Thursday, September 10, 2009

Walkin' the Tightrope

"Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." 1Corinthians 4:1

"For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" Matthew 25:29,30

I have been struggling and wrestling with the proper role of a Christian in modern American politics and culture. I read chapter four in 1Corinthians and come away initially with a message that Christians should focus on Christ and forget about everything else. This is true, per se, but I mean in the sense that there is no involvement whatsoever in the politics of the day. We should focus upon only serving others and ignoring the deeds and events of the day. I call this the ostrich mentality, or the "meek" school of Christianity, waiting to inherit the earth.

But I look at the broader picture in which Paul writes this letter (i.e. in context), and I think he was speaking to a proud church that had a lot of trouble casting away their love of money and power, much like modern America. In this context, the exhortation is to love Christ more than these other things.

I wonder how much legal authority the average inhabitant of Corinth actually possessed. The Roman authority left much local power alone, as long as they received their proper taxes and homage, they didn't interfere too much. So, did these church-members get to vote? Did they have any political clout? Any duty?

The reason I ask, is because in this country, we do have these things. And the counter-arguement to the "meek" school, is that we were given incredible bounty in this country and we are expected to do great things with that bounty because of it.

The "meeks" may argue that by spending their lives in poverty, serving others, they are growing the Kingdom and serving God's people. I agree. However, how many more people could you serve and help, if you were a man of resources and influence? The arguement is that of gaining as much influence in this world as you can, while still remaining a Christian, and using that influence and wealth to further God's will. It is a dangerous enterprise, but one worth taking.

If you are born with some measure of ability, wealth, station and influence, should you not use those resources to further the Kingdom? If you work hard and succeed in your life's work, shouldn't you use those resources? I don't mean to detract from the "meek". In fact I greatly admire their work and recognize the holiness of their dedication. But I think God calls us all in different ways.

We live in a country that has proven to be the most successful economic, and political experiment ever conducted by mankind. Second place is so distant, it is hard to measure the differences between contenders well enough to decide who gets the honor. We have been given much. The success of this country has been the greatest boon to worldwide Christianity ever to exist. Shouldn't our work for the Kingdom include preserving and perpetuating that which has provided so much? Don't we have an obligation as Christians to get involved and active in the governance of a free society, or risk losing it all?

Now, I have just crossed an invisible, but very important line, in that I have just created a Biblical justification for political activism. I am walking a tight rope, and if I lean too much to the left or right, I fall. We don't want clergymen running our government, but we can't have God divorced from our decision-making process any longer. I read scripture for wisdom, but have to be careful not to have my desires color my interpretations.

I was born a fighter by nature. I am contentious, argumentative, and strong-willed. Is it possible, that those are my spiritual gifts which God will use for His purposes? Or do I need to keep working on being meek? Some of my friends teased me that offending people was my spiritual gift. I laughed heartily at that, but inside I know there is some truth to it.

Do we focus on loving others to the exclusion of taking a stand, or do we start participating in a political process that gets messy and embattled and risk chasing away those that might otherwise seen some of Christ in you? Politics can be extremely contentious and very un-Christ-like.

Do we try? Or do we focus on other things? What about facing evil?

I have written in the past about my beliefs in fighting for what is right. I believe in standing up and resisting evil, with force if necessary. Is that me? Is it Biblical? Is it Pride?

I believe that is can be all of those things, and that only by putting my trust in God will I be able to stay on this tightrope.

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