I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Mat 10:16-20
In a recent journal entry in my prayer journal, I was asking God’s forgiveness for mentioning political subjects in my recent sermons and Bible studies. It is a temptation to mention our current president and the current situation in the pulpit and in class—a temptation that I have too often succumbed to since our President became the nominee of his party last summer.
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. . . be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves. The temptation to talk about politics from the pulpit is, most of the time, a temptation to cheapen the Gospel. In Mexico, where in my youth it was illegal for preachers to preach politics, I never heard a sermon on any political situation. Instead, the constant appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike was to seek to be governed by God voluntarily through the Father-relationship to God that Jesus offers to us. There was no expectation that the government would be an ally of the Kingdom of God in changing people’s lives where it counted. It’s not that we were against the government or even suspicious of it. Politics was simply not a priority for making a difference in individuals, families, or communities. In some ways, this was a healthy stance.
Be on your guard against men . . . When I came to the USA, I heard preaching against the dangers of the moral decay of society and the need of Christians to get involved as “Salt and Light” to turn back that moral decay. These were the 1980’s, the days of “The Moral Majority.” Later, I read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his resistance to the political evil of the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism in Germany. The German Churches, most of them reluctant to preach politics (as the churches of my youth had been), had not put up serious or effective objections to Hitler or to his persecution of Jews. I read about Martin Luther King, Jr, and his effective resistance to segregation, resistance that was at once deeply spiritual and also blatantly political. Could it be that “preaching politics” today is not a temptation but a response to the call of the Spirit?
On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles . . . May I suggest that the objective of Christians in “preaching politics” is not principally, to gain political victories, not to change society, not to defeat corruption, not to establish Justice or Peace. The church and its preachers better serve those objectives through prayer and calling upon God to act. Instead, our primary objective in “preaching politics” is to bear witness to the love and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Politicians, local city councils, school boards, state legislators, judges, governors, members of congress, and the president need to hear that Jesus loves them and died for them, and invites them to submit to His government in which each other person receives the love and the gifts of Jesus equally and uniquely. The implications for politics are enormous.
Lord, grant me to preach politics the way you would have me preach them.
- Grant me to know that often the best political preaching is the least political preaching,that inviting people to voluntarily yield themselves to God’s government will remove politics from the center of their lives and will give it a healthier place.
- Grant me to speak courageously and compassionately when injustice is being committed, not as one who wields the judgment of God, but as one who shares in the condition of sinners who violate the rights, persons, and property of others in various “legal” ways.In other words, may I not preach in anger but in anguish.
- Grant me never to speak about anyone except in love.Grant me to love and to like all of the political actors:the president, the supreme court, the Republicans, the Democrats, the Black Lives Matter movement, the NRA, the media, and Rush Limbaugh.Grant me to stand against anger, resentment, injustice and violence in ways that are calm, kind, fair, and peaceful toward all.
- Grant me to believe that You reveal as much truth to each as they are open to receive.My responsibility as a preacher is to listen carefully for the voice of God behind, in, under, and through what all the conflicting political voices say.
- Grant me to believe that your kingdom is very rarely served when one political “side” wins and another loses.In your kingdom the losers are often the winners, and the best outcome is not when one group gets all that it wants, nor even when both sides compromise to get part of what they want, but when both sides bring their goals and desires to You and end up getting more than they imagined.
May I be a faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ even before governors and kings and the unpolitical brothers and sisters who visit the website of First Christian Church, Smithville.