Tell us who to vote for.
Wouldn’t that be easy. But I’m not trying to use discipleship to do an election; I’m trying to use an election to do discipleship. It’s not that this election doesn’t matter. It does. But not as much as making disciples. I write for our little tribe of Jesus-followers to reconsider our approach through the eyes of Jesus.
Disciples think with Jesus.
I’m surprised at how many people want to be told what to think and how to vote. Following Jesus means you have to love him with all your mind, which means you’ll have to learn to think. I’m sharing my thoughts – not because you need to think like me – but because I want you hungry enough to get on a journey to think with Jesus, and question assumptions like our spiritual ancestors always have.
This means Jesus-followers need to do something more than vote; we need to embrace our prophetic call to shine light in a dark culture. Through our words and deeds we are the living spotlights that remind our culture about the priorities of heaven. Consider the early Christians. They stood out from the rest of their culture in some very radical ways that made them impossible to ignore.
- Uncommon compassion and generosity with the poor.
- Total opposition to blood sport. They refused to be entertained by the gruesome sport of the masses.
- Unprecedented empowerment of women.
- Opposition to sex outside of marriage.
- Opposition to same-sex relations.
- Unsupportive of Roman military conquest.
- Unusual diversity and mixing of the ethnic groups and social classes.
- Complete opposition to abortion and infanticide.
- Jesus exclusivity. They claimed that Jesus was the only way to God.
I almost chuckle when I read the list. Half of the list sounds liberal, and the other half conservative. Because God’s agenda is neither left nor right; it’s neither progressive nor traditional; it’s another option altogether. This is why it’s dangerous to live predictably under any label. As soon as someone hears the label the judgment game begins – and everybody loses.
And we forget to shine.
Why does an election matter? Because it dramatically impacts the spiritual lighting of a nation. It determines what “sermon” a nation will be listening to for years to come. A politician does more than influence policy; he is given a unique voice. He possesses influence. He has a sway that turns the moral compass of a nation in one direction or another. To use church lingo, the issue is discipleship. Presidents “preach” and governments make moral assertions through the things they call legal or illegal. The greater the alignment between human laws and divine Law, the greater the light.
I contend that a central issue for any government and every Christian must be using our light to bring justice and power together. Elections influence how a nation thinks, especially about the least of these. And God judges the nations according to how they treat the least of these. There are many issues on the table. Foreign policy, the economy, national debt, Big Bird. I understand that. But I can’t escape the reality that governments are revealed by the way they steward their influence with the least of these. (See previous post here.)
The needy. The threatened. The voiceless.
This is why I argue that we must not only identify the priorities of heaven, but call government to line up. I hear people say that we cannot legislate morality. Imagine having that conversation with William Wilberforce, the man who devoted his life to end the slave trade in England. Of course we legislate morality. This is why justice and power must be brought together. Every law we pass is a moral statement into the hearts of a nation. Surely there were many issues during the political career of William Wilberforce, but this issue carried the most weight.
“Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.” -Blaise Pascal
It’s one thing when an individual does not posses the same advantages that someone else has. The cards are stacked against her. The playing field is not level. This is not fair. It is dark. But it’s another thing altogether when the law is constructed in such a way that someone has no options. It’s beyond being dealt a bad hand; they’ve been given no hand. There is no access onto the playing field.
If we visited Germany in the early 1940s I’m sure there were many challenges and numerous needy people. But I hope we could agree that of all the people that may have been called less, the Jews were the least. If we visited the US in the 1850s we would discover a number of challenges. But I hope we could agree that of all the issues affecting the spiritual lighting of the nation, slavery was a darkness that simply had to be addressed. Slaves weren’t just less; they had no options. No cards. No access. Least.
So now I share my top political concern: justice for the unwanted unborn. Legally, they don’t just have bad cards; they have no cards. And I can’t figure out why the sense of urgency is so low among the people of God. People say you shouldn’t be a one-issue guy. I can just imagine how that conversation would have gone down with Wilberforce. Come on, Will. There’s a lot of other fish to fry. But slaves were the least. The Jews were the least. And right now, right under our noses, the unborn are the least. It’s a justice issue.
I sometimes wish I was wrong about this. But Scripture makes me tremble:
“Deliver those who are drawn to death, hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, Surely we did not know this, does not he who weighs the hearts consider it? And will He not render to each man according to His deeds?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)
Let me sum it up:
1. Think with Jesus. Question assumptions.
2. Shine light. Stand out from your culture in such radical ways that you are impossible to ignore. Live it and speak it. We need your voice. Have the guts to stand for the least, not just the issues that have cool points attached. Make holy noise wherever you are. If you are in a movie and racism is depicted as right, I’m not asking you to shout. But you do have a voice. You could clearly stand up, make a scene, and walk out. If you are a conservative and you hear Republican priorities that cripple the poor, be their voice both politically and personally. If you are a liberal, and you attend a rally where the injustice of abortion is presented as a civil right, use your voice. Or walk out. But stop this awkward silence.
2. Vote for the person you believe will steward their voice to bring justice and power together.
3. Offer our culture a distinct approach at the qualitative level. When everybody else displays anger, wrath, and malice, choose peace, patience, and kindness.
4. Don’t forget where you came from. We were the least. We were weak. We were without strength because of our own sin. We were going to be drawn to death. Until Jesus. In Him something greater than justice and power came together; justice and mercy converged on a cross so that strangers stumbling to the slaughter could be rescued and welcomed into the ultimate country, ruled by the ultimate commander in chief. Because of love.