This past Sunday morning in our gathering, we had a family meeting about politics. Doug and I, as the pastors of this Jesus community, wanted to spend a few minutes To speak directly to this important issue.
We talk often in our church about being a hope-filled, compassionate community living like Jesus in our context. We wanted to take a few moments to get ahead of the curve and address something that will affect all of us over the next few months: the November presidential election.
Many experts are predicting this to be the most divisive, brutal, attacking presidential campaign in American history. And, already, I can believe it. This is an important time for America – and it is (and will be) an important moment in the life of our church – and every church in the country for that matter. We can stoop down to the levels of the culture and throw vitriolic grenades in the direction of other people – or we can choose another alternative, compassionate way.
In our church we have Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians – even those who identify themselves with a color. It’s one of the things I love about Renew. But it can cause great division with the relationships in our church if our sinful, broken selves have anything to do with it. (One woman who has recently been coming to Renew told us the most painful times for her throughout her years in church have been during election years).
We informed our church that Renew (and your church as well) as a 501(c)3 organization, according to the IRS, cannot endorse a specific candidate for office. Yes, we can vote – and should people ask us who we will vote for, we can share (if we dare) but pastors/leaders cannot tell their congregations who to vote for. If churches were to officially endorse a specific candidate for office, they run the risk of potentially losing their 501(c)3 status.
We reminded our faith family that we are called to embrace and live out Matthew 6:33, where we seek first the kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well. Kingdom is first. We should be thankful for our country and the freedom it gives us, but Jesus makes it very clear that as kingdom agents, politics and natonal pride should never eclipse the kingdom. It is important that we remember that our first allegiance is to God’s kingdom – not to our country.
I shared some of the lyrics of Derek Webb’s song “A King and a Kingdom” from the Mockingbird album:
My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a king & a kingdom
Yes, voting is important – and as citizens it is not only a right, but a privilege. It shouldn’t be taken lightly or done flippantly. But it certainly should not be done in a way that creates an idol – believing that unless the right politician is in office, our country will go down the tubes.
If Jesus were here among us today, how might he vote? To answer that, we have to have the courage, wisdom, patience and humility to ask how he would think about war, education, the economy, immigration, abortion, race, the poor, power, the elderly, health care and the like.
My point is this: politics is complex. To vilify, brutalize, pigeonhole, misrepresent, write people off or strip them of their dignity based on their politics is to misrepresent the heart of God. We’re called into thoughtful, prayerful, humble civic engagement via voting this fall with discernment – but we cannot make it into an idol.
I told our church the blunt truth: Satan would love to do nothing more than to rip our church apart through national politics and the upcoming presidential election. Let us not allow the evil one to do such relational and spiritual damage over something like politics.
Practically, what do we do? This is what we shared with the church:
Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Our modern day chariots and horses, for many, have become government and politicians. As ones who trust in God, we cannot let this happen. Some will do it, but it can’t be us.
We ended our family meeting on politics on Sunday by standing and reciting the Lord’s Prayer together. It’s certainly not easy talking about politics, especially from up front in church, but it is important that we remind ourselves what – and who – our primary seeking should be oriented around.
Pastors: what about you? What are you planning on doing to prepare and equip your congregations for the November elections?