Come out from them and be separate

political BibleIt’s June, and the two presidential candidates from the major U.S. political parties have been chosen. Donald Trump. Hilary Clinton.

I want you to prayerfully consider a response to these choices based on the following passage of Scripture:

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”” (2 Corinthians 6:14–18)

Some people speak of “hold your nose and vote.” I say don’t do it. Don’t give your support to either of these candidates.

  • But if I don’t ___ will win, and we can’t have that.
    There is no “vote against” option in the presidential election. You are casting your vote for someone. When the final votes are tallied, your vote will count as an endorsement for the person you voted for, not a condemnation of the person you voted against. Your vote will provide an argument for their policies, a base for their mandate, an encouragement to continue doing what they are doing.
    I personally vote in no national elections. The reasons are too complex for a sub-point in this post, but I explain some in the post “Voting.”
    Many of you haven’t made that choice and are fearful that if you don’t vote in the presidential election, the voices of “the good” won’t be heard, only those of the ungodly. If that fear weighs on you, vote in the congressional election and all others. Influence those races through voting, and influence the presidential race by not voting.
  • But ___ is so much better than ___.
    No they’re not. Neither is basing their campaign on Christian values. Neither is exhibiting Christian values in their life. Neither is promoting policies that will strengthen the Kingdom… except in that the Kingdom is strengthened when it stands out in stark contrast with the surrounding culture.
  • If Christians don’t vote, we won’t have a voice in the process.
    You think not? What if every Christian in this country abstained from this election? You don’t think the major parties would begin to see what they could change to reconnect with the Christian vote?
  • It’s our Christian duty to vote.
    No it’s not. We are called on to be good aliens in this foreign land where we live. We are to obey the laws. We are to pay taxes. If voting were obligatory, you might could make a case from a sense of Christian duty. But even where it’s obligatory, most countries allow a “blank vote” to be cast.

I’m not one of those who says you can’t be a Christian and vote for Donald or vote for Hilary. You can make a lot of bad choices in life and still be a Christian. I’d just like you to prayerfully consider an action that goes against the American way but seems very much in line with the Kingdom way.

I’m worried about this election

votingI have to admit, this is one time I’m a bit concerned about the outcome of an election.

And it’s not because of who might win or who might lose.

I’m concerned about the lasting impact this election could have on the church; specifically, on individual Christians.

  • I’m afraid the fear will last. Many Christians are acting on fear when they think about voting. Fear that the wrong candidate will win. Fear of economic problems. Fear of foreigners. Fear of cultural change.
  • I’m afraid Christians will believe that power and influence are the way to change our world, rather than following the lead of the Lamb.
  • I’m afraid Christians will put their hope in the winner. Too many feel that politicians can fix what’s wrong with this country. Too many think that participating in politics or not participating in politics will determine the moral course of this nation.
  • I’m afraid Christians will believe the talk of American exceptionalism, identifying more with a country of this world than with the Kingdom of heaven.
  • I’m afraid Christians will identify more with those in power than the marginalized. I’m afraid we’ll forget that we are immigrants and foreigners, not full-fledged citizens.
  • I’m afraid the violence and hatred, fighting and division will bleed over into the church.

Christians need to be sure that the Kingdom shapes their politics and not vice versa. No matter who gets elected in November. I don’t care who wins. I just don’t want Christians to lose their identity.

Voting

votingWhen I was young, I was an avid voter. I was raised with the notion that being a good citizen was part of being a Christian. (don’t know that I was told that, but that was the message I heard)

At school, we were instructed in the political process and our role in that process. Through my high school government teacher, I even got to participate in the county political convention for one of the parties when I was a senior in high school.

During the years I was in Argentina, I didn’t vote. It wasn’t impossible, but it certainly wasn’t simple, especially because I lived a long way away from the U.S. embassy. (9-10 hours by bus, which is how I would have travelled)

When I returned to the United States, I began to be confronted with different views on Christians and politics. I came to realize that there wasn’t unanimity on the question throughout Christendom or even within churches of Christ. The more I studied the less comfortable I became with participating in the political process.

In recent years, I’ve come to feel that Christians shouldn’t align themselves with any one nation here on this earth. We are strangers and aliens, ambassadors from another kingdom. Just as I lived as an alien in Argentina, I believe that I should live as an alien in Texas.

At the same time, I believe that we have a responsibility to be informed about the issues of the day and willing to speak out on them; not to support any one candidate or party, but to support certain principles and ideals. I also believe that we should be working actively for the good of the city where we find ourselves; because of that I have begun to vote in non-national political contests and on referendums that affect my local community.

That’s been my journey, in brief. I don’t know that I’ve reached a final position on these questions. But that’s where I am today.

Patris and patriotism

We’ve all got favorite passages, right? One of mine is Hebrews 11:13-16, where it says:

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13–16)

In doing some research the other day, I saw something interesting. The word which ESV translates as “homeland” in verse 14 is the Greek word patris. Aside from this passage in Hebrews, it’s only used in the gospel stories which refer to the passage about a prophet being without honor is in his own place.

It’s interesting to me that this word is often used to refer to hometown (like in the gospels), and the Hebrews writer describes the patris they are seeking as a city that God is preparing. The feeling seems to be that of a place to belong, a place to be identified with. That’s what we’re looking for, what we don’t really have on this earth.

I’ve said it before: I’m very patriotic… for the patris that God is preparing for me. No other loyalty can rival that.

A foreigner’s Fourth of July

file000965646047Can you imagine what it must be like for aliens on Independence Day? (Aliens as in foreigners living in this country, not E.T. & Company)

I remember special days in Argentina. I was happy for those who celebrated around me, and I enjoyed the special foods that always accompanied those celebrations. There were school pageants to attend, and my kids took their place along with their other Argentine friends. I tried to learn about the celebrations and tried to enjoy them, even if they weren’t mine.

Civic holidays tend to be a bit more “in your face” in the United States. They especially find a place in churches in a way that I don’t see in other countries. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing red, white and blue.

So can you imagine how it feels for a foreigner? Can you imagine participating in the celebrations only to a point, recognizing that, while you benefit from the existence of this country, you’re not fully a part of it?

I’m hoping that you can imagine it quite well. For we are the foreigners, the strangers, the aliens…

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11–12)

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.” (Psalms 39:12)

I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.” (Psalms 119:19)

We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” (1 Chronicles 29:15)

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13–16)

“Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:19–20)

photo from MorgueFile.com