This blog is going to sound embarrassingly political in its first three paragraphs. But please bear with me. I have a point to make but I want to lay the groundwork before I make that point. And don’t worry – I’m not promoting any political party or candidate.
The 2012 Presidential race is well underway. The mudslinging, lies, distortions, nay saying, and even the truth telling are almost unbearable. It’s only the primary season. This year, all the above mentioned “dirty politics” is being done almost entirely within the Republican Party – for now, at least. Two camps are doing most of the battle against each other. There is a lot of talk about how much damage each group is doing – not just to each other but also to the GOP as a whole.
I am a political conservative, as most would measure a conservative. I am a registered Republican but may change that soon. Frankly, I quit supporting any political party sometime after 2004. I became disenchanted with all the bickering and the lack of continuity within the Republican Party. Now I know some of you may have a hard time with my attitude but it is what it is.
My disenchantment is with the Party elites who obviously want something entirely different than the mainstream conservatives I spend much of my time with. My friends want quantified, qualified, change in the direction of our country while the party elites seem to want nothing more than to stay in power (even as a minority). My friends want more than rhetoric and speeches. They want action.
Here is my point. The main stream Republican Party (made up of rather conservatively oriented people) is dissatisfied – so much so they gave birth to a movement known as the “Tea Party.” Yet the Republican Party elites are ignoring this very animated, highly interested, branch of the Party. And so it is in the church. Many are seeking quantitative, qualitative change within the church. They want more than rhetoric and fancy sermons. They want action. Yet the elites of Church governance are either ignoring them, or simply do not have the tools to bring about the needed change.
Indulge me as I put down some observations I have gathered from various conversations with highly motivated and intelligent people over the last 4 years or so.
I’ve found that many Christ-followers have become weary with terms that have become muddied and unclear. They don’t know whether to characterize ourselves as “Christians”, “Believers”, “Christ-followers”, “Born-again”, “Saved”, “Pre-Christian”, “Unsaved”, “Pre-saved”, “Churched”, “Un-churched”, “modern”, “post-modern”, etc., etc.
They are tired of categories. They don’t want to be classified as an Evangelical, Charismatic, Catholic, Protestant, progressive, traditionalist, structured, unstructured, new evangelical, emergent, liberal, conservative, left, right, post, pre, or mid-tribulation.
They want morality to be seen in their own lives as a code of conduct and something to be desired and envied. They are tired of having their faith politicized and used as a political football for a politicians own advantage. They feel used and abused by theologians and politicians who court their favor. They want their faith to be acknowledged and respected within the body politic, not mocked and ridiculed due to the wanton abuse of the media, politicians or those who claim the title of Reverend, but do not live up to the title.
They no longer want to lean left or right. They want to be led by those who will call them to look up. They are weary of being “against or for” things and people. They don’t want to be pro-life so they don’t have to be anti-abortion. They want everyone to know the joy and love they experience in being married to a person of the opposite sex without being labeled as anti-gay.
In short, they are tired of being issue oriented rather than Christ-centered. It’s not that these issues aren’t important to them, but the issues are not the gospel. Christ-followers have been commissioned to preach Christ and Him crucified. We are to be vessels of His love and to express His grace to the world.
A politicized faith message becomes repulsive – even to us as believers. What must it do to those who do not know our Lord and are not part of our club? When conservative politicians focus on petty issues and distortions rather than the message of Constitutional Government they are supposedly championing, their followers are repulsed. When Christianity focuses on petty sin issues rather than the message of the Good News of the Kingdom of God, true Christ-followers are equally repulsed.
Any corruption of the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God results in a miscommunication that not only distorts the message, but also poisons it.
Mark 8:15 New King James Version (NKJV)
15 Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
As sincere Christ-followers we are charged by Jesus, Himself, to beware of a corrupted message. In the above verse the corrupt message has two sources; religious teachers and government. When the message has been corrupted it is not rebellious to abandon the messenger. But we must be careful not to also abandon the truth.
Christ-followers are to be salt and light wherever they go. What they need most from their earth-bound leaders is equipping (See Ephesians 4:11-12) not control or political direction. A well equipped Christ-follower will know what to do with the knowledge and gifts they have been equipped with and they will learn when and when not to use them. Well equipped Christ-followers are disciples of our Lord, Jesus Christ, not adherents of a particular pastor or denomination. As such they should have the ability to hear and obey the Holy Spirit in every situation.
Christ commissioned His followers in Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (NKJV)
Notice the commission was to disciple . . . nations. As one who has spent a lifetime in Christian service, I have learned that one cannot disciple (or discipline) governments into a doctrine or faith system. But one can disciple the people and thereby effectively change the nation, state, county, city, or family. The way to disciple a nation is not to change its laws but to disciple its people. Then the people may or may not change their government but they will definitely change their allegiance to a different kingdom – the Kingdom of God. No wonder Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Not all religious teachers or politicians are corrupt. Nor are they all teaching a corrupt message. Nonetheless, it behooves us to beware. After all, we have a kingdom to advance.