Monday, August 07, 2006

The Christian in Politics - Love Your Adversary

This is my second post on the topic of how does a Christian express Moral distinction in the arena of politics. My first post contemplated the foundational Christian virtue of meekness. Meekness is vital in the life of the Christian and must express itself in the arena of politics as well as any other if we are to say that “Jesus is Lord of all”. By meekness I expressed that meekness does not necessitate a particular policy like pacifism but is a tempering virtue that limits the tactics a Christian can use as he stewards the awesome responsibility of wielding governmental power. A meek person’s worldview is permeated by the knowledge that God is sovereign and therefore the meek person does not find it necessary nor expedient in the long run to practice such tactics as gerrymandering or other manipulations of the rules which give an undue advantage to one party over another. Because we believe that God is sovereign, we can follow our principles even when it appears to be our undoing. Such an approach to the practical life of politics seems unrealistic to some but is not following Jesus a high risk act of faith.

In this post, I would like to consider another central tenet of the teaching of Jesus, love. Jesus Christ demands that Christians love their enemies. We are to bless them and not curse them. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is only lip service if we as Christians rationalize this cornerstone commandment if we state that such love and blessing does not apply in the realm of politics.
Jesus decreed in the Sermon on the Mount that to follow Him we must,
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

The realm of politics is filled with adversarial relationships in which this decree of Christ directly applies. How do we speak regarding our adversaries? Often, in the most zealous Christian circles including talk radio hosts, pundits who claim the name of Christ, talk of their adversaries as being, “idiots”, “dumb”, or “stupid”. I realize that this is all “good” fun but we must remember that Jesus said “woe to those who break even the least of these commands and teach others to do likewise”. Jesus said, “You have heard it said ‘Do not murder’ but I say that if you are angry of call your brother (and your adversary) “knuckle head” or “idiot” then you are in danger of hellfire." Oh, what a fire is set ablaze by our loveless speech in the realm of politics. Does not our even light-hearted speech betray a far deeper spiritual problem?

I can give numerous examples of how we show a lack of love toward our enemies in the realm of politics. We all remember the muckraking of the 2004 election. The right and some Christians were relentless in quoting Kerry’s, “I voted for the 87 billion before I voted against it”. My friends, this is the pot calling the kettle black. Do we not all misspeak? Instead of having grace with his mistake, Kerry was depicted as a man without convictions and a flip-flopper. This method of doing politics is nothing short of demonizing the enemy. Such a practice is diametrically opposed to the commands of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do we have a partisan double standard in this regard? One side ridicules the other side’s mistakes and then complains when they are ridiculed themselves. When our adversary makes a mistake, we smell blood and take advantage and post it all over the airwaves and the internet. This type of attitude is not the Spirit of Jesus Christ and is a direct violation of the decrees of God. Of course the temptation to take advantage and to ridicule is pervasive and considered “fair game” but do not we as Christians follow a Holy God? We are to be morally distinct. Such a standard takes purity of heart and a strong desire to serve our Lord in holiness and love. Does it represent a heart of love and understanding when the right is painted as heartless and “fascist”? Does it display a heart of love and understanding when the left is depicted as Godless and immoral? No, instead it reveals an attitude which demonizes and judges our adversary and such a heart is contrary to the liberating power of the gospel.

The entire process of seeking to uncover mud on the other side and rejoicing in the discovery of a possible lapse of judgment by our adversaries betrays a lack of understanding of the ways of Christ. Paul said, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth”;

Jesus adds to this the command to love our enemies. Such a discipline of love needs to become the defining characteristic of the Christian in the realm of politics. Does not the principle of Jesus still stand to “Do unto others as you would have done to you”. Do we enjoy it when a mistake from our past is brought to the surface and we are ridiculed as a result of it? We can all think of instances on both sides of the aisle where these principles are violated. As individual Christians and as a community, whether red of blue, we need to take responsibility for our side of the street. In so doing we will regardless of our policies adorn the Gospel with grace.

God Bless, brad

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