Sometimes Christians are quick to be vocal and partisan in their politics. At other times, Christians tend to not want to touch politics with a ten-foot-pole because of the potential for misunderstanding and controversy. Where do you stand with politics these days? Whether you have an answer to this question or not, know that this article is not meant to tell you where to stand. Rather, this article seeks to help us to think big-picture and a bit more deeply about how we think about politics as we seek to follow Jesus Christ.
Scott Sauls, a pastor in Nashville, is “tired of taking sides”. From what I can tell, Scott is not tired because it is necessarily too difficult to choose one side or another. Rather, it seems Scott is tired because he finds that too many Christians live in a binary world, a world in which it seems there are only ever two sides to any significant issue. But is it always a “one or the other” world? Scott wrote a book entitled Jesus Outside the Lines in which he seeks to persuade Christians to go a bit deeper in their thinking on much of today’s political and ethical rhetoric. I’ve tried to summarize three ideas from the beginning of Scott’s book for us to chew on:
1. CHRISTIANS SHOULDN'T ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE EASILY PIGEON-HOLED IN A POLITICAL STANCE OR PARTY
Scott was once working in New York City with Dr. Timothy Keller, and he comments that he learned this from Tim about preaching:
“The longer it takes for people to figure out where we stand on politics, in all likelihood the more faithfully we are preaching Jesus.”
Though this thought is in relation to preachers, Scott seems to include it in his book because it has relevance to any Christian. Think about the flip-side of this idea. The easier it might be for a Christian to be pigeon-holed regarding one’s political stance, the more likely that one is minimizing certain characteristics or values of Jesus Christ.
Scott’s idea is pretty controversial or challenging for those Christians that unilaterally and uncritically align themselves with a political party. Why might this be true?
2. JESUS CHRIST FITS NEATLY IN NEITHER THE POLITICAL RIGHT NOR LEFT
“As is the case with every paradox associated with Christianity, there is a both/and and a neither/nor component to Christianity as it relates to political loyalties. Unless a human system is fully centered on God (no human system is), Jesus will have things to affirm and things to critique about it. The political left and the political right are no exception.”
Scott goes on to say:
“When it comes to politics, the Bible gives us no reason to believe that Jesus would side completely with one political viewpoint over another. Rather, when it comes to kings and kingdoms, Jesus sides with himself.”
Scott argues that Jesus may have some things to affirm on both sides of an issue, yet Jesus is also likely to have things to critique about each side. Therefore when a Christian stands on a certain side of the divide without taking into account the weaknesses of their side, nor appreciating the strengths of the other side, then one is holding a position in a way that over-simplifies the issue. When one over-simplifies an issue in the name of Jesus, one is failing to represent Jesus well. Especially when this happens publicly, it is a problem. I think it grieves God when outsiders to the faith reject a Jesus that has been misrepresented to them.
3. OUR PRIMARY ALLEGIANCE AS CHRISTIANS MUST BE TO CHRIST AND HIS FOLLOWERS
“We should feel “at home” with people who share our faith but not our politics even more that we do with people who share our politics but not our faith. If this is not our experience, then we very well may be rendering to Caesar what belongs to God.”
This is worth pondering. Do you feel more “at home” with Christians that differ from you on certain political or ethical issues? Do you feel more at home with those that agree with you on certain political policies but do not follow Jesus Christ? This might be a helpful litmus test for you to discern where your highest allegiances lie.
Scott does not argue that it is wrong to lean politically one way or another. Rather, Scott seems to be asking Christians to take the time to think more deeply about their point of view, especially when it comes to recognizing the weaknesses of their views and the strengths of alternative views. This might lead to a little more humility, and a lot more charity for those we disagree with. The Church could stand to be a bit more humble and charitable in today’s world.
If you were looking for someone to tell you the right candidate to vote for, sorry. It is not that easy. We are called to do the work to think for ourselves a bit more critically as we follow Christ.