Food can be an idol.
A spouse can be an idol.
Television can be an idol.
Sports can be an idol.
Alcohol can be an idol.
Politics can be an idol.
My purpose in posting yesterday about the way Christians post on Facebook about politics was meant to show how subtly and easily we can look to politics as our Savior (the definition of idolatry), rather than looking to Jesus first and foremost.
Calling people out on idolatry is a tricky thing because we are all guilty of idolatry. I am guilty of idolatry. Sometimes this is premeditated and purposeful on my part, other times it’s subtle and subconscious.
When I look at our Christian culture, and at how non-Christians look at Christian culture, I can’t help but notice politics as a very crafty potential idol. When a non-Christian (the people we are trying to reach with the gospel of Jesus) thinks of a Christian, is Jesus the first thing they think of, or is politics?
The tricky thing about politics is that many moral and biblical issues are entangled with politics. And as Christians, we certainly need to take stands for these issues. Standing up for the things God cares about; the things his Scriptures care about.
But the entanglement part is the hard part.
Politicians’ main job is to get elected. Once elected, their main job is to stay in office and get re-elected. They will do whatever is necessary to get people to like them and get the vote. There are exceptions to this rule, and I’m not saying those who do it are evil for this, it’s simply the nature of our political system.
So how does a politician get Christians to vote for them? They take campaign stances on issues Christians care about. Abortion being the primary topic.
Christians NEED to take a stand against abortion. We need to do so gracefully, non-judgmentally, while proactively offering love and support (something we are typically awful at when it comes to this issue). And politicians know we need to take a stand on this issue, so they latch on to it to get our vote. Then they attach a whole bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with being a Christian (I’m not getting into specifics here, intentionally) that we are forced to vote for if we want to vote for a pro-life candidate.
You see politicians who trumpet the pro-life vote during their campaign even though they previously ran on pro-choice tickets.
You see times in our recent government history when the House, Senate, and Presidential office were all “pro-life” in word, but no significant pro-life legislation got changed.
Why? Because they still need our votes. So they need this to continue to be an issue for us to rally to. If they got rid of the issue, we wouldn’t have a reason to vote for them.
The abortion issue is just an example. You can take your pick of other moral and biblical issues that politicians from both parties use to get votes from Christians.
I’m no political guru, I’m just a pastor who loves Jesus and my heart breaks when I see non-Christians reject Jesus and the Church because of the demeaning and self-righteous way we talk about politics and associate with political groupings, as if they were mandatory add-ons to gospel of Jesus. Last I checked, there are no mandatory add-ons to the gospel of Jesus. And I realize I will get pelted by some Christians who do this exact thing, and I don’t enjoy this pelting, but is a risk I’m willing to take for the sake of building bridges to Jesus for those who have yet to receive him.
My humble advice is to focus our efforts on political causes (like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement — a very political cause, but not about any one political party), rather than political parties or political candidates. Let’s stand up for biblical causes without deifying or vilifying any political figures on our side or on the other. When voting for a political party, let’s be honest about all of their shortcomings and not trumpet them as 100% correct and the other side as 100% stupid. And when it comes to political causes that are moral and/or biblical, to understand that Jesus always has to come first. We cannot expect someone to behave like a Christian if they are not a Christian. And to realize that in our zeal for good behavior, we can push people away from the Source of Goodness altogether.
My point to all this is to say that politics are not the most important thing on earth. And don’t confuse politics, or any one political issue (even if it’s a biblical issue), with the gospel of Jesus.
And while we’re at it, let’s use this as a reminder to not think that sports, money, marriage, sex, television, food, alcohol, achievement, education, a job, popularity, attractiveness, success, church attendance, Bible reading, rule following, or anything other potential idol are the most important thing on earth.
Let’s remember that the most important thing on earth is the empty tomb of Jesus, and his gift of forgiveness and life to all who will receive it from him. This and this alone will save us. And this in its clearest and most brilliant form is what people ought to think of when they think of a Christian.
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- Ep. 24, Interview with Tyler St. Clair on dealing with the grind and insecurity of pastoring + race & the Church - January 17, 2020