on the Enneagram, a “Peacemaker.” I don’t like conflict and confrontations. So, I don’t usually write about politics. But I received a mailing last week that upset me so much, it’s taken me several days to regain a sense of equilibrium and identify my “rallying point,” as this translation puts it, in the face of a very real attack on something fundamentally important to me and to us: how our lives represent Jesus.
Oddly enough, it’s the news this morning that the ten-year-old boy of a beloved family has gone to the arms of Jesus that is giving me the courage to write. Why? Because the freedom of the church worldwide to share the Gospel is a matter of life and death, not just on earth but eternally. I can’t compromise that freedom by sacrificing my integrity on the altar of politics.
A friend who is a seeker told me recently she was intrigued with Jesus until she saw the evangelical church align itself politically. I tried to tell her it’s Jesus himself who matters, and that the decisions of some Christians do not represent who Jesus is, one who loves all people. One who loves her. But she’s afraid now of being pulled by the church into a betrayal of her conscience.
The mailing I received helped me understand her fear. Never mind all the capital letters (as a 9, I don’t like being yelled at). Never mind the disrespect of my intellect, as easily researchable claims one after another proved to be false, exaggerated, or misleading (I did the research). Never mind the slander of public servants from the other side of the aisle, calling them “evil” and worse. Never mind the presupposition that I, as a Christian, have a moral obligation to align myself politically in only one way. And if I don’t, my faith is suspect.
What brought me to tears is that this mailing asked me to give absolute loyalty, as a Christian, to our sitting President. Think about that!
I am grieving still. Why? Because I am a Christian. Because I am a Christian, I owe absolute loyalty only to God. Because I am a Christian, I am called to love as Jesus loved, even and especially my “enemies.” Because I am a Christian, I can’t afford to get tangled up in radical alliance with any political figure, ever. But especially not in the polarized climate of the United States today. Because I am a Christian, seeking to live and love as he did, I can’t afford to compromise in that way my ability to reach out to people whom God puts in my path.
The mailing asked me, as a Christian, whether I would be willing to do “whatever it takes” to ensure our President wins the November election. The organization’s goal is to enlist ten million Christians to this end.
“Whatever it takes”? Friends, please hear me. This isn’t “Christian.” It’s idolatry. It’s asking us to sell our souls to a political agenda.
Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21). I happily pay taxes, grateful for road repairs, ambulance and fire services, and so many other things the government does to make our lives livable. But my heart, my love and loyalty, my “whatever it takes” obedience, belong only to God.
We must keep those two things separate. We must not let ourselves be seduced into betraying our first love by pledging “whatever it takes” to keep one man or woman in office. Ever. Whoever that man or woman may be at the moment. And we must not endanger the separation of church and state, an essential pillar of our democracy and of our freedom, as Christians, to share the wonderful news of Jesus’ healing love with our broken world.
I am praying, with tears, for the soul of the church, the Body of our precious Lord Jesus, who would never ask us to give unreserved loyalty to anyone except his Father.
I am praying for those in governmental authority (1 Timothy 2:2).
I am praying for myself first, and for the church, that we will keep coming back to this:
No one can tame the tongue . . . Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! . . .
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:17-18).