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The Church's Identity Crisis: Godliness or Political Victors?

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It is a way of life in America for people to be passionate about their politics. When that passion overflows it can divide families and friends, and has. As we have become all too familiar with it, the Church is not immune to this pernicious passion. This is because the Church is made up people, and we are not exempt from the ethos and mores of the society in which we live and thrive.

We develop a mindset bred from the desire to create a lifestyle that concords with our own set of values. Inevitably, we gravitate to those who are like-minded. Thus we have become so invested in that sub-culture, and have secured our identity and worth so steadfastly to its collective values that we become emotional to the point where we will do almost anything to prevent anyone from changing it. This is where bitterness, rivalry and division spring up within the body of believers. And therein lies the problem that is eroding the moral integrity of the Church. Christians are practicing identity politics.

Identity politics has caused Christians to compromise on fundamental principles that were once sacrosanct. Principles regarding a moral character have been jettisoned for the opportunity "get a victory" on social causes. Principles of truth have been sacrificed at the altar of the "end-justifies-the-means" philosophy. And principles of godliness have been subverted by "the lesser of two evils" theology.

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There are those who say that we can be godly and political at the same time. Granted, if, and only if that fragile balance can be maintained. As is often the case, it is the Christian's integrity that is dragged through the moral morass, because the nature of today's politics demands moral compromises. Sadly, the Christian political practitioner tends to be the one compromising. And what suffers more than anything else is the Gospel witness. That seems to get lost in the passions of political debates, but it is damaging to how we are seen by the world.

How seriously do we take our profession as Christians? Consider the response of a pastor when asked about supporting a brothel owner in Nevada for elected office on June 12. He gave God thanks for the man's victory because he believed he would protect religious freedom. According to a June 22 Reuters article, the pastor concluded, "We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that."

It is striking that this pastor did not consider that Hof's profession has anything to do with evil. Neither was he concerned with the many sexual assault accusations as long as this man was able to deliver on what he wanted. Yet that is the kind of parsing for the sake of political expediency we have become used to. Consequently, the Church is struggling with an identity crisis.

Apologists claim that they do not condone the vices of those who champion their causes, but are motivated by the outcome the champions' actions. They claim to believe in all that is right and good and just and true. That is bewildering because, as a principle, an apple tree brings forth apples. That is its nature. So whatever those champions are identified with casts a shadow over the identity of their supporters. This is not a zero sum game. There are no winners; they share the stain.

To be blunt, that is normalizing ungodliness. It is saying that if an action allowing for the propagation of sin results in any way in some good, then that action is justifiable. That, my fellow believers, is ungodliness in action. Where then is the Grace of God that teaches us to deny all ungodliness? (Titus 2:12). It is not the act of faith that believers are called to live by; it is, simply, sin (Rom. 14:23b).

I understand the fear of "losing" our religious freedom. But did God ever promise that we would have an easy time this side of eternity? Didn't Jesus teach that our very identity as believers guaranteed that we would have trouble in this world? (John 16:33). Didn't he also say that the world would hate us because of him? (Matt 10:22). That is a consequence of being a Christian. Our challenge is to maintain our godly identity in the face of all that, and not give in to the temptation to retaliate in the same manner as the world does (Psalm 37).

Moses was commended in Hebrews 11 for his steadfastness to godliness through his faith, "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (25). When the Church condones and enables sin in any way, it is choosing against godliness. It is choosing to be like the world.

Perhaps that is the problem - we are holding on too tightly to the world. Perhaps the Church is so "earthly-minded" we are repeating the mistake of the ancient Israelis. They expected the Messiah to be a political strong man. They expected him to overthrow the political system of the time and establish an earthly kingdom, and promote their causes. They expected to share his political power.

But Christians have a better identity, one that we seem to have forgotten. We need to change our mindset and embrace our true identity. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:1–4).

This is not a call to stay away from politics or to back away from social issues. This is a call to maintain a godly reputation in all we do. "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15-16).

We are Christians! We do not practice sin. We do not condone sin. We do not enable sin. We demand godliness at every level, and in all we do. Romans 12:2 tells us, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." So, "Keep your conduct among the [people] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12).

The Church, the Body of Christ, is godly. The question is, are we a part of the Church?

Marvin G. Thompson has, over the past 38 years, served as youth leader, church officer, assistant Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, and presently as a deacon and preacher, serve men's and small group ministry leadership and. Started the Berean Fundamentals blog on Christian Post to challenge Christians to live consistently with the teachings of Scripture.

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