Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Christian Political Action

As followers of Jesus Christ, what should be our role in politics?
Jesus called us to be in the world but to avoid becoming part of it. The way of Christ is the way of the cross—victory through weakness. The accumulation of earthly power seems contradictory to Christian discipleship.
Yet we are called to participate in the advancement of God's kingdom, seeing his will done on earth as it already is in heaven.
In a series of lectures in Bangalore, India, given in 1941, Lesslie Newbigin asserted
I do not see how the Christian can avoid concerning himself with politics. Love to men, and the fundamental obligation to seek everywhere to create true fellowship, cannot be made effective except over a very small range of life, without invoking political means. Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, p. 53
He reminded the audience that the kingdom cannot be produced by human effort. It can only come by God acting in history. But we have been given the privilege of participating in that kingdom.
While political participation is necessary, it is not without its difficulties.
Politics never allows us to choose exactly our own way, but compels us to decide between a very small number of politically possible alternatives. This means, therefore, that Christians taking part in politics always find themselves working with people who are not Christians and [who] do not share their motives or their ultimate aims. It is this that creates the extreme tension which is always involved in Christian political action. That tension cannot be avoided. Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, pp. 53–54
This means that we can never align ourselves with a political party, or even a political candidate.
We must never lose sight of our true goal. We are not seeking to establish a human-centered utopia. All those efforts seem to end in tragedy and exploitation. Our true goal is the perfect community of the New Jerusalem.
Our goal is the holy city, the New Jerusalem, a perfect fellowship in which God reigns in every heart, and His children rejoice together in His love and joy. To that we look forward with sure hope, and for its sake we offer up to God all that we do in response to His invitation to love our neighbor as we ourselves have been loved. Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, p. 55
At the same time, we realize that the goal will never be accomplished by us. This true community always remains just out of our grasp. In fact, the forces of evil seem to grow in strength at the same time that God's kingdom spreads.
And though we know that we must grow old and die, that our labors, even if they succeed for a time, will in the end be buried in the dust of time, and that along with the painfully won achievements of goodness, there are mounting seemingly irresistible forces of evil, yet we are not dismayed. We do not need to take refuge in any comfortable illusions. We know that these things must be. But we know that as surely as Christ was raised from the dead, so surely shall there be a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, p. 55
But this does not lead us to despair and passivity. On the contrary, we act with hope and purpose.
A Christian is one who, through Christ, has been reconciled with God who is the King. God's rule is operative in his heart, through gratitude to Christ. If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. His gratitude impels him to acts of love towards men, but he also acts in hope—hope of the final completion of God's Kingdom in a perfected fellowship. Even though his actions may all seem to be failures as far as visible effectiveness is concerned, he commits them to God as his thank offering. In the sure hope that they will not be lost. And by faith, the substance of things hoped for, he now possesses in his heart a foretaste of the joy of that perfected Kingdom in which God's purposes shall be complete. Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, pp. 52–53
Christianity is not a private, personal thing. It is public and universal. It is good news for all people everywhere. At is very core, Christianity is political. The claim, "Jesus is Lord," has distinct political implications. As followers of Christ, we participate in his war against the "powers."
But we must never forget that it is God's kingdom and his mission.
Pastor Rod
"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"

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