The church’s battle against political polarization
Regardless if you like it or not, everything is political. Everything. Why? Over the years Americans have looked more and more to the government to fix issues between each other. We support parties, rather than communities. When we keep seeking our party to resolve everything, everything become political. I am convicted that people are now making political and social beliefs, primarily with either the Democratic or Republican party, as their identity. Especially Christians. It’s not what you think anymore, it’s what the party thinks. This creates idols.
What does this mean for the Church in America? Divisions in the Church, hate, gossip, judgment, and contempt amongst believers that are in the family of God. Oh yes, we are not sterilized from the polarization in our nation. Christians can still fall prey to identity politics. This causes tension in the Church. Some churches on Sunday mornings are spending their hour preaching political agendas on how we must take back America. Thus, we get warped into the ideological civil war impacting our country.
Believers, of all denominations, we must be careful not to let polarization or political ideology creep in. We need to be above that. Regardless if you are conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, you are a Christian first. That brother or sister who supports a different party than you, they are your brother and sister in Christ.
Politics should not influence the Church; the Church should influence politics. So, what is our political basis then? It’s simple, God’s word. No matter what you think on politics, social issues, etc., you are to obey God’s Word first and foremost. Ideas, beliefs, and opinions must be shaped by His Word; not shape His Word. You cannot take your political opinion and bring Jesus down to it, shaping who he is. Instead, take your earthly opinions and bring them to God so that he can shape what you believe. We do that by humbly coming before the Lord in His Word.
In Jeremiah 29, God called his people to “‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord.”
Israel was called to be where their feet were in a foreign land. Yes, they were exiles, but they were also called to be a part of the community, love their neighbors, and even own property. At the same time, they were called to put God first and remember His way, not to be influenced by the society. They were to impact the culture. Behind enemy lines, we are called to inspire our enemies and love them.
God calls believers to live in the society that God has placed them in, and while we live here, this country is not our home because it is not the Kingdom of God. Yes, we are Americans, but above that we are Kingdom Citizens. The Church is not America. The Church is a universal body that has broken down walls between differences. It’s one thing to tear down international boundaries, but it is harder to break down ideological boundaries. The believer who votes Democrat is still accepted into God’s kingdom as the Republican. Because God doesn’t necessarily care about who you vote for (maybe a little why you vote for someone). Political parties are not what God counts at the Second Coming of Christ. God cares more about what you say and act towards your enemies.
How we get out of this polarization is humility. It is the humility that we are all sinners in need of grace. Every single one of us. That is the message of Jesus. Not ideological divisions, but that we can rise above the political spectrum and live a life dedicated to God’s way, His teachings, and who he calls us to be. Do we live a life devoted to identity politics? Or is our life characterized by who Christ is and His message. Believers on both sides of the political spectrum and in between, must understand that following Jesus demands that we lay down our ideologies, our opinions, and how we think the world should be. We take up our cross by checking our convictions at the word of God, and the character of Jesus and trust that God’s way is better.
I believe God demands a higher way we view political and social issues, and what we should do to fix them. Today, the world views its issues as political. But the believer must view them as spiritual. Where the world says that we can fix them all immediately everywhere, that simply will never be the case. The sin in the world will always produce suffering until Christ returns. In the meantime, Jesus calls us not to focus on fixing all world issues by voting for a candidate, supporting a group, or endorsing a party, but by looking to the people around us, in our circle of influence, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Engage the Word of the Lord for answers!
Jacob Lehrer is an aspiring freelance journalist with a bachelors degree in legal studies and public policy from Howard Payne University.