Politics and Christians
Many years ago I was talking with my (then) pastor about salvation. He said, “Once your ticket is punched, you’re saved. Your place in heaven is assured.” I thought it was a bit glib, a bit too easy, and my reading of Scripture convinces me I was right. While the ticket punching might get me on the train, it won’t guarantee I’ll make it to the end of the line. There are too many stops along the way, too many opportunities for train wrecks and other potential disasters.
This time of year we’re bombarded with messages from every candidate for every political position from president to dogcatcher. It seems to start earlier every year, and get nastier every year, and more expensive every year until we want to scream, “STOP!”
But it goes on, and on, and on. What’s a person to do? What’s a Christian to do?
Last Sunday I urged my congregation to lay aside personal concerns as they made their voting decisions. Forget party affiliation. Forget hot-button issues. Forget the various political agendas that threaten to overwhelm us. Instead, ask, “What is God’s agenda?”
It should not surprise you that the first place to look for God’s agenda is in Scripture, but not just the sound-byte, proof text verses we’ve become accustomed to. Instead, read huge chunks: Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Amos, Micah, Zechariah, and perhaps most important, the gospels, paying close attention to what Jesus said.
Here’s the difficult part of this assignment: you must put aside everything you’ve been told about Scripture, everything you think you know, and concentrate on what it says. Our scriptural prejudices lie deep and wide within us, so coming to the Bible with fresh eyes and ears won’t be easy—but it will be revealing and enlightening. What you find may surprise you.
One passage in particular I would recommend—Matthew 25:31-46. It’s called, “The Final Judgment.” The title alone should give us pause. This is the last stop on the train—the ultimate station. It’s where we all exit and find out what our destination will be.
Jesus says the Stationmaster will separate us into two groups as we disembark. Some of us will go to the left, some to the right. The division will be made not on whether our ticket has been punched, but on what we’ve done in our associations with “the least of these,” the Judge’s brothers and sisters. It won’t be enough to have a punched ticket—even if it’s for first class. What you’ve done along the way will decide your final destination.
What does this have to do with elections? I think we’ll be held responsible for more than what we’ve done personally to help the least of these. I believe we’ll also be questioned as to whose agenda we’ve supported when we’ve donated to campaigns, who we’ve voted for, and whether or not we’ve held them responsible for their attitude towards the least of these.
What have we/they done for children? Have we/they ensured adequate school funding? Equal educational opportunities? Safe, well-run, supportive schools? After-school programs that will help guarantee their future success?
What about the homeless? Have we/they assured them of the availability of a cup of cold water? Of adequate food and shelter? Of medical care? Of emotional and psychological counseling and support where necessary?
What about the poor? Have we/they supported adequate housing? The availability of jobs and job training? Adequate transportation to those jobs?
Take a look at your ticket. Where are you sitting? Are you with the sheep—or the goats?