Last week I expressed my frustrations about the American political process with reference to the dubious art of negative campaigning. This was my way of venting my feelings on a far more important topic about people of faith aligning themselves with any political party. The basic premise applied to my reasoning was the well-known counsel that no one can serve two masters. And in the case of our participation in the electoral process as citizens of a democratic country, my personal opinion is that we must stay involved while we maintain our independence from the lockstep behavior of party line thinking.
Mine is not the first voice to proclaim that the current system is tainted. But what I want to avoid is the tendency of some, both past and present, to advocate for a complete withdrawal from society as a means to avoid being stained by its less than pure activities of any kind. Such an exclusionary, non-participatory attitude can only serve to make us appear holier-than-thou to those whose adherence to the prevailing systems subsequently casts them under a sinister shadow of corrupt morals by comparison. This invisible barrier of conflicting perceptions can only weaken our ability to influence spiritually those from whom we are semi-detached temporally.
There is, I believe, a stated biblical strategy for how we are to live in an increasingly multi-cultural nation with its attending divisive subplot. This division is often referred to as identity politics and the identity of the Christian community is by nature in direct contrast to such a mindset as we are called to be one body of believers with one Lord and one motivating spirit. For us it is not about being either Blue or Red, with their internally competing factions, but about being transparent. We are light, a fascinating phenomenon, which casts no shadows with which to induce a sense of fear and separation or to obscure another’s perception of faith, hope and sacrificial love.
The strategy I suggest each follower of Jesus implement in place of subscribing to the prevailing dictates of the political parties can be found in a lengthy letter written to a faceless group of believers who lived under the double ignominy of being Jews with regards to their ethnic identity and Christians with regards to their refined religious beliefs as adherents to a new covenant. The encouragement they received can be found in the New Testament section of the Bible under the subtitle of Hebrews. They were adjured to implement a five-point plan in order to peacefully co-exist in their respective communities, while being living advocates for the teachings of the reviled young rabbi, who had been crucified in Jerusalem by the Roman authorities.
The plan had five tenets, presented in the New International Version of the Bible as a conscientious series of choices to allow certain conditions to prevail in their lives. Each tenet begins with the phrase “Let us” followed by a call to action in providing the framework for how to maintain one’s spiritual integrity in a volatile and sometimes hostile world. The essential elements for a non-threatening advocacy of their new faith is thereby seen in these five statements:
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith….
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together….
Let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Each point can be and should be fully expanded upon in terms of how they were exemplified in the life of the one these Jewish Christians believed to be their Messiah. And in their day itinerant preachers, called apostles or ones sent, did just that as the means to enhance each fledgling congregation’s understanding of their place in society as they anticipated “the Day” of their Messiah’s return to the earth.
For the strategy to work it is critical that we start with point one, drawing near to God with a sincere motivation and complete assurance of his being the One, who sacrificed his most precious possession for the benefit of all. The rest of the program involving faith, hope, love, and good deeds propounded by an unrelenting encouragement will subsequently fall into place as natural expressions of our primary relationship with Him. Seconding ourselves to any other group, including political parties, factions and action committees can only diminish the light we are to be for others, bringing warmth, illumination and rest for their souls.
God has first dibs on our hearts, minds and souls and he is exclusionary in his prior claim to our loyalties. “Purchased with a price” is another common phrase used by that first generation of believers to concisely express their new found status as possessions of the One who gave all to save all. And that concept cannot be contained in any political party’s platform.