In highly politically-polarized times, church leaders walk a tricky tightrope.
Even the most self-aware leaders who don’t want to promote a politician but feel compelled to call out crucial values have to be careful of hard-edged binary choices devoid of nuance. And no church leader wants to be on the wrong side of history on moral and justice-oriented issues.
Imagine the disappointment you would feel if you discovered your great-great-grandfather was a preacher who vociferously defended slavery in his church in the 1850’s. None of us would want our Christian legacy to be tainted with an obvious immoral or unjust stance. But be careful of the potentially toxic alignment of politics and preachers. The White House tapes of private conversations between Richard Nixon and Billy Graham exposed anti-Semitic comments that were an embarrassment and eventual regret of Graham who apologized thirty years later.
During the years I pastored, I wouldn’t allow “Christian voting guides” in our church. They often were slanted toward a party because of the dualistic choices they presented and the narrow scope of what was listed, not to mention the dismissal of nuance. The story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 was an obvious breaking of Levitical law—it was a cut-and-dry case. But the shading Jesus brought to an overheated crowd dropped the temperature significantly. In the first century, if a so-called “voter guide” in the local synagogue stated: “Adultery is wrong and should be dealt with as the law provides,” a smart politician's p.r. team would check the “Support” box rather than “Opposed.” Of course. So why wouldn’t any good Jew vote for that candidate?
But it’s obviously not as simple as that…and this not an argument for moral relativism.
Ultimately, we have to keep in mind the driving factors of the Kingdom of God and the over-arching command we have from Jesus: “Make disciples of all the nations . . . teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” Our King is our definitive Leader and that must be the lens through which we look. And remember?—He invited a political revolutionary against an oppressive government and a tax-collector for that same regime into his personal discipleship group.
When speaking to your church, I would suggest 6 questions you might ask before embarking on a political crusade (and you get the irony of that term, right?):
Does my personal stance reflect and advance the heart of Christ?
Can I preach this message in perfect love?
If I’m called to reach all people with the reconciliatory message of Jesus, how would those of an opposite stance—or an outsider—hear this?
Am I taking a “nationalistic” or a “Kingdom” approach? (They’re not synonymous, you know.)
Am I only preaching to the choir?
Do I need to run this message past a trusted mentor first?
Don’t avoid hard topics. But you might save yourself some regret if you consider these questions first.
Dave Workman | Elemental Churches