People often ask questions when difficult circumstances overcome our world. With the crumbling economy, multiple wars and new direction in political leadership, Christians must understand the proper role of the church to impact our world.
Though Christians can and should be involved in the political process, the church was never meant to be a partisan power base. Our role transcends earthly structures. We are to lift up the light of the world, Jesus Christ, not the hatchet of the political party. When the church attempts to play the role of the government, it tends to corrupt one or both of the institutions. Even Israel failed as a theocracy. Modern theocratic regimes are actually controlled by mullahs and similar men who claim the divine mantle, but frequently abuse it for personal gain. Likewise, when the government attempts to supplant the role of the church, it becomes a perverse imitation of the real thing, mocking prosperity, peace and the principles of God.
For example, the Christian concept of charity involves a sacrificial giving in order to help meet the needs of someone else. But when the government forces you to take what you’ve earned and give it to the poor, it is vastly different. God loves a cheerful giver, not a cheerful taxer! Without a connection of love and concern between the giver and the recipient, the meaning of charity is lost. Instead, it is man’s counterfeit, which we call socialism. The church must demonstrate to the world how God’s principles work, so that they can witness the power of His ways.
Christians should seek to penetrate society, not polarize it. There will be a level of polarization when we stand up for what we believe those who were not “for” Jesus were “against” him and crucified Him for it but if you receive the love that Jesus offers, your life has the power to transform the world. Light penetrates darkness. When the church is a light, it dispels darkness. Changed people change the world, so we must first allow God’s light to drive the darkness out of our own lives before we can shine His love into the lives of those around us.
Our country will only change when the people change. Government does not legislate morality so much as it reflects the morality of the people. Right now, our government desperately needs change. So does the media, Wall Street, Hollywood and everywhere in between. But practices and policies will only change when people change. That is the role of the church.
I am not suggesting that Christians stay out of political matters, but understand that politics are meaningless without a transformation of the heart, mind and spirit. We can make every form of abortion illegal, but it won’t go away until every pregnant woman values the life of her child. Government focuses on people’s actions, but God focuses on people’s hearts. In the same way, the church should move beyond legislating people’s actions and strive to transform their hearts and inspire them to respect and value all life.
The model for the modern church is found in the book of Acts. When Jesus appeared after his death and resurrection, he appeared to His followers in Jerusalem. They asked, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
Isn’t this typical of people in the church? After everything they had heard and seen, they wanted Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom. If Jesus lived in the flesh today, we’d probably want Him to run for president! But we could have a perfect president and as long as we still have rotten, rebellious people, we will have problems. Jesus’ purpose was and is beyond such earthly things. Instead, he told them to wait until the Holy Spirit empowered them so that they could be witnesses all over the world. They wanted to conquer Jerusalem with force, but Jesus wants to envelop the earth with love, joy and peace.
This is still His desire. Our world will never be perfect until He comes, but he can perfect His will in our individual lives, if we will allow it. So ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to care about others, reach out, be involved and pray…in essence, be the church.
Be the church. Set aside political battles and engage in spiritual warfare. Focus not on others, but on yourself. A light does not have to be forced to shine; simply allow yourself to be filled with God’s light, then release it.
“Father, fill me with your spirit so that I can be your witness on this earth.”