Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Politics & Preaching

Some people have asked me if I intend to preach a message about the upcoming election prior to November 6th.  The quick and easy answer is “no”. I have never preached politics from the pulpit. I have never, in my role as a minister of the Gospel, advocated the candidacy of any person for any public office. And while I believe the stakes are high and our votes are important, your decision should be based upon prayerful consideration and Biblical standards, not on what your pastor thinks or says.

My refusal to preach on politics is not based on a lack of interest in political issues. I have long found politics interesting (I was captivated by the televised Watergate hearings in the mid 70s—when I was a young teenager!). I have run for and served in public office. I closely follow politics, and I think that it is extremely important that we participate in the political process.

It also does not stem from a lack of opinions. Believe me, I have some very strong opinions on political issues. I read a great deal on the issues we face as a nation, and the truth be told, I probably think I know more than the average person about many of those issues. I used to find great enjoyment in debating the finer points of public policy with friends and adversaries.

And while I believe there are some areas of life where moral/Biblical issues overlap political issues, they are not always the same. Moral/Biblical issues remain constant, regardless of which political party is in power or whose political philosophy prevails. God’s Word is true whether in a democracy or a dictatorship. God’s Word is sure, no matter whether a nation adheres to a capitalist, socialist or communist economic model.

But as important as the political issues are that face our nation and our world, they pale in comparison to the spiritual issues that we face. The answer to poverty, prosperity or depravity will not be found in any political party’s platform. No politician will fix broken homes or mend broken hearts. The answer to our deepest, most serious needs is Jesus.

Week after week, I have the privilege of preaching  Jesus to more than 200 people who have come to hear the Word of the Lord. They are men looking for work. They are women struggling with loneliness. They are teenagers facing tremendous pressures to rebel against the values they’ve been taught. They are couples dealing with competing dreams and conflicting desires. They are parents trying to figure out when to pick their battles and where to draw the lines.

In all honesty, neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama will help them deal with most of the pressures they will face in life. They can’t pick up the phone to ask Mitt what to do or email Barack for suggestions as to how to proceed. But they can go to Jesus. They can pour out their hearts to a Savior who loves them so much that He clothed Himself in human flesh to dwell among them. A God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. A Lord who shows Himself to us through His Word.

I never have understood pastors who give up the pulpit for a role in the political world. It seems like a huge demotion to me. To go from leading people in a thriving relationship with Jesus to trying to make one sinner sound superior to another sinner in order to garner our votes—well, I just don’t understand it. While I’m glad for Christians who participate in the political process, I can’t see ever giving up the opportunity to preach God’s unsearchable riches to get down in the mud of partisan politics.

Anyone who knows me or who is acquainted with my ministry knows that I am not afraid to preach tough messages on issues that are addressed in Scripture. When God’s Word speaks to the sanctity of human life, the sacredness of marriage or our responsibilities to the poor and disadvantaged among us, I do not shy  away from preaching the Truth. And if God’s Word said “Thou shouldest vote for Obama” or “Thou shalt not cast your ballot in opposition to Romney”, then I’d preach that message with boldness and confidence.
But I will not pretend that God’s Word says something when it is silent. I will not try to manipulate God’s Word to justify my own political persuasion. And I will not take precious time to advocate for any man (or woman) when that takes away from the time for me to preach Jesus.

I challenge you, read your Bible—particularly the New Testament. Underline every phrase in which the writers advocated or opposed the political leaders of their day. In a time and place far more hostile to Christianity than our own, these men, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, refused to condone or condemn the politicians of their era. But they made much of Jesus.

We are blessed to live in a society where we get a voice as to who will be our political leaders. As good citizens, I think we should participate in the process. So, if I were to give you any advice at all about the upcoming election, it would be:
Know the issues. Study the various positions. Don’t form opinions based on knee-jerk reactions of the politicians or parties.
Study your Bible and seek God’s direction through His Word on the choices you have to make.
Pray about who you should vote for.
Pray for the candidates and their families.
Pray for God’s Will to be accomplished.
Vote. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. In Kansas, early voting has already begun. For more information, go to http://www.jocoelection.org/voters/Advancevoting.htm
Pray some more. Because while you can only vote once, you can pray without ceasing.

At the risk of taking Scripture out of context, let me close with this parting advice when it comes to your politics:   Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)