Jesus, Politics, and the Pulpit

A friend posted a question on Face Book: “What do you think? Should pastors, out of concern for the poor, preach against the immorality and poverty-creating policy of Obamacare?”

I felt compelled to respond. The question of if and when to preach politics from the pulpit is not new. Preachers of all political stripes have wrestled with this question for centuries, and all of us must eventually come to terms with how the Gospel impacts our politics and vice-versa. To this end, I responded to my friend as follows:

The challenge with preaching politics from the pulpit is that, often times, the left and the right are each driven by Biblical principles weighted differently. For example, the immigration debate cannot escape the tension between the rule of law and the dignity of all people created in the image of God. The welfare (Obama care?) debate exemplifies the tension between Christ-like mercy toward the truly needy and our responsibility to work if we want to eat (and take responsibility for our lives and families).

It is instructive that European Christians often lean to the political left, while American Evangelicals often lean to the political right. This suggests to me that perhaps the latter are more shaped by right-wing political philosophy, while the former are more shaped by left-wing political philosophy, as each emphasizes the commensurate Biblical principles that support their political context. I believe this tension is a good thing, and actually drives us back to Jesus, the Peacemaker, who is telling a story that cannot be fully expressed or contained in left-wing or right-wing political theory or practice. This is why I preach Jesus, embrace the tensions, and let the unified diversity of the Church reveal the glory of God in Christ who is Lord over all.

This is not a cop-out. On the contrary, this approach will keep us from the idolatry of whatever political context we boast in. Moreover, by pressing into the genuine tension between the Biblical principles driving our disparate political views, we are forced to hear one another more clearly, which will compel us to love each other more fully. Through this process, God will reveal our biases, make us aware of ALL that concerns Him, and compel us to find true unity, not only with those who agree with our politics, but with all who share our common life in Jesus Christ, who will one day abolish all political parties to rule as our risen King!

6 Responses to Jesus, Politics, and the Pulpit

  1. Sean says:

    Well stated, John.

    I agree that these tensions (political, theological, etc) are the very things God uses to surface in our hearts those things that hinder His love. In His infinite wisdom, He created the world with these tensions to give us opportunity to love as He loves.

    Sadly, the history of the church has been marred by endless divisions on one side, and abuses of authority on the other. The good news is, there is coming a day when our faith and knowledge will grow to maturity – to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ – as we build one another up in love.

    I often wonder what our life together in Christ will look like when we reach that chapter in His Story.

    Somehow, the following is a part of getting there…

    I just called Pinnacle and they will be bringing in Spaten on draft in a couple weeks. We need to cultivate a tradition of fellowship around this most excellent gift from God!

    Look forward to catching up soon.

    • John Mitchell says:

      So true, Sean. When we choose to see only one side of tensions like these, we end up with polarizing, lopsided rhetoric that leads to arrogance and self-reliance, instead of humility, dependence on Jesus, and a Christ-centered interdependence on one another. Speaking of which, I would love to share a Spaten with you this Oktoberfest. Glad you asked!

  2. John Mitchell says:

    For the record, I deliberately did not respond to the right-wing rhetoric latent within my friends’ question, knowing this would likely frustrate die-hards on both sides of this issue. My goal is to take us to a higher plane of discussion and understanding that begins with recognizing it’s possible for equally devoted, well-informed disciples of Jesus to hold disparate views on Obamacare. That’s the point.

  3. Jay Robertson says:

    John, I love your perspective. For a Christian to be firmly entrenched in any political ideology has always felt, I dont know, somewhat foolish. How can any philosophy political or otherwise created by men capture all the dimensions of the gospel originating from an all-knowing God? There are obviously strengths with the left and right relative to the biblical perspective, but ultimately both will come up short. I think the important thing as you implied is to keep the dialogue open. And of course when are biases are revealed in the dialogue, the question is will we be able to see it, admit it and be open to tweaking our position as necessary? I feel that our political (and theological) position should be a living breathing thing that grows/shrinks as new data/insights are taken in. If we feel like we have the whole truth we will stop looking for truth – so openness is key.

  4. Jay Robertson says:

    But the Oktoberfest question supersedes any political question…:)

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