“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind . . . ”
— Apostle Paul, Romans 12:2
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
— Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 2:15
In my first post, I spoke of the ways this virus has brought to light many hidden divisions in our nation. My post was designed to point them out without being partisan.
Were you able to read them without thinking I was on your side of the political debate?
If not, then it gives reason for my second assertion: The virus crisis has revealed how politics shapes our evangelical Christian interpretation more than Scripture.
I say this because I have learned more about the political perspective of God’s people in the last 5 months than I have about our God and Savior.
The right narrative for the church
God’s purpose in redemptive history is the story we find ourselves in. God highlights people and actions not celebrated or esteemed by the world of politics. Take Jesus of Nazareth, scarcely mentioned in secular writings for 100 years after his life, yet the Lord of all.
If we align with God’s evaluation, we live for a different purpose, see with different eyes, and speak a different message.
God’s concern is not primarily about rights, government authority, human heroes, public health, media bias, face-masks, and so on. God’s concern is with the announcement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the godliness of his people, the unity of the church, and our lives of doing good. In short,
God’s purpose is with how we represent the alternative kingdom of the crucified and risen Lord.
Who are we?
Consider the following passage. This asserts our new identity. We are aliens in the world. God has rescued us from the futile way of the world through the blood of Jesus. God’s certain and final evaluation of every detail of our lives controls us. Peter is establishing the operating software in the lives of God’s people.
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet 1:17–19 ESV)
Let’s contrast this with the society of unbelief that does not care about God’s judgment. People live as though this life is their all-in-all. They see no need of redemption. Such a perspective shapes their interpretations of events. It shapes their politics.
The church then faced opposition, prejudice, and local hostilities. Their leaders did not think of Christianity as an essential business. The community persecuted them. They took away their livelihoods.
Your operating system
Peter calls the Christians to look like people who serve the King whose blood was spilled to rescue them, and to be citizens of an invisible kingdom which will swallow up all the politics of this world. Peter asks:
How would this passage shape your view of this present crisis?
How often have you reflected on the final judgment? on the vanity of this world? on the blood of Christ which has rescued you?
How often have you remembered that you are an alien in this world?
And how have those perspectives affected what you think is important? and what you say?
And what about our purpose?
Later, Peter tells us the goal of our lives: that people be impressed with God’s grace and glory.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet 2:9 ESV)
Peter does not say, that they may proclaim the excellencies of your civil rights, or the excellencies of your expert, or the excellencies of your view of masks, or even the justice of your social justice cause.
The goal is to live and speak in such a way, as God’s unique people, that the outsiders see and hear one message from our mouths, and only one.
The church should be an outpost of Jesus new creation kingdom, not a gathering of political advocates.
Is your goal to declare the excellencies of your God? Is mine? If someone were to review all that we have said in the last few months, who or what would they conclude we are trying to magnify?
How we live as the people of God, with each other, in the unity which transcends politics and race and gender, is our primary witness to the world. I did not make that up. Jesus said it. Our love (John 13:33-35) and our unity (John 17:21-23) show the truth of who Jesus is.
Why do people know more about our politics than our observable distinctive love and unity?
Is that all we do?
I am not saying God’s people should not be involved in social issues (we support an organization that defends freedom of speech and are part of another that is about mending our polarization). I am saying that we should never allow God’s purpose to be co-opted by cultural narratives, even red-hot political ones. That allows politics to co-opt the Gospel.
The Christian alignment with politics corrupts our Gospel witness.
Our involvement is never on the culture’s terms but on God’s terms. Everyone wants to adopt Jesus into their cause. But he will not be so adopted. He is King, not a mascot.
Feeding the right narrative
I have determined to turn off the power of alternative narratives. In practice this requires me to read the news and pause. The pause is to look at the events through the lens of a Christian Mind.
In the next few posts I will continue to develop these thoughts.