Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Christians - Engage Politics and the Public Square

I love playing board games, leading devotions, and eating meals with my family. However, if the house is on fire, I'm not gonna keep playing a game and later email my insurance adjuster. I'm gonna shout and get help. I'll do what is necessary to protect the house. No, the house is not the most important thing. The house holds that which is important - my family and friends. But it is important.

In America, the house is on fire. The political-social structure of our nation has burned for years, while the church often stayed silent.

In recent years, the Rev. Franklin Graham serves as a great model. He throws himself into evangelistic and humanitarian causes through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. Yet he also regularly speaks boldly into the nation's social-political atmosphere. His Decision American Tour seeks to get Bible-believing Christians engaged once again in politics and the public square.

The great preacher Adrian Rogers said, “It’s better to speak truth that hurts and then helps than falsehood that comforts and then kills.”

A misconception persists among Christians that we are ever to be the “nice guy” in the room.  The Mr. Rogers of the group.  The super-positive person who wants everyone to hold hands like Barnie the purple dinosaur and sing “I Love You.”

Or, some Christians warn we should not speak about politics because it will bring division and somehow hurt our gospel witness. Had such advice been followed in the past, the world may have missed the American Revolution and the end of slavery.

No doubt, the Lord calls His children to exemplify godly behavior, most often characterized by traits such as gentleness, kindness, joy, and patience.  However, it is also true that at times believers are to confront, challenge, and rebuke wrong patterns of thinking and behaving.

Politics and the Public Square

David Lane of the American Renewal Project aptly writes, "Prophetic leaders who display “a close relationship with God and a thorough knowledge of His word” (Cole, Numbers Commentary) and show equal skill in the business of politics in the public square are quite rare. Modern leadership appears to be more obscure and bookish. 

Over the last 50 years Christians have adopted, to all appearances, a different mode of engagement in the culture than the American Founders, which calls for remaining quietly behind the four walls of the church building. 

Having run roughshod over the once Biblically-based culture, secularism and secularists should be challenged where competition is fiercest: in the public square. It is painful and agonizing to realize WHO has been so fully and plainly rejected over the last two or three generations.

Fear of the ‘world’ and its seemingly insurmountable power has no real influence on those with vision and discernment regarding God’s promises and workings. Real power does not lie in military might or in Gross Domestic Product; ultimate power and authority belong to God.

The Church’s passive response to Secularism over the last century has given rise to a Christian subculture whose sole function has become the mitigation of obscenity, sexual perversity, video game violence, broadcasted pornography, and every other imaginable anomaly advanced and lionized by secularists."

Priest vs. Prophet

Pastor Charles Swindoll discusses the tension of God's people, explaining the difference between the Old Testament functions of priest vs.prophet.  The priest was the nice guy, the peacemaker, the routine person.  The prophet, however, shook things up.  

“He was not wanted.  He was seldom respected by the sinful people and often hated, resented, and martyred.”

Warren Wiersbe explains, “Most people don’t want a prophet around, because he makes them uncomfortable. While the popular leaders bend with the wind, the prophet stands firm as a wall, so he can lead the nation forward.  He is a physician who exposes the ugly sores before he applies the medicine.  He is in short a person who creates problems by revealing problems so he can solve problems.”

Today our nation wants the church to be priests but not prophets.  And, many times, Christians want Christians to assume the role of priests but not that of prophets.  

And many Christians want to embrace the priestly side without the prophetic edge. We want to narrow the focus to only embracing the salvation side of the gospel. But the gospel speaks to the totality of life. The apostle Paul declared, "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) - not just the part about salvation.

The church has even sometimes wrongly thought it was not their place to speak into the political arena.   Such an attitude weakened Christianity's engagement and influence with our culture.

We don’t want to rock the boat.  We don’t want to offend.  We don’t want to sound rude, arrogant, or “not nice.”

Interestingly, the actions of many of God’s servants through the pages of the Bible would not get them inducted into the “nice guy” hall of fame.  They might, instead, be called trouble-makers or rabble-rousers.

Biblical Examples

Consider just a few examples.

Noah preaches to his generation for more than a century, calling them to repent of their wickedness.

Elijah directly confronts the king and queen, calling out their poor character, deception, manipulation, and self-absorbed natures.
Nathan confronts the king, rebuking him for his adultery, murder, and deceit.  

Jehu is appointed to round up and destroy the remaining house of Ahab for their wickedness.

John the Baptizer appears on the scene with scathing rebukes for the pompous religious leaders as well as the king.

Jesus Christ preaches, often giving the unjust religious leaders scourging and scorching tongue-lashings. On two different occasions, offended by their unrighteousness, Jesus displays physical violence in turning over tables in the Temple courts.  He even used whips.

When sin is confronted, and challenged directly, it often comes as bolts of lightning. We never saw that on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Through the Bible, God called his servants to speak directly to the culture, the national and political leaders, and the religious groups of the day.  Much of the message of the major and minor prophets as well as the New Testament messengers contain biting indictments.  I will only list a few:

Elijah: Elijah tells Ahab that he is a troubler of Israel because of his family’s many sins (1 Kings 18:18).  

Isaiah: “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption.  Your hands are full of blood.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight!  Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!  See how the faithful city has become a harlot!  She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her – but now murderers! . . .  Your ruler are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes.  They do not defend the cause of the fatherless.”  (parts of Isaiah chapter one)

Jeremiah: Jeremiah rebukes the people: “My people are fools . . . senseless children; they have no understanding.  They are skilled in doing evil; they do not know how to do good.” (4:22)  He chastises them for their dishonesty, refusal to believe God’s Word, and their listening to wind-bags who claim to be prophets.

Amos: Amos prophecies against the people, who have rejected God’s law, turned aside to false gods, took bribes, and neglected the poor.  They turn justice into bitterness, cast righteousness on the ground, hate the one who reproves in court, and despises him who tells the truth (5:7-10).   The prophet laments, “I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins” (5:12).

Micah: Micah rebukes Israel and Judah.  The leaders stole from others, took advantage of women, and lived in their own luxury: “Hear this . . . you leaders . . . who despise justice and distort all that is right . . . .  Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money (3:10-11).

John the Baptizer: But when he [John the Baptizer] saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath?  Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.  (Matt. 3:7-8)

Summarizing the ministry of John the Baptizer, Christ said that “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matt. 11:12).  God’s kingdom moves forward in part through the lips of servants willing to speak truth even when it costs them.  John confronted the king with his personal sin, and they cut off his head.

Jesus Christ: In the entire twenty-third chapter of Matthew, Jesus gives scathing, blistering rebukes of the Pharisees.  He points out their lack of integrity, selfishness, and hypocrisy.  Such a sermon today would certainly not meet the “nice guy” criteria!

Sin Abounds

Our national news today continues to abound with sin and wickedness.  

Our generation has witnessed a model of corruption in the lives of Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Newt Gingrich says, "Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person to ever run for the Presidency."  

Evidence continues to surface of the deep state corruption that marked the Obama Presidency - noted by many people as the most corrupt Presidential Administration in American history. 

Respect for law and order, for policemen, for the Constitution, for God, for the Bible, for people of different races, for the sanctity of human life, and for the people of America is constantly challenged.

This country became great because of its Judeo-Christian values, and it will become great again as we protect the freedom to nurture those values. The progressive Left showed the country in the Kavanaugh hearings what to expect if they rule - mob law, gross deception, massive character assassination, no regard for the rule of law, and as Hillary authenticated - no civility. My mother said the way the Left acted during those weeks was the most disgusting thing she has ever seen in American politics. 

We live in a day where the church must speak truth into the culture.  Christians must communicate into the national and political processes.  Believers must not be silent.  We must speak.

Where are the prophets today speaking into our current political structure?

The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.  The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice."   (Isaiah 59:14-15   New Living)

In every day, including our day, the church must be concerned about truth and justice. 

Christ-followers certainly must balance truth with love.  Albert Mohler says that the challenge of the church in our day is to learn to speak the truth with love and to love the world with truth.  There can be no love without truth, and there should be no truth without love.

That truth, however, will sometimes sting.

Adrian Rogers had another good saying about truth: “It’s better to be hated for telling the truth than loved for telling a lie.”

God may require the church in our day to be hated for telling the truth.  Let’s choose truth, even if it costs us.  

Rafael Cruz rightly tells pastors, "If preaching the gospel is the most important thing, then protecting the right to preach the gospel is the second most important thing."

As the prophets remind us, biblical Christianity is not mainly about our comforts but our cause.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

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