Monday, June 14, 2010

Christians in politics: No gospel, no mandate!

I was involved in politics with the ACDP for about 3 years (Dec 2005-Dec 2008) here in South Africa. I stood twice on their ticket for office in local government here in Pretoria. I was elected within the party up to vice-chairman of the provincial council in Gauteng. I have seen quite a bit about how a political party is run.

Christians are to influence every area of society and mustn't squirm away from getting involved in all areas of life. Whether, it is technology, science, sport, politics, media or arts, we are supposed to be the salt and light of the world wherever we are.

The question we have to ask ourselves as Christians is "What is our primary mandate in this world?" The way I see it is that many Christians involved in politics are involved with totally different motives than our primary mandate as given by Christ. From the Moral Majority in the U.S.A. to Christian political parties here in South Africa, it seems that most of them (or all of them?) are more interested in preaching morality than anything else. Moralizing is high on their agendas, even though moralizing does not bring change, only adaptation. The call is for fixing society, because things are wrong!

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

The call of Jesus was for us to make disciples of all nations. Preaching morality is not the same as making disciples. Making disciples comes through the preaching of the gospel!

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:5-17)

If those Christians in politics keep moralizing, they will not be making disciples, but rather will create clones of one another, people that follow a moral code until they are tired of it and want something better.

Christianity's prime mandate is the making of disciples through the preaching of the gospel. Every other mandate in Scripture is subject to this mandate. The cultural mandate is subject to the mandate of making disciples. Culture is not changed through laws, because laws can only put up external and cultural hedges that attempt to prevent social and moral ills. Without changing the heart, devolution into immorality is guaranteed. We cannot prop society up on moralizing. Without the changed hearts of individuals, it will all come crashing down.

We should have the same attitude as the apostle Paul, that we are "not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16) and that in the gospel "the righteousness of God is revealed" (v17).

D.A. Carson writes:
"First, pundits have often noted that many in the Western world have become single-issue people. The church is not immune from such influences. The result is that many Christians assume the gospel (often, regrettably, some form of the ‘simple gospel’) but are passionate about something on the relative periphery: abortion, poverty, forms of worship, cultural decay, ecology, overpopulation, pornography, family breakdown, and much more. By labelling these complex subjects ‘relatively peripheral’ I open myself to attack from as many quarters as there are subjects on the list. For example, some of those whose every thought is shaded green will not be convinced that the ecological problems we face are peripheral to human survival. But I remain quite unrepentant. From a biblical-theological perspective, these challenges, as serious as they are, are reflections of the still deeper problem—our odious alienation from God. If we tackle these problems without tackling what is central, we are merely playing around with symptoms. This is no excuse for Christians not to get involved in these and many other issues. But it is to insist that where we get involved in such issues, many of which are explicitly laid upon us in scripture, we do so from the centre out, ie beginning with full-orbed gospel proclamation and witness and passion, and then, while acknowledging that no one can do everything, doing our ‘significant something’ to address the wretched entailments of sin in our world. The good news of Jesus Christ will never allow us to be smug and other-worldly in the face of suffering and evil. But what does it profit us to save the world from smog and damn our own souls? There are lots of ways of getting rid of pornography. For instance, one does not find much smut in Saudi Arabia. But one doesn’t find much of the gospel there, either."
Carson makes it clear, that fighting about issues such as abortion, cultural decay and more, are in reality trying to treat the symptoms and not really treating the true cause of all these issues, man's alienation from God! Fighting the issues is like putting a band-aid on a dead heart. It may cover the deadness of the heart, but the heart is dead nonetheless.

“10 None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 
and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

Carson again:
"If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior."
If we do not deal with the root of the problem--sin--then we may as well have been Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists. Using the band-aid method, even in politics, people may become better adjusted to society, but they will end up as better adjusted tenants in hell!

So, how do we deal with the "sin problem" in society? Do we preach morals to the nation? Why would society even bother with this moralizing if it is not practically beneficial to them at the moment? As soon as it is no longer beneficial for society to hold to these morals, society will move onto the next "beneficial" thing. Society is inherently selfish, and few really want what is best for others. Why will we not get through to society by preaching morality? The reason for this is that the "natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14)

Therefore, the ultimate aim of Christian politicians, Christian political parties, must not be to have political victories, but to advance the kingdom of God through the preaching of the gospel. Not one Christian has been absolved from this mandate!

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