The United States is a polarized country. This shouldn’t be news to anyone. Everything is clouded by the win-loss arguments of politics. For instance, yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the Affordable Healthcare Act was seen not as a constitutional exercise of judgement, but a game of politics of who won and who lost.
Politics is everywhere and impacts everyone. The partisan nature of our country has created divisions that will take years to repair. As a result, we live in a nation of distrust.
Sadly, too many Christians are willing participants in this culture. We want to be defined by being a liberal or conservative. So much so that we will only attend a church if it is a “proper” reflection of our political leanings. The moment we believe a church is too liberal or too conservative, especially if it is counter to our personal thoughts, we are out the door.
This isn’t new. A quick look through the church’s history in America will find that Christians have been too willing to align the message of the cross with the message of one’s favorite political view. Pastors during the Revolutionary War period claimed that America was the joyous example of freedom. During the Civil War, pastors from both the North and South used the pulpit to express how God was fighting for their side.
Several things happen when we are more defined by politics than the cross, especially as leaders in the church.
We limit our influence. We may believe people see us as a messenger of the gospel, but we lose that voice when we are too defined by conservative or liberal views. Instead, we become seen as a representative of the political parties wrapped in Christianity. This hinders the message of the gospel and makes us, as Paul says in Philippians 3:18, enemies of the cross.
We end up speaking on things we do not understand. Pastors should speak on social issues, but we must be educated about the issues at play before speaking. If we do not understand an issue our best practice would be to not speak. A pastor would be wise to wait until he or she can speak rationally on a given topic. When we don’t understand an issue, we are more susceptible to being influenced by outside voices who seek to define what we say and how we influence our communities.
We end up making disciples of partisan politics instead of Jesus Christ. When we are too focused on our favorite political party in the church, we fail in our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The disciples we end up making are representatives of whatever party we adhere to. This is dangerous, because the gospel challenges the practices and thoughts of both the left and the right.
As we move further into this election cycle, let us be careful about our witness and ask ourselves these simple questions: Are we witnessing for Christ or are we witnesses for our favorite political party? When someone sees me, do they see a Christian or a representative of a certain political thought? Am I too defined by being a liberal or conservative than I am by being defined by Christ?