One area I have consciously worked to avoid is politics. It’s not that I don’t have political opinions; I do. And sometimes I can get passionate about an issue. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out when I don’t agree with local or national politics in our country.
But politics can deeply divide people into pro vs. con, us vs. them, progressive vs. conservative, or—in Christian-speak—God’s prophet vs. Satan incarnate. I’m sad to think public discourse can be so polarizing, but unfortunately, divisiveness is a part of our fallen nature.
There was a time when I truly believed that the implementation of God’s kingdom on earth depended upon the victory of a particular party. Honest. If “my” candidate won, all was well in the world. If he or she lost…well, pass the Prozac. So, as a follower of Christ who sincerely desired God’s will for my nation, state, and town, my “kingdom work” revolved around leaving literature in screen doors and encouraging people to vote – which, especially if I believed in a particular cause or candidate, I did with conviction. (And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.)
But it never happened – the implementation of God’s will through political means, that is. Politics is too wobbly. Whenever a particular party actually got in and held the majority in government, it seemed to result in either a scandal or the collective governmental IQ falling to the level of bean dip – mainly because whenever one party has a strong majority, especially for a long time, the opposition becomes too weak to check them, challenge them, or counterbalance them.
My kingdom view began to change as well. As I sought Jesus’ direct support for my cause, I quickly realized the difficulty of that task. I found that Jesus was apolitical, and no political philosophy can lay sole claim to his teachings. Despite popular implications that he was liberal, conservative, or anything else, he refused to be categorized as anything other than God. His enemies constantly set him up and baited him, but each time they thought they had him pegged, he skillfully twisted out of their grasp. And despite being wrongly accused and executed as a revolutionary king (so in a way, you could say politics killed him), he steadfastly resisted citizenship in any earthly political system, demonstrating again and again that his citizenship was in the kingdom of God.
And so is ours. I wonder how the world might change if we, as Christians, focused our time, money, and energy less on politics, and more on prayerfully living out the kingdom of God on earth. While I do recognize that some Christians are called to serve as elected officials, committee members, lobbyists, or other participants in the political process, I don’t believe our primary allegiance should ever be to any earthly political party. Instead, it should be to the Lord.
The idea of being apolitical is somewhat new to me. I graduated from a conservative Christian college in the 1980s. At that time, Christian conservatives were a powerful and sought-after voting bloc. They identified Christianity with conservative party politics and believed Jesus would have agreed. They pursued family values as their primary cause and worked to get conservative politicians appointed or elected to office, including Ronald Reagan twice, in order to pass and enforce laws supporting this vision. They believed God’s will could be actualized through political avenues. So they sought to gain political influence. And they got it. Conservatives came into power, and conservative Christians were appointed to presidential commissions, invited to serve as spiritual advisors to those in power, and consulted on national policies. If a scandal involving conservatives broke out, the conservative Christian voting bloc tended to overlook such indiscretions in order to keep its people in power.
Fast-forward thirty years, and Christian progressives began making the same mistakes as Christian conservatives did in the 1980s. Christian progressives became a powerful and sought-after voting bloc. They identified Christianity with progressive party politics and believed Jesus would have agreed. They pursued social justice as their primary cause and worked to get progressive politicians appointed or elected to office, including Barak Obama twice, in order to pass and enforce laws supporting this vision. They believed God’s will can be actualized through political avenues. So they sought to gain political influence. And like the conservatives before them, they got it. Progressives came into power, and progressive Christians have been appointed to presidential commissions, invited to serve as spiritual advisors to those in power, and consulted on national policies. If a scandal involving progressives breaks out, the progressive Christian voting bloc has tended to overlook such indiscretions in order to keep its people in power.
Each side can make a case for a biblical basis.
But neither side is completely correct. Neither side fully represents God’s perspective. And even in their political successes, neither side is capable of accomplishing God’s will on earth. Only God can do that.
The church is called to a higher vision than current political systems. We are called to be a countercultural example of the kingdom of God (not preach it, but be it). We are called to oppose sin as conservatives remind us, and work for peace and justice as progressives remind us. Note that I said the church should do these things, not elect politicians and pass laws to do them for us. The money we invest in political causes would be better invested in kingdom work. Instead of working through political systems on the left or right, what if we reached out to people directly with the power of the gospel? Some Christians have already caught this vision and are doing great work, not for any earthly political party or kingdom but for the kingdom of God.
In seeking to become apolitical (that is, less political and more kingdom-minded), I have found a greater sense of freedom – and relief. According to Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases” (NLT). So, no matter who gets elected or which laws get passed, God is always in charge, always working to accomplish his good purposes. Our primary job is to follow and obey him, and to work and pray for HIS kingdom to come to earth.