Unity in Political Diversity
In light of this year’s Federal election, I am conscious that there is a diversity of political thought within our congregation and so I thought it might be helpful that I address the subject of Christian unity in political diversity.
Christian “oneness” is not “sameness”. What binds us together as a faith community is not the commonality of our education, economic status, ethnicity, political leanings or anything else. The basis for our unity is in Christ alone. Regardless of who is next to come into power, we aim to live under the wise guidance of the One who is holding the universe together with a word of His power.
Though the pastoral call is wholly theological and spiritual, faithfully teaching God’s Word and calling the church into the obedience of Christ is, at times, unavoidably political. That has been the case from the beginning. Literally.
In Genesis, God started talking politics with Abraham. He said that He wanted a “nation” and spoke about “His people” and talked of His promise to bring them into a “land”. In the book of Revelation, we see that this “nation and people” are all those who receive God’s grace in Christ. The “land” is the entire earth – restored. God’s whole goal in the gospel is bringing about those things.
The themes of citizenship, law and sovereign rule run that through the entire the Old Testament continue through the New Testament. When Christ was born, the wise men went to Herod – the king – and asked, “where’s the king?”. You can’t get any more political than that. The themes of citizenship, law and sovereign rule in the New Testament extend beyond the context of one nation, to the believers from all nations – calling us all to bend our knee to Christ the King. All those saved by grace endeavour to live to the glory of the One who saved them in grace. Living life under a sovereign is political.
This is why examining party platforms and listening to debates can be a difficult exercise. While you can find ways that any given party is congruent with some of your Christian ethics, it is not difficult to find ways they contradict others. No political party is in congruence with Christian ethics and we will do well to keep the unity by discussing our political differences with humility, in light of that challenging reality.
Consider the speed at which political debates often escalate. Is it true that a vote for candidate “A” is our only certain salvation and a vote for candidate “B” will surely unleash the apocalypse on an unsuspecting Canada? While the tone of many political debates suggest that’s precisely what’s at stake, a gospel-shaped worldview will remind us that regardless of which political party comes into power, Jesus is not going to amend His words in Matthew 6 from “don’t worry” to “now would be a good time.”
From hearts at rest in His grace, our call as God’s children to seek the good of the city remains unchanged. To borrow an image from Augustine, the church is a “new city” within the city. In reflecting on history, the rise and fall of empires and the culminating of God’s goal in total restoration depicted in Revelation, Augustine called us “The City of God.”
THE CITY OF GOD
Two cities are formed by two loves …
The City of Man founded on the love of self even to the contempt of God.
The City of God founded on the love of God even to the contempt of self.
The City of Man lifts up its head for its own glory.
The City of God says, “Thou art my glory and the lifter of my head”.
In the City of Man the people are ruled by the love of ruling.
In the City of God the people serve one another in love.
~ Book 14, Ch28, The City of God, Augustine
I am not suggesting that the church withdraw from the public square and isolate ourselves from the city. Not at all. We go into the city as Jesus did. We endeavour to be the kind of people who go out and find very practical, on the ground, ordinary ways to love others and seek the good of our city.
There have been times in Canadian history where legislative decisions have been made that contradict our convictions. Inevitably, there will be more. When those moments come, we must then live our lives in peaceful subversion to the culture because Christ is our King. Practically speaking, that means that in our homes and in our church we live in accordance with the ethics as given in God’s Word and we maintain a posture of love and dignity toward all those who do not share our convictions. That’s what New Testament Christianity looked like in the 1st century and how it ought to look like in the 21st century.
Those elected to serve in government carry significant responsibilities and we all expect them to provide a number of important things – but bringing lasting peace, future security and rest to our souls is not among them. For the assurance of those things, the church looks elsewhere.
Our God has accomplished His purposes either through, or in spite of, every form of government in world history. His care for His children is not limited by political systems that are prone to shift and change. He will continue His deep, reformative work in His church and He will continue His gracious, saving work in our country.
The ability to provide ultimate hope, quietness of soul and a pervasive sense of security capable of weathering the fragility of circumstance will not be found on the severely limited shoulders of those who serve in government, but on the preeminent shoulders of Christ.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:1-2