For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Grey Areas - Another Look at Politics

Sunday we will be looking at 1 Peter 2:13-17, which tells us that we are to submit to the governing authorities. During this past year, in many countries political landscape has been quite volatile. The Brexit vote, the US Presidential campaign and the upcoming French elections all have generated considerable discussion. Things grew so heated in the United States that couples divorced and churches split over differences in the candidates that they favoured. Some of this is the result of stark differences between candidates, but we also must remember that unimaginable amounts of money are spent to try to influence us and create "buzz" or energy around a candidate or issue. Every election has become "the most important election of our lifetime!"

I realise that for many people the emotions are still raw regarding these issues, but I think that it is important to consider how we are to live as Christians in this emotionally charged time. I want to remind us that biblically speaking many of the political issues are not black and white, but grey.

Should a tramline be extended? If so, where? Should a stoplight be put in at an intersection? Should the speed limit be raised? Should we have a national language? Which side of the road should we drive on? Should cars be allowed in Centre Ville? You won't find specific biblical guidance about whether an apartment building should be built on a particular piece of land. Nor will you find specific instructions about the Eurozone. These are biblical "grey areas". This does not mean that they are not important, but a measure of grace is needed when we are discussing them with others. They are not "black or white."

Often the Bible will give us general principles to consider, but not specific policy recommendations. For example Proverbs 29:4 warns against a king taxing too heavily, but gives no specific recommendations regarding the best tax policy. Proverbs 17:23 speaks against bribery. Even when something like bribery is agreed to be wrong, specific legislations can create cause disagreements, even among believers. The specific law and punishment is a "grey area".

Here are some reminders of how we should act as followers of Christ concerning the political discussions that we find ourselves surrounded by.

The perfect political solution will elude us until the return of Jesus.

There is a tendency for politicians to sound like saviours. "Vote for me and all of our problems will go away." The reality is that there will be no political solution to all of our problems until the return of Jesus. This is not to say that we are not to work for a just society, but we must realise that true solution to humanity's problems is not to found at the ballot box, but at the cross. We must keep a proper perspective about the political process. It is important, the perfect nation will not exist until Jesus returns to reign himself. A politician or political party will not be able to create a national utopia. Don't hope that it will.

The command to love has not been rescinded.

I've checked my email very carefully: there has been no email from God saying that "the love command" is no longer in effect. Jesus told us that we are to love even our enemies. If we are to love our enemies, then how much more are we to love those who disagree with us in in the area of politics! Can we speak in love about issues, even with those who disagree with us? Our speech is to be full of grace (Colossians 4:6) and should benefit everyone who listens (Ephesians 4:29). The believer should be known for the love that flows through their lives and conversations, even when discussing difficult social issues.

We are to outdo one another in showing honor.

Honor is important (Romans 12:10). Everyone we come in contact with is made in the image of God and needs to be treated with respect. All too often people demonise those that have a different opinion in the political arena. We need to stop and consider the value and worth of the other person. Few people expressing a policy opinion want to "destroy our country" or "ruin our city". They simply have a different idea of what is the best course of action. We need to treat them with respect. I was grieved by the lack of respect shown in the US election (by candidates, pundits, and internet commenters).

Be a student of the Bible.

As followers of Christ, we must be careful students of the Bible. Even though we might live in a country that rejects the authority of the Bible, in the end God's Word will be the standard by which everyone will be judged. Thus for a Christian to carefully study the Bible to see how it deals with the issue of government, justice, laws, etc. is extremely important. We must be careful that the strongest voice we hear is God's Word. Too often the popular commentator, the clever politician, or the influential friend has too much influence over how we think about things. We need to be students of the Word!


Proverbs 29:23

Pride clouds our judgment and causes many unnecessary disagreements. We are called to be humble and to consider the interests of others. Did you consider that the other person may be right? Have you listened long and hard enough to understand why the person holds the position that they do? Here's a good test: Can you restate their position and their rationale in a way that they would agree with? Are we willing to learn from other people?

Compromise is not necessarily bad.

We know this in everyday life. We compromise about what to have for dinner, where to go on vacation, and what movie to watch. It is a part of being in relationship with others. In the political arena compromises create harmony and help us to live peaceably with one another. While there are some areas where compromise is not advisable, we must realise that in the majority of cases we must compromise to come to a mutually agreeable and "fair" solution. Will it be perfect? No. But sometimes we fail to get anything we want because we won't settle for less getting everything. We may want to go out to an Italian restaurant but become so unwilling to compromise that we spend all night fighting about it and go to bed hungry! In the same way, we may want our tax rate to be lowered by 10% and become so adamant that we won't settle for a 7% decrease and wind up with no decrease.

Truth is important. 

Winston Churchill said, "A lie gets half-way around the world before truth has a chance to get its pants on." In the days of the internet, I think he would revise that to "all the way around the world"! As Christians we need to be people of truth. We need to speak the truth and we need to seek truth. The internet, rather than making it easier, seems to be making it more difficult to discover the truth. We must be careful to discover the truth to the best of our ability. We must be on-guard against simply seeking to reinforce our own opinions rather than seeking truth. Remember: Satan is the father of lies!

Keeping these things in mind will be helpful as we deal with the political questions that face us as citizens of whatever county we belong to.

Further Resources:

Christians and Government

If the topic of government and the Bible interests you, let me suggest this study on the 9Marks website. It is written from an American perspective, but the author deals with many issues that face Christians regardless of what democratic country they are citizens of. It is the transcript of a 13 week course on "Christians and Government" by Jonathan Leeman, the founder of 9Marks. I believe that his thoughtful look at the Bible will be helpful for those of other countries, although you will have a adapt some of the illustrations to suit your own situation. You may not agree with his assessments. In fact, there were issues that I disagreed with him, but I found that working through the articles was beneficial as he takes a look at what the Bible says about government and citizens.

He looks at questions like:

  • The Bible and Politics. How do you interpret the bible to gain political wisdom? Is it fair to use the Bible in public discourse, if so, how? What if others disregard the Bible or forbid its use in the public arena?
  • What should Christians do for government? 
  • What should Christians ask of government?

An Evangelical Perspective of Current Issues in France

The CNEF has issued a "Convictions" document highlighting the common evangelical perspective on current issues in French society. It includes discussion of the following topics: the relation of church and state, freedom of worship and speech, the dignity of the human being, family and sexuality, education, protection of the environment, and national cohesion and security. The French document can be found here. 

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