Wednesday, June 07, 2017
How To Transform Culture Without Being Entangled In Politics
Honestly, this is a very challenging topic for me. Not only to write about, but more so to walk out in a practical way.
Here’s why: Because quite often people will mistake engaging the culture with being political.
For example, systemic racism is a pervasive reality in America. For many, this is seen as a political issue and not a moral issue. Therefore, if I write about the evils of racism, or if I point out the injustices suffered by people of color in this nation, I am often accused of being political.
But justice and politics are not the same thing.
Justice is about pointing out what is wrong [injustice] and working to make it right again.
So, feeding the hungry, caring for the outcast, standing alongside the LGBTQ community, speaking out against exploitation, and shining a light on racial inequality isn’t about politics – it’s about justice.
Politics is about choosing sides, advocating for laws to be passed or struck down, aligning with a particular ideology and standing for a certain platform.
Those who follow Christ cannot ignore issues of justice. We cannot turn a blind eye to suffering. We cannot allow people who are made in the image of God to be marginalized and exploited, especially if there is something we can do about it.
But, this is where the question arises: What can we do about it?
For some, a political solution makes the most sense. They rally around a particular party or politician hoping to bring about justice in that way.
For others, they are convinced that politics isn’t the best way to transform a culture or influence society. Instead of pursuing the political path, these people might instead seek to bring about a change at the grassroots level. This is often the slower approach to change, but in the long run, it is the most enduring one.
In the meantime, there are those from both sides who take the time to care for the broken, comfort the oppressed, and feed the hungry. This is how we should respond to the immediate needs of people who suffer injustice, long before we take the justice path or the political option, if we hope to alleviate the pain.
So, for someone like me who has abandoned the political option. It can sometimes be challenging to walk the line, so to speak, on issues of injustice.
There is still a need to critique the culture and to point out the contrasts between the glorious Kingdom of God and the pathetic kingdoms of the world.
For some, these critiques are interpreted as being political. And in some cases they may be right about that. But as long as we can critique the culture without taking sides, and without becoming nationalistic in the process, this critique is still valid.
Why? Because our main goal is to transform the culture from the inside out. One of the ways we do that is to point out how Jesus’ Kingdom is better and how He has a better plan to transform the world with preemptive love and proactive agape.
Many Christians take this too far, in my estimation. They not only want to speak out against injustice and point out the better way of Jesus, but they continue on to seek out political power and influence of their own. This, to me, is a mistake.
Why? Because the best way to change the world is through the Gospel, not through political influence.
Did the early church impact their culture? Yes, they most certainly did.
Did they do so by infiltrating the Roman government or political process? No, they did not.
And let’s keep in mind that they most certainly could have done so if that was their intention. There are numerous examples of Roman officials and civil magistrates who came to faith in Christ in the early church.
Instead of seeking to install Christians at the highest levels of power, they required every one of those new converts to resign their positions of authority in the Roman government and renounce political entanglements.
"A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God." (Hippolytus of Rome)
Remember: Their own brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ were being arrested and put to death during this time. How tempting it must it have been for them to leverage their political influence to set those people free and to end the persecution of their faith?
Still, they remained true to their Lord’s example and refused the temptation to entangle their faith with politics. They were willing to obey Jesus and remain loyal to His Kingdom even to the death.
What’s more, they didn’t wait for the government to change the world. They got busy changing it themselves with the best weapon possible: The Gospel of Jesus.
The Gospel that had transformed their lives from the inside out was more than powerful enough to transform their neighbors, and their community, and yes, even their empire – one person at a time.
Untangling ourselves from politics doesn’t mean that we unplug ourselves from the culture around us. Far from it.
If anything, we must become more engaged with the culture – and more acquainted with those who are suffering at the hands of the Empire – so that we can administer the love of Christ and spread the virus of His Kingdom to those who are broken under the crushing weight of injustice.
We cannot transform the world by disengaging from the culture. Being salt and light involves getting our hands dirty. We must step into the fight. We must carry our cross and suffer with those who are suffering.
As my friend Jackie Pullinger once said, “The Gospel is always life for those who receive it and death for those who bring it.”
Our lives belong to the King. Let’s walk in the power of His resurrection and bring life and light to those who are in darkness.