Christians in a politically charged climate
Questions to ask as tensions ratchet up
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How are we to respond—in this overly sensitive, divided, and politically charged climate—to a society that needs to know Jesus’ love? I think it starts with us doing some serious self-reflection on where our priorities lie, and even where our heart is. A few overarching questions I would ask:
Are we focused on love? The world will know us by our love for each other (John 13:35), and how we love those who disagree with us—or who even curse us and persecute us (Matthew 5). I’m not seeing this among some prominent Christian leaders. In all manner of social and public discourse right now—on issues ranging from mask-wearing, to equal rights, to respect for due process or respect for authority—there appears to be deep anger, outrage, a “call for blood” even! What about Paul’s admonition to “let your reasonableness be made known to everyone” (Philippians 4:5)? Is our love growing cold (Matthew 24:11-13)? I want to understand my more liberal (or more conservative) neighbors—maybe even learn something new, or change my opinion—as I focus on loving them.
What is our battle? This leads me to my second point: What are we fighting against? Why is there so much resentment and anger? We know that we are not at war with flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers of darkness and evil (Ephesians 6:12). Our behavior (speaking very broadly) would suggest we are at war with anyone who thinks differently about very earthly matters. I’m sensing from many Christians I know a strong undertone of condemnation of anyone who dares question their political beliefs, their political candidate, and anything their candidate says and does. Any information, “facts,” or insightful arguments that do not support what they believe to be true are grounds for mockery and disdain. (This is true on both sides, but shouldn’t believers be different?) Is it realistic to think all truth only comes from one party or one person? Does it stand to reason that anything offered by the “other side” is inherently false? And even if it were that black and white, on what are we focusing our fight? Our battle is against the devil, and for the souls of man. Our focus should be on living out the gospel, loving others because of the eternal glory set before us (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Which kingdom are we pursuing? If we were Christians anywhere else in the world, we would struggle less with the melding of nationalism and faith. As it is, the church in the United States—in my opinion—has a dangerous emotional and spiritual bond with conservative political power. They are not one and the same. Jesus was clear, “My kingdom is not of this world.” If it were, He would have fought more like we’re fighting today—for power and control. Listening to the leaders involved in the Jericho March, you would think that the president is our messiah and we are fighting for his kingdom on earth. Anything that pulls us away from our focus on God’s eternal kingdom, or draws on our passion and energy to preserve worldly possession or influence, plays into the devil’s hands. Let us vote our conscience for the leaders we believe are best able to govern our country. But let our hearts and minds pursue the eternal kingdom, not a kingdom of any kind on earth.
Are we guarding against deception? I do not read the Bible enough, nor am I praying in the Spirit as much as I should be, given these end times. I am increasingly aware of my susceptibility to false teaching and deceptive spirits as I read about how far a Christian leader can stray from his “first love.” We must absolutely test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and submit everything to God’s Word (Colossians 3:16) in order not to be deceived by the lust of the world (1 John 2:16). The idols of my heart are a constant battle. Like all Christians who are also human, I do not always have Christ preeminent in my heart and mind. For some reason—unique to this time in history, and to this political climate, and to this leader—the Church is diverting much of its focus from God’s kingdom to political power. More than any time in my life, many of us threw our commitment and loyalty toward Donald Trump, to the point of even defining what is true by his standard. Some Christians claimed that any authority other than his was from the devil! This, I’m afraid, may be the fulfillment of verses such as 2 Timothy 4:2-4: “For the time will come when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” I fear we may be following in the path of the Corinthian church that struggled with worldliness, heresies, and battled “party spirit,” which Paul decried (1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 21-23).
Waldemar Kohl is a consultant who lives with his wife Ann and their five children in Hampton, N.H.
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