President Trump recently announced that He would be working on overturning an IRS ruling that prohibits pastors from making political statements over the pulpit. Although I like the idea of this freedom, because this ruling can be used to make unnecessary restraints on pastors, I believe it would be a dangerous freedom if political groups were to make the pulpit a tool for political purposes. As a pastor, I am very transparent, so my congregation knows my life story. At only 10 years of age, I became interested in politics. Prior to that, I had already begun watching the evening news and reading the paper (just to provide an indicator of the kind of kid I was). I was a conservative Republican in 1960’s Michigan, a longtime blue state as they are called today. The auto industry was very big in Michigan, and so were the unions, who exercised a lot of power in our state. This power was used to help the Democratic Party throughout the years. I still harbor dearly held political views; but as a pastor, I must recognize I also have a higher calling. I believe Christians must recognize that we are ambassadors for Christ. When I think about the Church, the place of God’s holy habitation, I see us as an outpost for the kingdom of God.
As Christians, we must always be cognizant of the fact we are dual citizens. We are citizens of our native country and also citizens of the kingdom of God. I believe that the Bible endorses the idea of patriotism on a natural plane, and encourages our responsibility as citizens of our country. The scripture says that “God set the boundaries” of the nations, and it is appropriate from that perspective to guard and protect your borders. Each country has the right to decide who will be allowed in the country, and what rights to give each resident of the country. On this level, all Christians should feel comfortable and encouraged to be an involved citizen. However, as a citizen and ambassador for the kingdom of God, I have a different and higher call. The kingdom I am part of does not have borders, and is very open to refugees from every nation. This call should not involve ignoring the laws of the civil society, but it should involve an attitude of openness to help find others who are possible new citizens of the kingdom that we represent! This also means that I should be very careful of what identity I am demonstrating to the world.
How Did Jesus Impact His Culture?
The United States has become very polarized on almost every political issue. This polarization has become filled with great animosity towards one another. As a Christian, I want my political views and behavior to be influenced by my Christianity, so I can be salt and light wherever I am—and in whatever I am doing. As a pastor, and leader of a church, I am convinced that I should be careful not to take on a political image that will restrain my efforts for the kingdom of God!
When I was a child, most of my neighbors were transplants from the South. They had come looking for jobs, and in the 50’s & 60’s, a Republican southerner was a rare find. They were Democrats, and mostly church-going people. I remember joking that I was glad when people found out God was a Republican. This change was initiated by a renewed effort by Christians to directly impact the culture. From a political standpoint, I enjoyed the change; however, as a pastor, I also know there are many dangers in political involvement. My intense interest in history confirms the dangers. The truth is, most political stands will always be moderated when you involve the human element. This should be true when you add the Christian element as well. Jesus highlighted this in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, a man was robbed, wounded, and left lying on the side of the road for dead. The religious leaders ignored the problem; then along came a Samaritan. The Jews despised Samaritans. Jesus was addressing a religious and ethnic prejudice when He told this story to those who had gathered to hear Him speak. The Samaritan did not ignore the person, but went out of his way to save and minister life to the man, at a cost to himself. At the end of the story Jesus said, “Who was a neighbor to the victim?” To which the lawyer replied, “He who showed mercy on him,” or the one who laid aside his natural persuasions to follow a biblical one.
The next time you feel the need to make that Facebook post, or be the rally cry for a political persuasion, remember that you are called to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Let’s be mindful of what Jesus said, and strive to be good ambassadors for His kingdom!