- Keith Harris
Christian ≠ Political Activism
Is it our goal to cause the world to act like Christians? Sadly, too many Christians, and even churches are placing a high emphasis on political activism. Are we going there because it is easier than becoming like Jesus? Has activism become a substitute for true Christianity? Maybe…
Paul teaches young Timothy that we are to lead quiet and peaceable lives (1 Timothy 2:2). Often times the “church” is better known for what they are boycotting than how they are living in their communities. It always strikes me as odd the way many believe their calling is to hold the “banner” for Christ in whatever way seems right to them. Far too many stand outside marching for the “cause” of Christ, seeing their active participation in a protest as a demonstration of their deep abiding faith. Unfortunately, their actions present a form of faith that leaves witnesses less than impressed.
Another question or concern comes to mind. Does the church exist so as to make the world a better place to live? At first it would seem the obvious answer to this question is yes. But I’m not so sure. The church was designed by God to bring honor and glory to his name. The church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and called to be the salt and light of the world. Jesus makes clear that as the light of the world, we are to let our light shine so that others may see our “good” works and give glory to God. This may be the problem for us. To some, “letting our light shine” means being as vocal publicly as possible when civic decisions are made that oppose the teaching and authority of scripture. So is it our goal to cause the world to act like Christians?
“Christianity” has recently been flexing its muscles following the last election. Some have a renewed confidence that America will one day again be referred to as a “Christian nation”. But why do we feel a boost in confidence or zeal only when we believe an election has gone “our” way. While it seems obvious, it is worth remembering…God is not a Republican…God is not a Democrat…God is not an Independent, though he is independent. And God is not American.
So what is the purpose of the church? The church is the Christian community of believers. Its purpose is to be found in bringing glory to God, encouraging one another, and in evangelizing the world. John Howard Yoder said, “The New Testament places corporate action and responsibility in the Christian community and not on the level of society at large and does not anticipate the use of the state as the instrument of change.” Essentially, the church does not and should not rely on government to facilitate change in the world. Jesus said that the world will know we are his disciples if we love one another. It seems to follow that we must also demonstrate love for those outside the church as well. Everett Ferguson wrote, “The church offers an alternative society, where the methods of Jesus are exemplified in personal and community relations.” We ought to be involved in the communities in which we live and worship. But this truth should never be an excuse for acting out in response to that communities lack of Christian values.
God has not called us to legislate Christian values. He has called us to live out Christian values. In their book, Resident Aliens, Hauerwas and Willimon wrote, “The habit of Constantinian thinking is difficult to break. It leads Christians to judge their ethical positions, not on the basis of what is faithful to our peculiar tradition, but rather on the basis of how much Christian ethics Caesar can be induced to swallow without choking.” God’s purpose for the church is not to be dominated by the state. But equally true, it has never been God’s purpose for the church to dominate the state. We are not called to be politically active in hopes of curing the world’s ills. We are called to live according to the will of God and shine light in a world of darkness. Ferguson said, “The church does not have a social strategy; the church is a social strategy.” It has been said that the alternative to coercion through legislation is persuasion through incarnation. Christ came to this world and left us an example that we should follow. We must always seek to bring glory and honor to God in all we say and do. May our steps be worship. May our thoughts be praise. May our words bring honor to his name.