This guest post is by Lukus Collins.
There are many positions and actions that Christians support and take that, while often derived from and not contradictory to, are nonetheless not explicitly stated in the teachings of Christ and the New Testament Apostles. Not only that, but most American Christians seem, in my opinion, to most focus their attention and passion on those issues not explicitly stated in NT teaching, while largely ignoring those that are.
I find it very interesting that Jesus and the NT writers never directed Christians to petition their governing rulers for moralistic legal reforms. Every effort they took to redeem the fallen culture around them was carried out through gospel means, not political means. This doesn’t necessarily rule out political involvement for the Christian, but it does place it in a secondary position.It’s a telling fact to me that Jesus didn’t command us to defend and uphold the legal definition of marriage, but he did tell us to feed the poor. He didn’t teach that we should outlaw every mind-altering substance, but he did direct us to love our enemies. He didn’t say to make sure to elect Christian politicians, but he did warn us against false prophets. He didn’t instruct us to take up public policy against false religions or rich people, but he did command us forgive every offense and to give generously. He didn’t tell us to protect freedom of religion at all costs, but he did demand that we preach the gospel to every nation.
Now, obviously, our positions and actions cannot and should not be limited solely to those which are explicitly commanded in the Bible. Many good and worthy concepts and causes can be derived logically from Biblical doctrine even if they aren’t explicitly stated. And many more can be held and/or practiced without directly violating any Christian principle. But to the extent these secondary theories and deeds contradict or crowd out more primary Christian duties, they are illegitimate.
For instance, it is not automatically illegitimate for a Christian to take a political stand to ban gay marriage; in fact it may even be logically defensible based on indirectly related Biblical concepts. But to the extent such a stand sets up a collectivized “us vs. them” state of affairs, it may very well undermine our ability to reach out in love to a community that desperately needs the healing freedom of the gospel. I’m not at this time commenting on whether or not the push to ban gay marriage does in fact hamper gospel outreach to the gay population. But I am saying that it is every Christian’s responsibility to make that trade-off a part of the equation. Is the political goal worth the gospel cost?
This concept applies just as much to our brothers and sisters on the leftward lean of the political spectrum, even though the rightward leaners are usually more prominent and obvious with their moralistic politics. Take for instance the matter of wealth redistribution. Many Christians (even most right-wingers to at least some extent) take Jesus’s command to give to the poor as a validation of government policies that take from the rich to give to the poor. But to the extent that such policies lead me to abdicate my personal responsibility to freely give my resources, am I really fulfilling Jesus’s commandment?
And what is the ultimate goal of serving the needy? Is it not to demonstrate the love of Christ in a tangible way, and to correlate a physical gift of sustenance with the spiritual gift of salvation? Therefore, to the extent that a government handout leads the poor to look to a secular institution rather than the Church, it undercuts gospel efforts. Again, I am not attempting to make a determination here on the absolute virtue or evil of government welfare. I am, however, calling for a correct prioritization focused on the explicit commands of Jesus.
Jesus and the Apostles seemed to view political institutions as almost irrelevant givens. The church’s mission was and is the same whether under a theocracy, a foreign empire, or a democracy. Obviously, there is much that we can indirectly deduct from Christian principles regarding better and worse forms and roles of government. But any resulting conclusions must still retain their secondary status to those primary gospel directives which transcend time, culture, and political ideology. As Christians, our political goals (however noble) must always be subordinate to our gospel mission.
This is a lesson that I have been wrestling with recently. As a libertarian, I see my political beliefs as a natural outgrowth of a Christian rejection of coercion as an organizing principle for society. My identities as a Christian, a pacifist, and an anarchist are closely linked. However, I began to notice that more and more I was looking primarily to political means to find resolution for the obvious ails in society, instead of really recognizing the radical power of the gospel for spiritual and social change. It has taken time to readjust my mindset, but I am learning to understand in a deeper way that I must look first and primarily to gospel-centered methods rather than political methods.
This doesn’t mean that I have abandoned my political beliefs; in fact, I still plan and expect to be deeply involved in political issues. But I am spending more of my time and effort on gospel pursuits, and more importantly, my hope is in the gospel, not in elections.