These are strange and disturbing times we’re living in. The tumult of the last few weeks has revealed what a great divide or even chasm exists between the two political parties of this nation. For the Christian, it can be especially strange. There is a great tension in the Christian life. We are first citizens of heaven, but we are also citizens of this one. Our home is with Jesus there and yet we are now living here. We live for eternity and not this world and yet what happens here matters greatly.
Politics matter. We should care deeply about the affairs of this nation. We should fight for truth. We should fight for justice. We should fight for goodness, but we should do so very, very carefully. In all of it, we must never forget who we are and whose we are.
We are sojourners here. We know that empires will rise and empires will fall. Rulers will come and go, but there is a King who is now reigning and will reign for all time. If we are called by His name, we are His ambassadors on this earth. We represent Him and if we forget our allegiance is first to Him and His kingdom, not any political party, we will do a pretty poor job of it.
If we claim to have His Spirit, we must show that we have its fruit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. Navigating the politics of this world is hard. Figuring how to engage and when to engage with people you disagree with is hard, but if we do it without these qualities, we are no different from the world. At best, our voices will do nothing more than drift off into the futile cacophony of discord and at worst, they will misrepresent Jesus and push people farther from Him.
Christians should be marked by these traits, not because we’re better than other people, but because we are different from other people. Different because we have been transformed by grace and as such, we should be people of peace. I don’t mean that we should be doormats. I don’t mean that we should never contradict or argue. I mean we should be calm, unflappable. Our peace should be our strength amidst political upheaval and disagreement because our identity and our hope lie in something, someone beyond this world. Jesus rose. Jesus reigns. Jesus will return. Therein lies our peace. Therein lies our ability to wade into the political fray with wisdom and grace.
It is worth noting that the epistles of the New Testament know almost nothing of politics. This should surprise us more than it does. If we think today’s political climate is rough I’m sure that the early church had it worse. The government was literally killing them because of their faith and yet never once do you hear Paul or Peter telling them to fight for their rights. Never once does he present a political argument or strategy. Rather, they are told, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:5-6). “Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry” (James 1:19). “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:5-6).
The writers of the New Testament were far more concerned with who early church members were becoming than what was being done to them. Its overwhelming narrative is not a political one, but a Gospel one. First, remember who you were: a child of wrath, a citizen of darkness (Ephesians 1:3). Second, remember who you are now: a child of God, a citizen of heaven (Ephesians 2:8). Third, live in this world in such a way that reveals your new identity (Colossians 3:10). I don’t think it would be overstating things to say that all of our affairs here on earth, including political ones, should be governed by these three points.
Since we have been saved by grace, we care about this world, but we live for the next. We may be members of a political party, but we vow allegiance to none but Christ. We are ambassadors of no ideology of this world, but of the Gospel of Jesus. Let us then be careful how we live. Let us be careful how we speak. Let us remember who we are. We are not our own. We are His.