Christian ≠ Political Activism

  Is it our goal to cause the world to act like Christians?  Sadly, too many Christians, and even churches are placing a high emphasis on political activism.  Are we going there because it is easier than becoming like Jesus?  Has activism become a substitute for true Christianity?  Maybe…

  Paul teaches young Timothy that we are to lead quiet and peaceable lives (1 Timothy 2:2).  Often times the “church” is better known for what they are boycotting than how they are living in their communities.  It always strikes me as odd the way many believe their calling is to hold the “banner” for Christ in whatever way seems right to them.  Far too many stand outside marching for the “cause” of Christ, seeing their active participation in a protest as a demonstration of their deep abiding faith.  Unfortunately, their actions present a form of faith that leaves witnesses less than impressed.  

  Another question or concern comes to mind.  Does the church exist so as to make the world a better place to live?  At first it would seem the obvious answer to this question is yes.  But I’m not so sure.  The church was designed by God to bring honor and glory to his name.  The church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and called to be the salt and light of the world.  Jesus makes clear that as the light of the world, we are to let our light shine so that others may see our “good” works and give glory to God.  This may be the problem for us.  To some, “letting our light shine” means being as vocal publicly as possible when civic decisions are made that oppose the teaching and authority of scripture.  So is it our goal to cause the world to act like Christians?

  “Christianity” has recently been flexing its muscles following the last election.  Some have a renewed confidence that America will one day again be referred to as a “Christian nation”.  But why do we feel a boost in confidence or zeal only when we believe an election has gone “our” way.  While it seems obvious, it is worth remembering…God is not a Republican…God is not a Democrat…God is not an Independent, though he is independent.  And God is not American.

  So what is the purpose of the church?  The church is the Christian community of believers.  Its purpose is to be found in bringing glory to God, encouraging one another, and in evangelizing the world.  John Howard Yoder said, “The New Testament places corporate action and responsibility in the Christian community and not on the level of society at large and does not anticipate the use of the state as the instrument of change.”  Essentially, the church does not and should not rely on government to facilitate change in the world.  Jesus said that the world will know we are his disciples if we love one another.  It seems to follow that we must also demonstrate love for those outside the church as well.  Everett Ferguson wrote, “The church offers an alternative society, where the methods of Jesus are exemplified in personal and community relations.”  We ought to be involved in the communities in which we live and worship.  But this truth should never be an excuse for acting out in response to that communities lack of Christian values.

  God has not called us to legislate Christian values.  He has called us to live out Christian values.  In their book, Resident Aliens, Hauerwas and Willimon wrote, “The habit of Constantinian thinking is difficult to break.  It leads Christians to judge their ethical positions, not on the basis of what is faithful to our peculiar tradition, but rather on the basis of how much Christian ethics Caesar can be induced to swallow without choking.”  God’s purpose for the church is not to be dominated by the state.  But equally true, it has never been God’s purpose for the church to dominate the state.  We are not called to be politically active in hopes of curing the world’s ills.  We are called to live according to the will of God and shine light in a world of darkness.  Ferguson said, “The church does not have a social strategy; the church is a social strategy.”  It has been said that the alternative to coercion through legislation is persuasion through incarnation.  Christ came to this world and left us an example that we should follow.  We must always seek to bring glory and honor to God in all we say and do.  May our steps be worship.  May our thoughts be praise.  May our words bring honor to his name.

Keith Harris serves as the Preaching Minister at WindSong Church of Christ in Little Rock, AR. He enjoys life in Little Rock with his wonderful wife and two great kids. Keith holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Harding University, as well as a Master of Science degree in Ministry from Lubbock Christian University. He enjoys playing golf, traveling, and the Arkansas Razorbacks.

7 Comments
  1. Reply
    Mike Mobley May 8, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Amen! The effect influence of the church is only in the purpose and mission of the church that Christ has given her, which you have so clearly explained. I am 62 yrs old and have seen our society and culture pass through so many experiences and changes. I am have been a student and teacher of history. I continue to be an observer that I may be able to discuss it from a Christian mind. I have seen over and over again one immutable truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only solution. Government has never been. And I believe God’s greatest work is in changing individual lives and minds one person at a time.

  2. Reply
    Wes Dawson May 8, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    It is good to read an article that shows someone still knows what the church is all about. I heard so much political commentary from the pulpit and the brethren in the last election that I was beginning to wonder if I had stumbled into a political debate instead of a worship service. We need reminded now and then that living for Christ makes a better impression on the world and improves it more than politics or earthly government ever can. I have been preaching for fifty years and find your article to be proof that the church has not totally lost its purpose and mission.

    • Reply
      Keith Harris May 10, 2017 at 8:48 am

      Thank you for your words of encouragement and your years of service.

  3. Reply
    Joe Slater May 9, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Methinks my brother doth protest too much. I don’t know of a congregation anywhere more known for political activism than for trying to model Christ-like behavior, flawed though we may be. Your contention might be said of some in the denominational world (Westboro Baptist comes to mind) , but if you’re talking about churches of Christ it’s a gross overstatement, at least among congregations I’ve known or known about. I think I’d qualify as a social conservative (I support the sanctity of innocent human life and Biblical marriage), and the vast majority of brethren I associate with share those convictions, but I’ll also say a majority of them shy away from any political “activism” whatever with the possible exception of voting. They may express concern, as I do, over the nation sliding into a moral cesspool, but why is that wrong? God destroyed four cities for their moral perversion. Is it ungodly for me to want my country to avoid that? Is it wrong for me to want my governing officials to do that which God Himself has charged them to do (uphold righteousness and punish evil-doers, Romans 13)? Bottom line, this isn’t a case of either/or (either be politically active OR model Christ-like behavior); why can’t I do both? There is always the danger of the tail wagging the dog, but there is also the danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water (don’t you just love my illustrations?)

    • Reply
      Keith Harris May 10, 2017 at 8:47 am

      I hope you didn’t misunderstand the point of this article. No one has really said it better than Everett Ferguson…”The church is not called to enter the secular arena in order to make a sick world well. She is called to act well and so to serve as a reconciling witness to society.” My point is not that we should avoid praying for our country and nation’s leaders. Certainly we are called to that, e.g. the passage you cited among others. Standing in picket lines and participating in protests are not the only mediums of the day through which we may be viewed as political activists. Notice the title of the article. I am referencing the individual. I cannot tell you how many of my brothers and sisters are posting in social media…and making a mockery of Christ. While the convictions they hold and profess I would largely agree with, the manner in which they express their opinions/beliefs is not Christ-like. So, I hope you didn’t misunderstand my point. My point is that we cannot use our convictions as an excuse to treat others with hate. We cannot allow ourselves to be so overcome with “policy” that we lose sight of the quiet lives of peace we are called to live (1 Timothy 2:2).

  4. Reply
    Debbie Taylor May 22, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    very good and encouraging preacher…..keep doing God’s will…if my faith had not been stronger than ignorance and fear, I would have been forced to rethink religion…I saw some very ugly things said about a specific party and I was even condemned to hell by some for voting a certain way…..I believe this is most near God’s truth…thanks

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