It is my privilege to introduce a new guest contributor to Lambchow. Ben Hoerr is lead pastor at Vineyard Church – Peoria. It has been a joy to get to know Ben and his wife Tina along with the rest of the VCP family. I hope that you find Ben’s reminders useful as we walk through the current political process. They may also help you avoid a few headaches along the way. The fuller picture, however, is that these seven reminders are every day, everywhere, truths whether it is an election year or not.
Thanks and blessings, Dale
This past Tuesday, I joined over 3.3 million Illinois voters to cast a ballot in the Super Tuesday primary (stats courtesy of Illinois State Board of Elections). As I stayed up late watching the early results and predictions on TV, I found myself getting a little agitated over a number of things – the candidates, their rhetoric, the parties, our policies, and the media.
Getting worked up is usually an indicator that I need to take a step back, breathe deeply, and remember some things that are true about God, life, and the Bible. Maybe my reminders could be useful to you as well in the next few weeks and months leading up to the election.
1) God has ordained governments for our good
To begin with, Jesus acknowledged that governments have a God-given role and sphere of authority (“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” Matthew 22:21) God has ordained the authority of government in order to make life possible here in a fallen world. Without it, there would be total anarchy and chaos. Later in the New Testament, both the Apostles Paul (in Romans 13) and Peter (in 1 Peter 2) instruct that we should submit to the governmental authorities—whether a monarch, dictatorship, republic, or democracy—because they exist for our good. That is, they maintain law, civility, and they punish evildoers. Government makes life among sinners possible with some degree of sanity. So quit whining and complaining and start praying (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4).
2) God is in charge
In God’s sovereignty, he’s always at work establishing or tearing down governmental structures as they serve his larger purposes in the world. He’s promised he won’t ever abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) and he’s always bringing good out of evil, even when we can’t see it (Romans 8:28). The Bible assures us that the “moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.” The cross and the resurrection are the inauguration of his redemption of the world, the making all things new. In this sense, the Kingdom of God is already here, but it’s not yet fully here as it will be on the day of his return.
3) We are to trust Jesus, not the political process
When we became followers of Christ, we became citizens of the Kingdom of God and pledged allegiance to Jesus alone.This is precisely what the early church confession “Jesus is Lord” means. Specifically, we are to place our trust in him alone, not in the political process: Psalm 146:3 “Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.” Many voices today tell us that the political process is the only game in town. But the Bible teaches that putting our hope and trust in people or the politics is a form of idolatry. While we are called to “seek the shalom of the city” in which we are exiles, we are never to bow down to its idols. So if I’m getting steamed about a kingdom of the world not running the way I think it should, I may be in danger of placing my trust in that kingdom over the Kingdom of God. I must guard my heart against making the politics I like best an idol. This certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have opinions, nor be involved, or vote, or write letters to the editor. But the upcoming election is not the most important thing. Government and politics are not the answer. Jesus and his kingdom are the source of hope for the people of our nation.
4) People are never our enemy
Human beings who bear the image of God and for whom Jesus died are never our enemies. They are people whom God loves, wants to save, and through whom he desires to live and work. Our enemy is the spiritual forces of evil that are hidden behind those with political power (see Ephesians 6:12).
5) We must learn to disagree well
We must also allow our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree the freedom to freely hold their own convictions deeply. In a “big tent” church movement like the Vineyard, we sit beside people every Sunday morning who see things radically differently than we do. Let’s celebrate that diversity and learn to disagree well!
6) We must be civil
Through history, Christians have worked out their theological and practical convictions on the relationship between church and state, falling on a continuum ranging from active engagement to intentional withdrawal. If we do engage the political system, we should do so with great humility, recognizing that we are not always right, and God is not always “on our side.” The general approach of Christians in the political process ought to be one of civility and servant hood. Sadly, we often display too much certainty, self-assuredness, and naiveté in our political engagement.
7) We vote every day
Lastly, remember that we vote every day of our lives with our feet, our hands, our lips, and our wallets, our clocks, our calendars, our leisure time. In this sense, change doesn’t happen just one day every 4 years, but every day as we love God, love others, and seek the Kingdom of God above all else.