Why bother with politics and all that other stuff?

wholechicken

[notice]A monthly column that reflects on living in the Kingdom of God.[/notice]

After reading a number of articles on Christians and politics prior to our recent elections, I couldn’t resist the urge to write a response. In one of those articles, we were encouraged as Christians not to spend so much time, money and effort on politics and rather simply to focus on the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and helping the poor. While I agreed (and still agree) with the spirit behind this, I was troubled by a number of questions. (Yes, as Christians and the church we have made numerous mistakes in politics which we will do well to avoid in future. Notably, where the church has taken the authority of state or become the official state religion, it has sadly caused much oppression. Added to this, several individual Christians have become ensnared by the trappings of power or by an agenda contrary to Christ.) 

But back to those questions that troubled me. Here are some that have been circling around my mind:

Doesn’t the Great Commandment include the call to love God with all of your mind, and therefore, isn’t the way we think about political choices (and every other choice) part of our worship unto God?

Doesn’t the Great Commission include the call to disciple nations and not just individuals in everything Jesus commanded, which includes how we relate to ‘Caesar’?

Transforming culture
Haven’t missionaries throughout the ages, including David Livingstone and William Carey, seen the task of missionaries and the church as one that includes the preaching of the gospel and transforming culture, thereby spending great time and effort both preaching the gospel and advocating an end to slavery, widow burning and other social evils of the day?

Are we happy with the state of Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, as it is experiencing massive numerical growth of Christians, while remaining plagued with a crisis in family life, civil wars, political instability, corruption, dictatorship and genocide?

What are we saying about Christians called to areas like politics regarding the significance (or insignificance?) of their role -–Christians who have undeniably made Kingdom advancing impact, like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King?

Isn’t work, not just in politics but in every other area besides so-called “ministry,” of central importance to the Kingdom of God?

 Here’s why I have these questions. Many of the people I am trying to reach and am walking with are struggling with them, being on a university campus in a university town. I came to a crossroads twice over the last twelve years of trying to reach students. Here was my struggle: I thought: “It’s hard enough to reach students as it is. Why don’t I just focus on salvation and Christ-like character and forget all this other stuff about bringing God’s Kingdom into all areas of life.” But two things happened. First, several alumni shared with me how our engaging with ‘all this other stuff’ was the single most important thing in keeping their faith at varsity and beyond. Secondly, I found (and still find) that students keep coming to me with these questions, for the sake of their faith and the friends they are trying to reach for Christ. 

A big enough God
To me it seems that the legitimate concern being raised is this: “I need to know that I follow a God who is big enough not only for my personal salvation, but also to give us wisdom for the burning issues in society, and if my God is not big enough for all these, then how can He truly be God over all?” My observation is that seeing God in ‘all this other stuff’ can actually support the gospel taking root in believers’ lives, and can point unbelievers to a God who could be not only their personal Saviour, but also the transformation of every area of life. J Gresham Machen wrote: “…the field of Christianity is the world. The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection with Christianity…The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor. It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God. This is why ‘this other stuff’ matters, and why everything matters. 

Finally, why ‘the whole chicken’? My inspiration comes from a Nando’s ad from a previous election. I believe the poster said the following: “It’s not about the left-wing or the right-wing, it’s about the whole chicken.” Similarly, our interests are not to focus solely on what society considers left or right wing, but on the whole Kingdom of God. I hope you enjoyed the first course.

3 Comments

  1. This is a great article Tendai, and for the record, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve written. I especially enjoyed your take on the Nando’s ad logo, “It’s not about the left-wing or the right-wing, it’s about the whole chicken.” We conservative Christians sometimes conveniently forget that it was the liberal (left-wing) part of the Body of Christ that actively engaged against racism in the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, and against apartheid in SA, and were key in bringing about the righteous changes that happened. It’s all history now, but let’s never forget that it was the so-called ‘Bible-believing’ conservatives that either fought against those changes, or just as sadly, did and said nothing at all. It’s history, but we are doomed to repeat history when we forget that the Bible in the mouth and hands of the devil (or in the mouth and hands of the arrogant and proud) brings death, and that only in the mouth and hands of Holy Spirit and through the humility of Jesus does the Bible bring life.
    With that said, are we Christians mature enough and ready to enter the world of politics right now ? Do we have the measure of the fruit of the Spirit that is required so that we approach politics in the opposite spirit (the Spirit of Christ) to what is present in politics and parliament today ? Quite frankly, from what I read and heard leading up to the last elections, I don’t think so, and if God’s will was done in the results of the elections (as we all prayed would happen), I don’t think God believes we are ready either. As much as the Word of God is needed in government, and Christians are needed in politics, I believe that right now in our present immaturity, we will just become part of the current political atmosphere and status quo. What I mean is, the political spirit (schisms, dissensions, jealousies, selfish ambitions, contentions, outbursts of wrath etc. etc.) is so rife in the Body of Christ already, that parliament should feel like home to us.
    I believe that Christianity and the Word of God in its most practical non-religious form, has all the answers and solutions to our country’s problems in a way that will be embraced by the majority of people. But unless we are able to be atmosphere changers, and not get sucked into the current carnal political atmosphere, what we have to say and bring will just become another part of the political circus that already exists. And when that happens, as it has happened for hundreds of years before us, we tragically forget that our battle is not against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Tragically, ecclesiastical history reveals the deaths of many people (including believers) who were murdered by Christians mixed up in politics. We’ve learnt a lot in the last hundred years or so.
    We are privileged to be alive in a time where God is revealing to us more and more about His Kingdom. Up until a few decades ago, the only understanding most Christians had of the Kingdom of God was the Beatitudes – Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted. We’ve come a long way since then, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because there is still so much we don’t know as yet. Like the disciples who were on their way to witness Jesus’ resurrection, we are often asking the wrong questions, and are focused on the wrong things in God’s sovereign timetable, and so Ishmaels are conceived through our impatience. One has only to look at USA politics to see the chaos well-meaning Christians can become a part of when they are not being led by Holy Spirit and are lacking in His fruit.
    In recent decades we have learnt that for heaven to come to earth (as we pray in the Lord’s prayer) we have to become like ‘warriors’ as we wrestle and fight (not carnally against flesh and blood) for some of our promises, and yet for other promises of God, we need to rest in the knowledge that we are God’s sons and daughters before we can inherit them. I’m not sure that we fully understand which is which right now, and many times we wrestle when we should be resting and vice versa. But Psalms 2 calls us to be wise, and to be instructed, and to “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance”. Tendai, I totally agree with you about the Great Commission which includes the call to disciple the nations and not just individuals, but let’s be wise and be instructed before we rush in and try to do politics the worldly way.

  2. Tendai, I totally agree with you ! Faith without works is dead. Preach it Brother and God bless you !
    P.S. I love the first course ! :-)

  3. Good thinking and great article, Tendai! Barry’s observations are really sensible, and could be found quite agreeable… IF we ignore about two-thirds of the Old Testament and the whole of the New! I completely understand his sentiments, but it unfortunately flies in the face of e.g. the Gideon Story, where circumstances, education, background, level of maturity and measure of self-belief all pronounced strongly on his UNreadiness for such a great task. Yet God…! Also, biographies from the likes of Moses and Samson and David all testify to God’s PRE-paration for His people’s predicaments by preparing His deliverers… from their mothers’ wombs! Suffice it to say, I have learnt NEVER to underestimate God, and looking at the present political chaos in South Africa, I have EVERY confidence that God is already at work, working out His plan for our “Salvation”! So, in the midst of apparently overwhelming odds and insurmountable obstacles, I happily support those who’ve proven to be wise, fully instructed and busy doing politics Gods way!