Well, that's political...
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:22b–23
‘It’s just political,’ says most everyone about something. It’s kind of an interesting phrase if you think about it. What do we mean when we say it? In much of our discourse, what we really mean to say is, ‘That person speaking has been duped by another person and is therefore not trustworthy.’ And more often than not, it is a conversation killer, it’s as if we were saying, ‘This topic is propaganda (another ill-defined word), my opinion is right and needs no conversation, unless you affirm my thoughts and feelings.’ I was having a wonderful conversation with someone yesterday, and was caught off guard with this phrase, ‘It’s political.’ She just meant, ‘Relating to secular government.’ Before we get into my thoughts, I’ll just say that I would encourage a narrow use of the word because otherwise it is so often dismissive of others. It is not usually a charitable phrase in conversation (not that I am the paragon of virtue here).
So let’s define what might be a fine definition of the word political. It should mean at least in part relating to the city (polis), or relating to the citizenry. And with that, everything we might say is political, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. However, why not talk about ideas rather than dismiss others (as though your listener 100% shares your view point)? We swim in an invisible set of assumptions that is our culture, and we don’t realize how dismissive we are of everyone but ourselves. Where is the charity? And it betrays to others how distracted we are with the world around us. Since March 2020 (or before), we have been duped by the news to care way too much about our opinions. It is kind of ironic how the Vaxxers and the Anti-Vaxxers, Covid-ers and Anti-Coviders, Whigs and…wait…no… (and any and every other polarity) are giving money to these multi-million/billion dollar news conglomerations who then continue to feed polarizing stuff to humans who don’t actually need so much news.
As much as we are citizens of a city here on earth, it is a lesser city than the city of the living God. We are, biblically speaking, called exiles. In other words, you who live in your house with cushy couches and beds that are 2 feet thick (can you imagine! Such ridiculous luxury that we have), have something more in common with the Afghan refugees than you do with your non-Christian American neighbor. You home is not your home, we just passing through. We have those songs in the hymnbooks of our churches, but do we actually believe it when our greatest anxieties are about the store running out of milk during the riots last year?
And if our citizenship in heaven is that much more real and valuable than our current citizenship, what then should we do about it? I have a short suggestion from the apostle Paul: ask how you can use these things for the furtherance of the gospel. We are often well versed in gospelizing our thing. We wear t-shirts that preach, ‘I love Pac Man,’ or lanyards that preach another cause or we visit the capital for still yet another even admirable cause. We are preaching a gospel, just not the gospel of peace. How much would it take to realize this has been training for preaching the true gospel? How much can we pivot and make ourselves all things to all men to save some? Paul says in a previous verse, he’s actually laid aside some of his own rights so that he’s not an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Have you ever asked how your stuff is an obstacle to the gospel? I wonder it often. I can’t help but reflect on the various activisms in my church growing up (almost all of which were bona fide good things) that might have been a cause of stumbling for the gospel. I can’t help but wonder if all the political activism of the past 50 years was worth it now that cultural Christianity has basically died and the remnant that is the church is bitterly opposed to their neighbors because of that previous activism. I honestly don’t know the answer, but I do wonder. I do wish abortion was impossible and we could simply save the exposed children like the church did for the Romans. I do wish we wouldn’t take human life so cavalierly where doctor-assisted suicide wasn’t such a favorable thing. I do wish citizen-funded schools wouldn’t indoctrinate elementary students in our confused sexual ethic. And I am grateful that God has placed considerate Christians to promote good in such places. I think it would be good if more Christians trained themselves in such a way as to be useful here rather than merely thinking about potential income.
But most of us are not in charge in any way in our world, and most of us have very little influence broadly speaking. I’m not going to have much of a beneficial effect on my US Representative and there is very little chance of it with my State House Representatives (but I can actually visit and pray with them). Our effect on the modern landscape is so limited in a very similar way to Paul’s in ancient Rome. And so I think we must hone our message, and always be asking, ‘how does everything I do effect my gospel witness?’