There are couple of things I hear Christians say once in a while with regard to the current situation in America that really make me want to slap Gilligan with my Skipper’s hat. (I’ll take “Seventies References” for 200, Alex.) This is one of those, excerpted from the Addressing Objections section of the book, Resistance to Tyrants: Romans 13 and the Christians Duty to Oppose Wicked Rulers.
Objection: “Christians should not get tangled up in politics, but should rather focus on preaching the Gospel.”
I would be very happy to agree to this if it were even possible. But in America, 2013, it really isn’t. To prove that assertion, I challenge you to think of one area of your life that is not regulated or controlled by some form of civil government.
It is involved when your baby is born, in filling out the Birth Certificate; and, heavily involved in the healthcare industry that’ll oversee the delivery. Even if you choose to birth at home, or with a midwife, stand by for government hurdles at least, if not blatant interference and/or intimidation.
When you die, your loved ones will pay inheritance taxes and the mortician will have to follow all manner of civil regulations in the disposal of your remains. So, literally, from womb to tomb the government’s fingers are in your business.
I’m the first to say, yes, it’d be great to not have to get tangled up with the government and its always-attendant politics. But they will not allow this.
You may not want to get involved, but their tentacles are already wrapped around everything you do. From the light-bulbs and toilets you can install in your own home, to the food you purchase, to the water or milk or whatever you may drink, to the very air you breathe, the American government is regulating all of it.
What this Objection is really saying, therefore, is, “Let’s all do our best to ignore the tyranny we live with, and see if, by so doing, they’ll basically leave us alone, so that we can busy ourselves with churchy things (which are also regulated, by the way.)”
There are a lot of videos, easily available on the internet right now, that visually document instances in which Christians who take to public street corners to preach the Gospel are then confronted by police and either told to shut it down, or are arrested outright. What shall we say about this sort of thing, which by all accounts is happening in America with increasing frequency? How will the current Objection deal with this dilemma?
We’ve reached the point where it’s no longer unheard of, or even all that unusual, for the “politics” to stomp on the scene with its iron feet and silence the Gospel. Now what?
Fall back some more, maybe? Give more ground? Hey, they haven’t found a way to regulate your prayer-life yet: Maybe we could modify the Objection to, “Don’t get tangled up in politics; just pray where they can’t find you.”
In a country in which politicians of both parties have reached into everything, it is worse than naïve to urge Christians to “not get involved.”
But the final reason why this Objection utterly fails is that it betrays an appalling lack of understanding about the nature and reach of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when it is faithfully preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. Read the book of Acts. Time and again, the preachers of the Gospel found themselves tangled up with politics. The reason was, because the true Gospel doesn’t stay in church: it changes everything, including whole cultures, along with their governments.
Those first preachers of the Gospel in Acts didn’t get in trouble so much for creating a “new religion.” What they got in trouble for was announcing the dominion of “another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:7)
What this Objection fails to realize is that the assertion that “Jesus is Lord” is not politically neutral. Rulers in rebellion toward God hear it as a threat. It is right for them to hear it as a threat because it is. More than a threat, it is their downfall, their doom, and even if they don’t admit it, despots everywhere since the time of Christ have instinctively known it to be so.
As we have seen above [in the book’s exposition of Romans 13:1-7], the civil magistrate was ordained as God’s minister, His deacon. That right there ought to be enough to let us know that it’s foolish to separate God from politics. It’s all His.
Every tyrant will answer to Him. This is a big part of why we should pray for kings and rulers and all who are in authority. They will stand before God and give an account. They therefore are in desperate need of the Gospel.
Was David getting tangled up in politics when he urged Gentile kings to “Kiss the Son,” and to escape God’s wrath by trusting in Him? (Psalms 2:12) Was John the Baptist not focusing on the Gospel when he rebuked the pagan Edomite, King Herod, with the Law of God for marrying his brother’s wife? (Mark 6:17-19)
As with trying to separate from all sinners everywhere, you’ll have to actually leave the planet to make this Objection a workable reality.
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