Someone recently asked me to describe my pastoral political values. What role do I think a pastor should have regarding political issues? Here is my incomplete and imperfect list to consider.
- Don’t speak on extra-biblical issues as if you had biblical authority. Many people equate the words of a preacher with the words of God. That is a dangerous line that we must be careful not to speak of things as if we speak for God on an issue on which he hasn’t clearly articulated his views.
- A faithful sermon should be able to be preached in any culture at any time. God’s Word is adequate for all people at all times. If my sermon could only work in my country for people like me during my time, I might be twisting Scripture for the sake of my agenda.
- Align yourself with ethical issues rather than specific individuals. As a pastor, I do not believe that I have any business trying to encourage people to support a particular party or person. I speak with authority from the pulpit regarding what God says on issues, but my opinion as a citizen on specific people or platforms should be discussed outside of a pulpit. I must beware of mixing the two.
- If my presentation sounds more like a political stump speech than a gospel proclamation, I have crossed the line. If my sermon could be used in a political rally, I don’t think I was being faithful to the Bible. There is a line in preaching a moral truth and validating a particular party.
- Speak to people more than you speak against people. John the Baptist got imprisoned not because he was protesting Herod’s sinful actions, he got arrested because he was saying it to Herod. Gain an audience with those in leadership and speak to the politicians rather than just railing against them.
- Find opportunities to build bridges instead of burning them. If I identify with a political party more than a biblical church, I have removed the chance of earning the opportunity to converse with someone who believes differently than me. Your party and your church should not be seen as one and the same. You are being used by that party. I want to nurture the privilege to talk honestly with those who think my ways are ridiculous.
- Avoid separating commandments into those that are essential and negotiable. As I speak out against sins, I need to make sure that I don’t have particular grievous sins that I think are awful and other pet sins that I view as harmless. I need to keep my standards for sin consistent and not just speak out against the issues with which I have never struggled.
- Model for your church how you interact with people in sinful lifestyles. As a follower of Jesus, I must find the balance of learning how to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). I shouldn’t be surprised by people in the world living according to the manner of the world (1 Cor. 5:10). It’s not my job to judge those on the outside but rather those on the inside (1 Cor. 5:12). With those who are outside the church, I need to be as gracious and loving and intentional as I possibly can be and pray that those around me will imitate that model.
- Don’t base all of your actions on reactions. Know what you stand for rather than reacting to what you stand against. Too many times, Christians are baited into situations without being aware. Part of so much of the world’s strategies these days is figuring out how to upset believers and use them to progress their aggressive agenda. Don’t be any politican’s or another party’s puppet!
- Learn how to sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land. The majority of the timeline recorded in the Bible shows God’s people struggling to live for him in a culture that did not. Why are we shocked if we have to endure some of that as well? How can we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land (Ps. 137:4)? How can we follow him when we live among people who do not? We better figure that out quickly.
- Preach grace for all louder than you preach condemnation for some. For all the rampant sin in our culture, do we sound more like we are condemning people to hell or inviting them to heaven? While we do have to speak against sin, do we speak of it in such a way that sounds like people can still repent and change from it?
Regarding cultural issues, you must constantly ask the question: am I reacting and responding more like a member of a political party or an ambassador of a missional Christ?