Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wanna Talk Politics?

In my first Economics class in college, the professor was a fairly crusty old fella who had been teaching the same course for many years. He knew what to expect each year as a new set of students began the course. Most of the students fancied themselves smarter, more sophisticated, and more ‘enlightened’ than the professor - typical college kids, I suppose.
So the professor always made it a point to demonstrate how ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ don’t always mesh in the real world. The first session he would ask some general questions allowing students to [more or less] affirm their predisposed socio-political inclinations and when he pinpointed a particularly adamant ‘fiscal conservative’ who espoused a hard core ‘personal responsibility’ ethos, he would bait the student in and end up asking a final question, “So, do you think people should starve to death on American streets?”
Can anyone really answer ‘yes’ to that question in front of a group of their peers at a church-affiliated university?
So, the professor would pronounce that we all must then agree that the government has some responsibility to keep that from happening. He would then leave all politics behind for the semester and focus on how GNP, unemployment, inflation, etc. interact and how they can be manipulated pursuant to Keynesian economic theories.

But those ‘political’ issues dog us every day. Whether we are active in the political process or just want to discuss governmental affairs around the water cooler – most people have some pretty strong opinions about ‘political issues,’ even if they don’t necessarily think about them in that light.
And I don’t think that most ‘political’ issues have a biblical ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side. There are many issues that people may try to turn into political issues but are actually moral issues that do have a definite right or wrong in God’s eyes - like abortion, the definition of marriage, and pornography, to name only a few. However, other issues are not ‘carved in stone’ for followers of Christ.
Although he was speaking of theological doctrine, the often quoted phrase of Rupertus Meldenius is worth repeating: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things love.
For example, the views of the function and scope of government are very much debatable and, while I may have my personal opinion about them, there’s not necessarily a biblical right or wrong side to be on. The Bible does teach us to take care of our elderly, our widows, orphans, prisoners, etc. But it doesn’t forbid the government from having an active role in that as well. We can certainly disagree on what that role should be, but it is not against the Word of God for the government to be involved.
So, why does all of this ‘politics’ have to be so nasty. Why do some people cast Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as candidates for the office of ‘Antichrist’ while others are convinced that Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh already hold that office? Can’t people have different opinions about political issues and still love one another? Well, let me rephrase that question because that is simply not possible for some people: Can’t followers of Christ disagree about political issues and still love one another?
We know the answer to that question, but it’s hard, isn’t it? Certainly the ‘practice’ is much harder than the ‘theory.’
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them . . .
Love each other with genuine affection,
and take delight in honoring each other
Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

There is nothing wrong with holding strong opinions about those ‘political issues’ that can be so divisive; but it is wrong to be divisive. There is nothing wrong with opposing particular issues; but it is wrong to create an opponent. We can advocate certain causes without making adversaries. We can argue against positions without being against people. There is no problem with embracing political discourse, as long as we continue to embrace the people with whom we discourse - Is it more important to win the argument, or to win a brother?
How do we do that? How can we pull that off?
In love.
In Christ’s love.
Can you even fathom what the political landscape in this country would look like if all of the discussions were undertaken in love? In Christ’s love?
Amazing things could be accomplished.
An awesome God could be seen.
Don’t you want to be a part of that?
Are you ready to let love – Christ’s love - determine how you converse with and relate to others rather than party affiliations and differences of opinion?
Are you ready to “do everything in love?” (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Ephesians 4:29-5:2 (NLT), emphasis added

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