This weekend for our Counterfeit Gods sermon series we’re tackling the idol of politics. Sigh. I can already imagine what my inbox will be like on Monday morning.
As a pastor, I frequently hear from Christians:
‘I think Christianity is private, personal. Politics should be kept out of the Church.’
I certainly get the fatigue behind the question. Fatigue over our hyper partisan culture and how the Church has dirt all over its hands by participating and encouraging that culture.
And yet when someone makes a statement like that I often ask, in love:
‘Just what bible are you reading?
Because you’ve obviously never read the Old Testament prophets.
Or the Exodus story.
Or any of the Gospels.
Or the Book of James.
Like Judaism before it, Christianity has always been a public faith. The first Christians were called an “ekklessia,” meaning they were ‘God’s called-out people.’ Christians, it was believed, lived their faith publicly with very public consequences. Questioners in the gospels asked Jesus about everything from adultery and divorce to poverty, taxes, war and patriotism. St. Paul, on the other hand, wrote most of his letters to churches to help new Christians with the difficulties that came with balancing their faith and their worldly commitments.
Christianity is not, and never has been,
simply an interior faith.
It is not limited to my own inner spirituality or my own personal relationship with God. Nor are the concerns of Christianity limited to the Church sanctuary. Christianity places expectations on its followers that follow them from worship to the church parking lot on Sunday morning and, from there, all through the week.
The way of Jesus offers a particular way for us to be in and view the world, and that the Christian tradition has a needful witness to help us make sense of our lives and the issues that confront us.
Claiming Jesus is Lord meant for the first Christians that Caesar was not. It was a big, bold confession that had implications on every part of their lives.
Even if we don’t like it, confessing the Lordship of Christ should still impact every square inch of our lives too.
But before we can figure out those implications, we need to learn what the first Christians didn’t have to learn; they had the benefit of a unity brought on by mutual suffering under the Empire.
In America, we are, for all intents and purposes, the Empire. In America, Christians first need to learn how to get along.
Episcopal priest and author Barbara Brown Taylor says:
People who are shouting at each other are constitutionally incapable of seeing the image of God in someone else.
Our culture is characterized by much shouting. Given the divisive nature of our contemporary culture, how we talk about politics, as Christians, is nearly as important as the conclusions that we draw.