American Christians are predictable.
Non-believing U.S. citizens know exactly what to expect from those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus.
Though most non-Christians would hardly be able to explain our theological beliefs, they can most assuredly articulate our stances on the political issues, which most-likely conflict with their own.
Maybe they’ve seen our celebrity pastors or seminary presidents on CNN debating from a conservative perspective on any given issue. Perhaps they saw a group of Christians on their state’s capital steps praying for our country alongside Franklin Graham. Or most likely, our own Facebook and Twitter rants have reinforced their assumptions about Christians.
Yes, non-believers know exactly what to expect from Christians: the propogation of a conservative political agenda.
So, What’s Wrong with this Picture?
It’s good to vote for and support issues that honor God, but a problem has now arisen wherein our Christian witness in the United States has singularly become a political one.
Sadly, our non-believing fellow Americans think about Christians in terms of how they disagree with us politically, rather marveling at how we love, show patience, display kindness, speak with gentleness, offer peace or exhibit any other fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
Though the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is what’s most important to us, that gospel message has been significantly silenced because we proclaim our political agenda so loudly.
The lost know of our devotion to pro-life and traditional marriage policies, but they don’t know of our devotion to the person of Christ.
This is a problem, friends.
Earlier this year, I tackled a book that entirely changed my outlook on our American Christian witness. If you’re up for a mental and ideological challenge, buy Dr. James Hunter’s To Change the World. If you’re interested, check out this short synopsis.
In it he discusses the complexity of culture and how very difficult it is to change. It is a fascinating read, as Hunter breaks down bit by bit the ideas and beliefs of the Christian Right, the Christian Left and the Neo-Anabaptists.
Hunter asserts that the Christian Right has now mostly become a group characterized by bitterness and resentfulness toward the secular left, whom they feel has stripped them and the country of the values and traditional institutions they held dear, values that reflected their own beliefs.
Their retaliation? They must do all they can to make America great again, of course. Sound familiar? 😉 The Christian Right believes they must take back their country from the liberal left to preserve any sense of righteousness before God.
Thus, Donald J. Trump is elected the 45th president of the United States of America.
Where Am I Going With All of This?
It’s not that I’m anti-Trump or anti-conservative. That’s not the case at all. But what I’m coming to realize is that Christians don’t win the culture war by creating enemies with the left. We win the culture war by loving them like Christ loves them.
Friends, how brightly are you shining the light of Jesus when you criticize President Obama and his policies on Facebook?
How much courtesy and deference are you extending to your non-believing liberal friends when you shout to the social media world your stance on any one of the “conservative” issues. <Hint: they already know what you believe…. Remember, American Christians are predictable.>
What’s the Answer?
I want to suggest, as Dr. Hunter does in To Change the World, that we Christians put politics down for a season.
Can we strive to be a faithful witness of Christ in all aspects of our lives?
Can we seek to offer value to others, even those who don’t know the Lord?
Can we stop trying to change our liberal friends’ minds on the issues, but rather find ways
to love them, to actually serve them, to offer them things that demonstrate the nature of Christ instead of what we want for our country?
That’s what Jesus did.
Jesus Rejected A Political Kingship
If you remember, Jesus shunned any alignment with an earthly kingdom. He did not confuse His Kingdom with that of this world. After He fed the 5 thousand miraculously, they were ready to make Him king. But John 6:15 tells us that He withdrew by Himself because He perceived their plan.
When asked by Pilate before going to the cross if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus affirmed that yes, indeed He was. But, He was not the type of king the Israelites expected. I love John Piper’s explanation here:
What he [Jesus] means is: I have come into the world the first time to rule men’s lives not by being their military captain, but by being their bread. I am going to triumph not by subduing armies, but by satisfying souls. I am going to conquer not with the power of armed forces but with the power of radically new appetites.
Instituting New Appetites; A First Step: Prayer
So how can we American Christians be a part of Jesus’ mission to whet new spiritual appetites in those who don’t know Him? I don’t believe it’s by continually voicing our opposition to the Left’s political agenda or overly praising President-elect Trump’s victory.
Rather, let’s begin by praying. Let’s ask Him to:
- Give us love and compassion for those we disagree with the most politically.
- Increase our love for His eternal Kingdom rather than the one we currently live in.
- Give us creative ways to actually demonstrate love to those we disagree with politically.
A Second Step: The Practical
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we Christians could surprise the world by offering them something other than just right-wing conservatism? Jesus said they’d know us by our love (John 13:35). So, how can love in a way that non-believers truly marvel at the good actions we do in Jesus’ name? Here are a few ideas:
- Help the widows & orphans… Maybe even the widow mother of one your non-Christian friends.
- Consider fostering or adopting…. And possibly ministering to the parents of that foster child.
- Support non-profits like A21, who rescue and restore victims of sex-trafficking.
- Dream of one day starting your own non-profit to offer good to the world.
- Serve local refugees who have entered your state. Here’s a list of who to contact. For more on the refugees, here’s what I wrote a year ago.
- See how you can partner with Global Hunger Relief.
- Go on a mission trip.
- What opportunities does your church offer for you to serve in your local community?
- Work with excellence in your job… surprise your employer by how effeciently you work.
- Listen intently when others share their hurts with you. Really care.
- Use your specific gift or talent for the good of others.
- Speak encouraging words, words that bring life, give guidance and advice when necessary so that the conversation benefits the hearer more than yourself.
- Pay for the next customer’s coffee at Starbucks.
- Sweep under the table at your favorite Mexican restaurant after your kids destroy the place. (I know from experience.)
- Work on having a great marriage…. This shows the world a picture of Jesus and His church.
- Give non-believers gifts when appropriate just to show you care… Give a new neighbor cookies or a sick co-worker her favorite flavor of cough drops.
- Invite non-believers over for dinner. Cook what they like. Talk about their interests.
- Go above an beyond what people expect of you. This points back to Jesus.
- Speak less about politics and more life-giving words.
There are countless ways to offer good to the world and be a true light for Christ. My prayer is that we will.
I want our generation to love extravagantly, give selflessly and care passionately, especially for those we disagree with.