[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’?
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.