The Red & The Blue | Christians & Politics
It would be a gross understatement to say that our church has been through a lot in 2020. Like thousands of other churches across the country, we haven’t been able to meet in-person since March. In September, we finalized the sale of the building that our church had called home for more than sixty years. And, then, we had to pack everything up and move our offices to a brand new location. And, now, here we are on October 25th. Christmas is less than two months away...so the mad rush of the holiday season is just about upon us.
So with everything that we’ve been through so far this year, and with everything that’s to come as we countdown to Thanksgiving and Christmas, I thought I’d take it easy for this sermon series. I thought we’d spend a few weeks talking about something that isn’t at all controversial, something that we can all agree on, and something that wouldn’t make anyone want to send me an angry email, voicemail, or text message.
So what are we going to talk about in this sermon series? Well, we’re going to talk about the least controversial issue I could think of...we’re going to talk about politics. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing controversial about politics, right? It’s not like Election Day is just over a week away and our nation is about to decide who will be our President for the next four years or anything.
Oh wait, that’s right, Election Day is November 3rd which is just over a week away. And our nation will be casting our ballots to decide who will be our President for the next four years. But still, that doesn’t mean that politics is controversial.
I mean, it’s not like 55% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats believe that members of the other party are more immoral than other Americans. And it’s not like 75% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans believe that members of the other party are more closed-minded than other Americans. And it’s not like 63% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats believe that members of the other party are unpatriotic. And it’s not like 85% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats say that divisions between the two parties in our political system are only getting worse.
Oh wait, that’s right, that’s exactly what a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found in October of 2019. And that poll was conducted before the impeachment, the outbreak of the coronavirus, and a vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court. And each of those events have been as politically divisive as anything I’ve seen in my lifetime...so it’s safe to say that politics haven’t gotten any less controversial this year.
But here’s the deal, even though politics is probably the most difficult topic that I could choose to preach on when the election is just a few days away we still need to talk about it. Even though politics is probably the most controversial topic that I could possibly preach on when the election is just a few days away we still need to talk about it. Even though talking about politics when the election is just a few days away might ruffle your feathers and mean that I get an angry message or two we still need to talk about it.
And here’s why: following Jesus isn’t just something that we do on Sundays, following Jesus is something we do every day.
Following Jesus isn’t just something that we do on Sundays, following Jesus is something we do every day.
So our faith in Jesus doesn’t mean anything if we leave it behind on the doorsteps of the church on Sunday morning. Our faith in Jesus doesn’t mean anything if we leave it behind when we close down our web browsers on Sunday morning. Our faith in Jesus doesn’t mean anything if it’s limited to singing a few songs or listening to a sermon on Sunday mornings. Our faith in Jesus doesn’t mean anything unless we live it out every single day.
Our faith in Jesus doesn’t mean anything unless we live it out every single day...and that includes Election Day.
So we need to talk about how we can live out our faith in Jesus every single day. We need to talk about how we can live out our faith in Jesus in any situation or circumstance. And that means that we need to talk about how we can live out our faith in Jesus when it comes to politics.
But, before we go any further, I want to take a minute to tell you what I won’t be talking about during this sermon series. First, I’m not going to tell you who you should vote for or who you should vote against on November 3rd. I’m not. And I’m not going to tell you that one political party is right and the other party is wrong. I won’t do it. And I’m definitely not going to tell you that Jesus would support one party or candidate over the other. It’s not going to happen.
So if that’s what you’re looking for in this sermon series, you might as well tune out right now. Because here is the only thing that I’m going to say specifically about who you should vote for in this year’s election. And it’s a piece of advice shared by the writer Debbie Moon. She says, “Voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transport. You’re not waiting for “the one” who’s absolutely perfect: you’re getting the bus, and if there isn’t one to your destination, you don’t not travel--you take the one going closest.”
So when you cast your ballot, vote for the candidate who will move our country in the direction you think we should be going in. And that’s all I’m going to say about who you should vote for.
Okay, so now that I’ve told you what I won’t be talking about over the next three weeks, let me tell you what I will be talking about in this sermon series. This week, I’m going to talk about how we can live out our faith in the face of the partisan political divide in our country. Next week, we’re going to talk about the kingdom that we are really a part of and the king that we serve...and I’ll go ahead and tell you that his name won’t be on the ballot come November. And in the last week of this series, after our ballots have been cast in this year’s election, we’ll talk about the work that we, as followers of Jesus and as Americans, need to do to make our nation the more perfect union that our founders envisioned.
So that’s where we’re headed. Now let’s dive into what we’re talking about this week. So how can we, as followers of Jesus, live out our faith in the face of the partisan political divide in our country?
How can we live out our faith in the face of the partisan political divide in our country?
How can we do that? Well, let’s talk about the way that Christians have been trying to do this.
And we’ll start by talking about a guy that I’m going to call Fred. Now Fred is a devout follower of Jesus. He’s been going to church every Sunday since the Sunday after he was born. He has served as a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, and even sung in the choir. He spends time reading his Bible every day and he’s always sharing some inspiring Bible verse on his Facebook page. But that isn’t all that Fred shares on his Facebook page.
You see, Fred isn’t just a devout follower of Jesus...he’s also a devoted member of one of our political parties. And if you were to scroll through his Facebook feed over the last couple of months, you would see plenty of posts that leave you no doubt about where Fred stands. Fred shares every positive post that he runs across about his preferred candidate...and he also shares every nasty and hate-filled post he can find about the other candidate. So when you scroll through Fred’s feed, you might run across a post of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:39, where Jesus tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And then three minutes later, Fred will share a post calling the opposing parties leaders every four-letter word you shouldn’t utter in church.
We all know some Fred’s. We all have some Fred’s as friends on Facebook. Some of us are even Fred’s. But Fred isn’t doing a good job of living out his faith in the face of partisan politics. When Fred posts nasty things about one political party in one post only to post something about his faith in the next, he’s compromising the good news of Jesus. He’s telling his political opponents that Jesus couldn’t love them because of the candidates that they support. So don’t be like Fred.
But, of course, not all Christians act like Fred when it comes to politics. You have other Christians that act like someone we’ll call Wilma--and yes, that is a Flintstones reference if you’re keeping track. But Wilma is every bit as devout in her faith as Fred. She’s been involved in church since she was a baby. She’s been a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, a choir member, and more. So when you visit Wilma’s Facebook page you’ll see that she shares all kinds of uplifting Bible verses and things like that.
But unlike with Fred, Wilma never has anything to say or share about politics. The last few presidential election cycles have worn Wilma down. She cannot stand the way that the men and women who have been running for the highest office in our land have talked to and about each other.
She has been like the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand throughout this entire election cycle. She hasn’t wanted to turn on her TV and risk seeing one of the thousands of attack ads that play non-stop this time of year. She hasn’t wanted to log on to Facebook and see the kind of posts that people like Fred are constantly sharing. And she doesn’t really care what either candidate pledges or promises to do once they're in office...because she knows it’s never going to happen. So Wilma has given up on politics.
And we all know some Wilma’s too, even if we don’t realize it. There are Wilma’s in your family. There are Wilma’s in our church. And there’s a good chance that you’re a Wilma too. Because Wilma’s have been so turned off by the way that our politicians act and behave that they don’t believe that politics should have any role in their life or in their faith.
And that means that Wilma’s no longer engage in politics at all. So they don’t cast votes to help the candidates that share their beliefs or values get elected. They don’t speak out when policies or practices are hurting their fellow Americans. And they stop trying to find ways--even small ways--to make our nation and our world a better place for us all.
And that means that the Wilma’s in our world aren’t doing a great job of living out their faith in the face of partisan politics either. Because Jesus doesn’t call us to wash our hands of the world. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, and we can’t do that without being at least a little political.
And here’s why, at its core, politics isn’t about presidential candidates or political parties. At its core, politics is about the way that people relate to and take care of each other in a society.
At its core, politics is about the way that people relate to and take care of each other in a society.
I mean, that’s really what the word politics means. Politics means the way that we relate to and care for each other in a society. So if we want to have relationships with our fellow Americans--whether they’re a part of our family or our church, whether they live down the street or across the country--and if we want to help take care of each other, we have to be involved in politics.
So I’ll ask the question again: How do we do that? How do we, as followers of Jesus, live out our faith in the face of the partisan political divide in our country?
Well, believe it or not, the Apostle Paul--who was the foremost missionary and theologian of the first century--wrote a letter to a group of Christians who were facing a similar situation. These Christians lived on a large island off the coast of Greece called Crete. And the people of Crete were pretty notorious in the ancient world. They were so bad that the Greek word for liar--which was kretizo--literally meant to be a Cretan. There was even a poet in the ancient world, named Epimenides, who was from Crete who said, “Cretans are always liars, vicious beasts and lazy gluttons!” And if someone from Crete would say those kinds of things about the people there, you can just imagine what everyone else thought of the Cretans.
And I would imagine that it’s the same kinds of things that a lot of us think of when we think of the partisan politics and politicians in our country today. I mean, it’s not hard to imagine a Republican saying that Democrats are always liars. And it’s not hard to imagine a Democrat saying that Republicans are vicious beasts and vice versa.
So Paul wanted to help Christians in Crete live out their faith in the face of the nasty and hate-filled behavior around them. So Paul sends one of his most trusted co-workers and companions, a man named Titus, to the Christians in Crete. And Paul writes a letter that he sends with Titus to help teach the people of Crete the right way to follow Jesus. And I think what Paul wrote to those Christians will help us as we live out our faith in the face of the nasty and hate-filled behavior that is all-too-common in our politics today.
So let’s take a look at part of what Paul wrote in what we call the book of Titus. We’ll start reading in chapter 3 verse 1. Here’s what Paul writes:
3:1 Remind them [the Cretans] to submit to rulers and authorities. They should be obedient and ready to do every good thing.
So, if you’re anything like me, when you read this passage your attention immediately goes to that first sentence--the one about submitting to rulers and authorities. And there’s a reason for that. Over the last hundred years alone we’ve seen just how dangerous it can be to submit to some rulers and authorities--like in Nazi Germany or the former Soviet Union. So that sentence sounds pretty crazy.
But when Paul tells us to submit to rulers and authorities he isn’t telling us that we should blindly follow whatever our leaders may say. Instead, the idea of submitting here has an undertone of military life to it. In the military, soldiers understand that they need to have generals to lead them. So soldiers are willing to submit, or yield their own control, to someone higher up the chain of command. So when Paul tells us to submit, he is telling us to recognize that we need leaders. Our society would fall apart if everyone refused to yield control or follow anyone else.
But, as much as the first sentence in this passage may jump out at us, it’s not the part that we need to pay attention to. The second sentence in this verse is so much more important for us as we try to understand how we can live out our faith in the face of partisan politics.
The second sentence says, “They [or the Christians in Crete] should be obedient and ready to do every good thing.” So right here, Paul is telling us that in order for us to be followers of Jesus, we have to be political.
In order for us to be followers of Jesus, we have to be political.
Because, again, remember what politics is really about at its core. At its core, politics isn’t about supporting a political party or presidential candidate. At its core, politics is about the way that people relate to and take care of each other in a society. So, as followers of Jesus, we have to relate to other people and we have to care for other people. So we have to be political.
But Paul’s not going to stop there. In the very next verse, he’s going to tell us how to do that. So let’s look at what he writes next. We’ll pick up in verse 2. It says:
2 They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.
So, as Christians, we are supposed to be political...we’re supposed to relate to and care for others in our society. But when we’re engaging in politics, we shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone. We should be peaceful. We should be kind. And we should show courtesy toward everyone.
Or to put it another way, we shouldn’t do politics like the world does politics.
We shouldn’t do politics like the world does politics.
For Christians, being political shouldn’t be about tearing others down it should be about building everyone up. For Christians, being political shouldn’t be about taking care of ourselves it should be about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. For Christians, being political shouldn’t be about how much power we can gain in this world it should be about showing God’s love and care for this world.
And Paul goes on to explain why we shouldn’t do politics like the world. So let’s pick back up in verse 3, where Paul writes:
3 We were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, and slaves to our desires and various pleasures too. We were spending our lives in evil behavior and jealousy. We were disgusting, and we hated other people. 4 But “when God our savior’s kindness and love appeared, 5 he saved us because of his mercy, not because of righteous things we had done. He did it through the washing of new birth and the renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 which God poured out upon us generously through Jesus Christ our savior. 7 So, since we have been made righteous by his grace, we can inherit the hope for eternal life.” 8 This saying is reliable. And I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God might give careful attention to doing good. These things are good and useful for everyone.
Titus 3:1-8 (Common English Bible)
Paul tells us that we shouldn’t do politics like the world because we’re not like the world. As followers of Jesus, our lives have been changed by Jesus. So we’re supposed to be different. So let’s do that. Let’s be different.
Let’s be political without being jerks. Let’s be political without disrespecting another person. Let’s be political without demeaning someone because of the politician or party they support. Let’s be political but agree that we can disagree on politics. Let’s be political but accept that there aren’t black and white answers to controversial issues. Let’s be political and cast our votes to try to make our country and our world a better place. Let’s be political and work together to create a more perfect union. And let’s start right now.
So, here’s my challenge for you: Between now and Election Day, don’t speak or share anything on social media that is disrespectful of one candidate or another or the people that vote for them. Instead, be kind, be peaceful, be courteous. And don’t stop when Election Day is over. When Jesus came into your life, he changed you...so be different. And let the world see Jesus through you.