People have asked me multiple times over the last year why I don’t speak out more on political issues. Recently, I have received a few messages from a few people who wrongly assumed I had posted something on social media as a rebuttal to something political or cultural that they posted on their own timelines. Over the last year, more times than I can count, I have been, at times, asked/demanded to speak more strongly into the political atmosphere. Most of those times, I sensed that people desired on some level for their pastor to land on their side of the political fray. People want their spiritual leaders to wear the hat which they wear, raise the fist that they raise, and plant the sign in their front yard to match the five they have planted in their own.
Sorry to disappoint you. I really mean that. I am sorry you are disappointed that I do not match the actions of those who give full vent to their political and cultural beliefs.
To say it plainly, my voice is not for sale and will not be – especially in the very sad arena of American politics and the cultural chaos attached to it. I live by biblical convictions in what I hope is an increasingly purified allegiance to Jesus Christ as my King. Consequently, I have no desire to jump in the weekly septic tank of online banter about political and cultural issues that are raging every day when I awake and every night when I enter rest. Having said all of that, I thought it might be good for anyone who is interested to know why I choose this route. It certainly isn’t fear or worry that I won’t be liked. I’ve spent my entire Christian life as an equal opportunity offender. My whole ministry has been about challenging and changing the status quo. I do not mind a good fight over a worthy issue in which I know I can make a lasting difference. No, my refraining from the current cacophony of voices is something other than a desire to be admired or liked by all. The new status quo is outrage and debate. Honestly, it’s really boring. So I do not give myself to it.
Here are some reasons why I choose daily not to jump in the mud:
1. My prayer accomplishes much. My protests do not. I am only allotted a certain amount of mental, emotional and spiritual bandwidth in this life. I want to be a wise steward of my time and energy. I can either talk to God in prayer and hear back from Him, or I can waste time posting social media grenades that hold nearly zero lasting value. I can dedicate my time to Kingdom virtue or cultural venting. I cannot do both. I choose to abstain from venting. Venting edifies nobody and makes no lasting difference for the Kingdom to which I belong.
2. In the current cultural climate, there is a hyper-abundance of opinion. These opinions are not changing anyone’s minds. Social media has truly become an echo chamber. It has also become the primary instrument of facilitating that which is counter to the Christian’s call to deny self, pick up the cross daily and follow Jesus. Because there is never-ending political and cultural drama, it requires an inward obsession to stay engaged with it. And I’m not obsessed with this culture since it is of infinitely less value than the culture of the Kingdom. I choose to give my thoughts, convictions and opinions within the context of things which matter most. I have lots of thoughts and opinions and I try to wisely share the most important of them. They are almost always connected to the reign of Jesus and the reality that we are all accountable to Him. That’s more than enough to own me.
3. It is my observation that those who continually feast on and speak into the chaos of the culture are mostly unhappy people. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is not read/heard in their words, nor is that fruit abounding from their lives. Their outrage, entitlement, exaltation of politics and false hope in human leaders clearly undermines “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).” I do not wish to engage in activity that diminishes the fruit of the Spirit in my life. Social media hostility and drama make “provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). My flesh does not need any help to give off a spiritual stench. Why would I intentionally engage in any practice which provokes my flesh? Why would I do anything that replaces the fruit of the Spirit with a fruitless branch or, worse yet, rotten fruit? I will not do that.
4. The next verse after the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 reads, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This verse teaches me that the Holy Spirit actually tempers me in the arena of my emotions and strong desires. In fact, I am told that Christians have killed their passions. We pound the nails in them, not empower them. I am not to give vent to my passions without restraint. There are multiple verses in Proverbs that declare that it is the fool who gives full vent to what’s in his mind or in his heart. I take this very seriously as it instructs my soul about the anti-Kingdom potential for me to play the daily fool by stating all that it is in my mind. I actually believe the communication in the present hour is mostly beneath the honor of Jesus and the dignity of His followers. I seek to honor Him by exercising my right to remain silent, or at least to remain tempered in what I choose to communicate.
5. Finally, I have learned in all areas that “my people” are Christians. My people are not Democrats or Republicans. My people are not white, middle class southerners. What describes me does not define me. My people are Christians. All Christians are my people. My people are not conservatives. My people are not liberals. Some of my people have very different foci in the realm of politics. Some of my people are currently consumed with cultural elements that are heightened in the present hour…but those elements will utterly pass away at the end of the age. I disagree with them in many areas of politics and culture, but they are still my people because we have the same Father. We have the same justification through the sacrifice of Jesus. We have the same Holy Spirit living inside of us. I am unwilling to live in any way that removes the identity that Jesus Christ purchased for me with His life, and to put upon myself or others an inferior identity. I don’t promote or give myself to lesser loyalties. I don’t add my voice to the wholesale division that is burning through the Body of Christ. Scripture actually commands me to live earnestly for unity among believers and to “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” (Romans 16:17). I can’t obey Kingdom principles like these if I am constantly engaged in the never-ending cultural drama, online outrage or political angst. It’s actually a choice between me being distracted by a kingdom or me being relentlessly devoted to a Kingdom. I’ve made my choice.
Now notice this: I did not tell you what you should do. If you ask me, and you are a Jesus-follower, I will soberly share with you copious amounts of Scripture that intensely warn us about how we release our words. I will also ask you to do an honest research of Scripture to determine what Jesus, Paul, Peter and the other writers said about the horribly unjust and anti-Christian government of their day. You will be surprised at how little of their influence was spent in protest. Honestly, I do not see anything they wrote or said that would motivate me to spend my own influence on advocating or protesting the government…or to inordinately spend my energies fighting for my own rights. It simply is not there. Perhaps the most obviously anti-Gospel attitude and activity is for one to perpetually fight for one’s own rights. Jesus laid His own down and teaches us that, if we will follow Him, we must do the same.
What is clear in Scripture is the example of the Son of God who endured the single most punctuated display of political and cultural injustice that has ever occurred on this planet. Jesus did not try to merge with the human government of His day. Neither did the Apostles. They taught us to obey and respect and pray for the governmental leaders. The sinless Savior willingly submitted Himself to the Father’s will which included a stripping of His human rights, a mockery of a legal process which unjustly incarcerated, tortured and executed Him, the abandonment of every one of His twelve closest followers and a humiliating death in the eyes of the public.
He never protested. He trusted. He kept His heart affixed to the Father’s goodness and love. He prayed. He wept out to God. He chose the route of no vengeance – even though He had both the authority and the power to release it if He had chosen. He did not demand His rights. Jesus laid everything down for the glory of the Father.
And, again, He trusted. And He walked through every bit of what was needed in order to secure obedience and sacrifice. He actually let others win so that He could fulfill the Father’s plan. And then He forgave them for winning at His expense and He interceded for them.
What was the result?
“Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:9-11
I am choosing His way. We all have a choice to make.