n-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-debat-large570HILLARY OR TRUMP?

Social media is abuzz with the “only Christian choice” for next Tuesday’s election. It’s amazing to me that the “correct” option aligns with the prior political leaning of the advocate. I’ve yet to read of a conservative deciding that Hillary is the only proper and holy choice or a liberal suddenly realizing that Trump is the only option for Christ followers.

I’m not wading into that debate, but I would caution both sides against placing our hope in either candidate. Church history argues against the false conclusion that political power leads to a more Christian society.

POWER OR INFLUENCE?

Every time Jesus’ first disciples dreamed of position and power, He warned them that His measure of greatness was serving (Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45). When we ignore His warning, dreams of position and power sidetrack us.

Books and sermons on a Christian’s relationship to government often fail to distinguish between political power and cultural influence. The primary passages—Matthew 5:13-16, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, 1 Peter 2:13-16—clearly teach us that our role is to use whatever position we have to influence society toward righteousness and justice as we submit to governmental authority.

Biblically, influence and power are not the same.⇦Tweet that! The influence is ours, but the power is God’s. Historically, when Christians confuse the two, we lose both—today and forever.

Confusing influence and power diverts our energies from the only true hope for any society—the transforming power of new life in Christ. The Bible says we’re new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) endowed with power from on high (Acts 1:8) to live a life only explained by God’s presence in us (John 14:20).

Where we choose to invest our time and resources depends largely on where we think the solution lies. As more and more of us decide that the solution is political power, it changes our priorities.

We know Christ commands us to influence our culture. And we know that one of the primary ways we do this as Americans is by voting. But, these are the questions that bother me most when I think of all the time and energy Christians have poured into the pursuit of political power in the decades since the 60s:

  • America hasn’t become more righteous and just; it’s more decadent and unfair. What would have happened if we had devoted more effort equipping Christians to live out the gospel of Christ and less to telling Christians how to vote?
  • Families aren’t getting healthier; they’re falling apart. How do you think the families of our country would be different if we had been more passionate about transforming families in the way Christ values—through the hard work of disciplemaking in the context of authentic spiritual communities and less obsessive about entrenching the family value message in Washington D. C.?
  • The church doesn’t have more impact; its influence is almost negligible. What if Christians had spent more time studying their Bibles and praying for their neighborhoods, communities, states and nation, and less time glued to conservative talk radio and cable news while worrying about exit polls and economic trends?    

Confusing influence and power also deflects our focus from the state and final destination of human beings—either living in His love and power now looking forward to being with Jesus forever in a place called heaven or estranged from God in brokenness now and careening toward a forever in a place called hell. The Bible says we’re ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) representing Him as strangers and pilgrims (Hebrews 11:13). Our earthly citizenship is only temporary because we’re citizens of a better, heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16). Our true identity is in Christ and our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Even if your party loses political power on Tuesday, it doesn’t diminish your opportunities to influence our culture.⇦Tweet that!

Question: Do you have a story of how you’ve been sidetracked by the allure of earthly political power?