What are we doing?
January 9, 2007 2 Comments
There’s been an awful lot of attention afforded politics lately. What, with the recent congressional campaigns dominating the airwaves, the media falling all over themselves in jubilation at the Democratic victories, and the unofficial launch of the 2008 “presidential campaign season,” politics has been the topic of discussion around America’s water coolers, dining room tables, and — regrettably — churches.
What I am implying — no, no, I’m flat-out saying it — is that American Christians have become so distracted by something so trivial that we’ve completely lost our focus. We don’t know our purpose any more.
I can almost hear the objections now:
• “What about fighting gay marriage?”
• “What about appointing the right kind of Supreme Court justices?”
• “What about welfare reform? Taxation? Minimum wage? The military?”
Trivial. Trivial. Trivial. Trivial.
Are these things meaningless? No. I have firm convictions about all of these issues. But where the Church is concerned, these things are trivial. The purpose of the Church is not social reform. It’s not writing law, building economies, or fighting wars. The purpose of the Church is to glorify God, period.
How do we do that?
According to Scripture we do that by proclaiming the gospel. We do it by contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We do it by making disciples and by living lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we do these things it will impact every aspect of our lives — including our political beliefs — and we should act accordingly. However, when we take our focus off of God and allow these other, lesser, things to dominate our attention we become a caricature of ourselves and completely compromise the message we were intended to carry.
Don’t believe me? Just think back to the 2004 elections. Remember how the Republicans won the presidency and kept control of both houses of congress? Remember how the media complained that it was due, in part, to the “values voters” and the “religious right.”
Now, fast-forward to the 2006 elections. The Democrats won back both houses of congress. It was characterized as a defeat for both Republicans and evangelical Christians — as if Christianity were merely a sub-set of the GOP. This little development was seen as a golden opportunity, wide open for exploitation by Democratic presidential hopefuls. The London Times, in a story entitled “Obama lifted by hand of God,” reported that the “God gap” between Republicans and Democrats is narrowing.
In an article that looked back on how George W. Bush had once been effective in securing the votes of Christians, the American Thinker described how Illinois Senator Barak Obama is “winning the evangelicals.” Apparently his success has been noticeable. One of Obama’s rivals for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton, has hired an “evangelical consultant” to help her woo Christians to support her campaign for president.
Now, I ask you…
Is this how the Church is supposed to be viewed by the world? Are we supposed to be just another political constituency whose loyalties are available to the politician who promises to deliver to us the most goodies? Are we to be open to the manipulation of candidates and their consultants? Are we to be concerned first and foremost with public policy and building a better government?
As always, I want to take my cues from Scripture. When I look at the lives of the apostles and the early Christians I don’t see that they invested a whole lot of time trying to reform the Roman government. I see that they invested their time trying to share the gospel so that God could reform lives. They took seriously their command to “make disciples.”
Of course, distractions have always plagued the Church. Certainly placing our focus on politics is nothing new. The Christian apologist C.S. Lewis recognized this very problem and addressed it in his book, “The Screwtape Letters.” This book is written from the perspective of a senior devil to a junior devil. The senior devil provides all manner of advice for deceiving and distracting Christians so that they are completely ineffective in the purpose for which God saved them. This matter of emphasizing politics is a wonderful tool of the enemy. How, exactly, does the senior devil instruct his subordinate in using politics as a distraction for the Christian? Read on…
“Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”… Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours — and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours.”
So, I leave the question with you: Are we focused on our primary purpose of bringing glory to God and His message to the world, or are we focused on making the world a better place to go to hell from?