WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE MAKE POLITICS OUR PRAISE- PART 2
by Trevor DeVage
Part one painted a pretty bleak picture of division in the church. If it did not describe the church you know, maybe you haven’t been looking. Or maybe the situation isn’t as serious in your world as I’ve seen it in mine.
I’ll agree it’s too soon to give up hope. Certainly many Christians are weary of all the political wrangling. Some have decided to quit watching the news. Others have agreed never to bring up politics or their presidential choice with certain friends or family members. They’re concentrating, instead, on strategies to build and maintain relationships. They’re looking at a world in need and asking how they can make a difference.
We need more of them, because even a vocal minority of Christians with an unbalanced focus on politics can bring dangerous consequences. I listed three of them last week. This week I’ll mention two more.
1. WE BRING JUDGMENT INSTEAD OF JOY.
Open-minded dialogue can produce progress. But today, just the mention of “immigration,” “health care,” “gun control,” “taxes,” or “Supreme Court” too often ignites a firestorm that destroys any possibility of unity. And too often we make an opponent out of anyone with an opposing view. It’s not that we can’t understand why they’ve taken their position. We won’t listen even long enough to try. They’re the enemy, and they deserve to be blasted. We defend our conclusions at all cost, because every debate is war, and we’ve vowed to be the victor.
We jump to judgment, and in the process, we eliminate joy. We ignore or forget or dismiss Paul’s description of a Spirit-controlled life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The apostle’s conclusion is a good reminder: “There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22, 23, NLT). Even in the Roman Empire, a pagan emperor couldn’t eliminate the results of the Spirit’s work in a Christian’s life. Surely that’s true in America too!
But believers, by their own choice of attitude and emphasis, can do what no government can accomplish: quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). And when we make politics our praise, we substitute judgment for joy.
This leads me to think again about another fruit of the Spirit I mentioned last week but must mention again today.
2. WE LOVE THE LAW INSTEAD OF THE LOST.
When we elevate politics over people, we forget to demonstrate love to those who need it most. With all our condemnation of those whose positions are “wrong,” we’re telling the world to go to Hell instead of showing them how to get to Heaven. Even if their beliefs are objectively counter to Scripture—in fact, especially if this is true—we’ve created a grave result.
Mark Driscoll once said, “If you’re a believer, this is as close to Hell as you’ll ever be. If you’re not a believer, this is as close to Heaven as you’ll ever get.” This is the reality that should drive our days, color our decisions, and help us evaluate our priorities. When we enter eternity, it won’t matter who won an election. We need to think more now about issues that have eternal significance.
Carlos Whittaker is a popular Christian Hispanic speaker, author, and creative architect with a wide following on social media. Earlier this year he posted a video explaining how Christians should support the black community in times like these, if you are not black. Immediately he lost 5,000 Instagram followers as a result. This is what happens when politics becomes our praise.
But Whittaker chose a better way. He recorded personal videos to each person that sent him messages of anger and vitriol to apologize for their pain and not wanting to cause them more, but to spark change for others with pain too. Rather than take the position of opponent, he claimed his call to love. People responded in tears, because Whittaker’s comeback is so unlike what we see from most of the world.
We need to see more of Whittaker’s spirit in the church. Simple, unselfish love will show unbelieving observers that Christianity offers a contrast to the world’s self-protective wrangling. And it will elevate praise to the place where it belongs, at the feet of the One who made us, not someone who may govern us for just a few years.