I must confess, I’m a bit of a political junkie. I enjoy following the political issues and conversations of the day. As citizens of the United States, we have the freedom, privilege, and responsibility to participate in the political process. With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon and primary season in full swing, political issues are trending and controversial. What is the Christian leader to do with serious political issues? Immigration? National security? Religious freedom? Abortion? And the list could go on and on. Is there a balance between biblical pastoral leadership and being engaged in the political conversation? Let me offer several observations that I believe can assist us in dealing with political topics as Christian leaders.
- Remember that political issues are not a part of Christ’s mission to the church. Jesus commissioned the church to make disciples not advance a political agenda. Paul and the early missionaries focused on preaching the gospel and planting churches, not issues of socio-political action. The example of the early church does not mean we should not engage in politics, but that we should not mistake political action as a part of our Christian mission.
- Be attentive to the reality that social media has given a voice to the uninformed. It used to be that having a political voice meant that you vote, write a letter to the editor, or volunteer for a politician or political party. Today, behind the comfort of your smartphone, you can read news stories, post/share them, and comment on them with little personal investment. The social media proliferation of news sources and political commentary is not a bad thing. But Facebook rants and 140 character tweets allow for the uninformed to comment as if they are experts. We should be aware of this phenomenon and avoid the peril of commenting in ignorance.
- As a pastor, you will preach to and lead those with whom you will disagree politically. Make sure your people know you love them and you love everyone which means you might need to listen with kindness to those with whom you disagree. There’s not nearly enough honest disagreement with a tolerant, Christ-like demeanor in political conversations. One of the beautiful realities about the political process in the United States is that we have the freedom to disagree. As pastors, we should model humble Christ-like interactions with those who might disagree with us.
- The United States will not rise or fall based on the last or the next presidential election. Isaiah 40:15-18, Psalm 2, Habakkuk 2, Revelation 20:11-16 are just a brief sampling of the scriptural affirmation that God sovereignly rules the nations. The United States is not unique with regard to God’s rule. He ultimately governs the political processes of all nations including our own. While we can dutifully be involved in the political process, we must remember who is in charge and point our congregations to the authority and Lordship of the One who is King of kings and sovereign over presidents.
- Acknowledge the complexity of political issues. Immigration, the Syrian refugee situation, terrorism, foreign policy, education, abortion, gun control and gun rights are controversial and complex issues. Overly simplistic solutions to these topics are not realistic. As Christians first, we should be governed by Christ’s love and seek to share the gospel with any whom God might allow to be relocated into our nation. As U.S. citizens, we can rightly pursue being a nation governed by laws and pray for and vote for politicians who will represent our concerns in congress. Our conversations and engagement of these topics must be Christ-centered and humble. Furthermore, the complexity of these and other issues encourages us to hold our views on the topics with humility and should drive us to pray. Paul’s admonition is appropriate here. We should pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).
- The pulpit is the place for biblical authority not political opinion. When the Bible is clear, we should be as well. When it is not, we should be cautious. Learn to separate your personal convictions from biblical absolutes. We should not be afraid to preach on controversial, political topics when they are addressed in the Bible, but our preaching should not be driven by political issues. We should be known for our preaching of Scripture because the Bible, not current affairs, is our preaching content.
These observations are by no means exhaustive. You might disagree with some of them. That’s fine. But above all, let’s not allow our political persuasions in any way to become a detriment to our preaching of the gospel.