If you are blessed to live long enough, you’re bound to see it all.
In an unprecedented moment in our nation's history, the crescendo of this election cycle has felt more like the Egyptians’ weathering of the plagues than it has the triumph of our democracy.
Personally, I feel like I have been poisoned. But when it comes to my own personal politics, that’s as forthcoming as I’m going to be.
Baptists have historically championed the principle of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. By distinguishing where the institution of the church ends and the institution of the state begins, it preserves the integrity of both organizations. As history has proven time and time again, when the church becomes the state, it loses its ability and privilege to speak prophetically. If the state is the church, it becomes near-to-impossible for the church to speak truth to power.*
In regard to politics, the times in which we live have become especially fraught with danger. While there was once a time where we could engage in civil dialogue about our political similarities and differences, that day is not today. The arena of civil discourse has become so toxic that we can seemingly find nothing in common and regard one another as the bitterest of enemies.
Just as the Church of Jesus Christ is a place for all people--regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity or background--the Body of Christ is the place where our unity in Jesus becomes our common ground. And when differences do exist (and how could they not?), it is imperative that we treat one another with respect, kindness and love.
Indeed, as Pastor Blake McKinney of First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit in Missouri points out in his article, “A Dangerous Path for Politically Active Christians,” our demonstrative political discourse can damage our Christian witness. Regardless of our political affiliations, we can, in fact, be doing harm in the name of Jesus.
McKinney admonishes us: “Are you free to speak your mind about political matters? Absolutely. Should you speak up when political decisions have ethical and spiritual ramifications? Absolutely. But be careful about how you discuss politics, and how often. Realize that your political talk can have unintended consequences on the spiritual lives of the people who hear you. The more obnoxious you are in talking about politics, the more people will tune you out in matters of faith.”*
Perhaps I’ve said too much. Maybe I haven’t said enough. Probably, both statements are accurate.
You’ve probably heard the anecdote about the individual who just suffered through a long, wandering sermon. “I know the preacher means well, but today he should have just read the scripture and sat back down.”
So, I’ll do just that.
The Word of the Lord from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome:
"Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
God’s words serve as the anecdote for our “warring madness.” Thanks be to God for giving us the way out of this mess.
*For those interested in the historical foundation for the Baptist principle of religious liberty, consider this resource from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty: http://bjconline.org/religiousliberty/
**Blake McKinney’s article, “A Dangerous Path for Politically Active Christians,” is a good read. I commend it to your attention: http://www.ethicsdaily.com/a-dangerous-path-for-politically-active-christians-cms-23666