In light of this divisive political season I want you remind you of some important truths. These are not necessarily in order of importance.
Grace is the church’s main contribution to society. As Gordon McDonald says, the world can do anything the church can do, except show grace. When Christians stumble into politics, they often fail at grace.
Love is the most powerful force on earth. For example, it is interesting how some pro-life evangelicals treat anyone who disagrees with their single-issue view. Tim Stafford writes, “I betray the Kingdom of God if my activism, no matter how well intended, drives out love.”
Jesus said, “Love your enemies . . . pray for those who persecute you.” The Bible says, “faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” “Without love you can do nothing.” Love is at the head of the list of the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus said that the one word that should characterize His followers is love.
Church and state will inevitable be in conflict at some level. What we may need more than a Christian ruler is a Christian prophet who is within earshot of the ruler.
In pre-Nazi Germany the Lutheran church had a strong doctrine of no conflict with the state. Thus, with no tradition of being a prophetic voice to the state they did not know how to respond to Hitler and were eaten alive by the Nazis before they could even wake up.
The history of western Christianity has been a history of speaking to social issues before the state, demanding change. The end of slavery, the rise of orphanages, temperance, universal suffrage, health care, public education, human rights, civil rights … these all had their origins in the church.
Too much coziness between the church and the state is historically good for the state and bad for the church.
Society needs a strong moral/religious foundation, but not necessarily a specific doctrinal confession. For example, recently a loud cry is being heard from evangelicals, Muslims, Catholics and Jews all against pornography and its destructive effects. These various religions groups serve as a moral consensus that is beginning to be heard. A specific confession was not needed for this function.
Some claim society can have a moral safety net without religion. It begs the question: can we be good without God? The answer from both history and theology is “NO.” Without something bigger and better than ourselves to draw us upward, human nature is invariable drawn downward toward hedonism, selfishness, and nihilism.
This is a time that calls for the faithful to demonstrate grace, to love boldly, and to stand uncompromisingly for what is good.