August 4, 2016 Member Letter
With youth camps, two weeks of continuing education at Foundation Institute, church visits and a new booklet published, July was an extremely busy month in the work of the Church. It was also a month of tragedy around the world. Within a three-week period, several tragic events unfolded:
- July 7—a sniper ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas.
- July 14—a terrorist ran down and killed more than 80 people in Nice, France.
- July 15—a military coup in Turkey resulted in more than 300 deaths.
- July 17—three policemen were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- July 22—nine people were killed outside a shopping mall in Munich, Germany.
- July 26—a deranged individual in Japan stabbed 44 people, killing 19.
We feel sympathy for those directly involved in these tragic events and pray for the affected families. In the face of one tragedy after another, it is easy to get discouraged and worried about where this world is headed, but the consistent bad news is not the only reason to be concerned about our world. Consider the division in this country over the upcoming national election, which was highlighted last month by the two political conventions.
I am writing this letter from Atlanta, Georgia. Sharron and I were on a trip to South America when we received the news that her 92-year-old mother had died. We cut our trip short and flew to Atlanta for the funeral. The family had asked me to conduct the service, and I agreed. It was a difficult day, but in spite of the sadness, all seemed encouraged by the truth of the resurrection.
While returning from Atlanta, I was at a hotel near the airport sitting at a table by myself (Sharron had stayed behind to be with her 91-year-old father), and about 20 feet away from where I was sitting, three people were discussing politics. One person was clearly a Barack Obama supporter, another was an Independent/Republican, and the third was a Democrat. The lady who was a Democrat proclaimed that she was voting for every democrat no matter who they were. She was simply loyal to her political party. The supporter of President Obama was listing all the great achievements of the president, while the Independent/Republican was laughing at him. “How can you claim any major accomplishments?” he asked. With raised voices and talking over each other, they discussed the upcoming election. After about 15 minutes, the Independent/Republican announced that there was one thing they could all agree on—every politician is crooked and corrupt and only interested in helping himself or herself. On this they all agreed!
I found this experience illustrative of the current situation in the United States and similar to situations that exist around the world. Politics and political elections are certainly not limited to the U.S. The Bible has many clear verses that admonish Christians to be separate from the world. In the Old Testament the physical nation of Israel was blessed, being built around a worship of the true God. The two nations of Israel and Judah, which came from it, both failed when they turned away from God and His commandments. In the New Testament Jesus Christ walked the earth as God in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). He brought a new covenant (Matthew 26:28; Malachi 3:1), and He founded the Church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). And that Church is referred to as a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9)—a spiritual organism and not a physical nation. There are no national boundaries or political parties within the Church. And as a spiritual body, Christians are admonished to come out of the world. Here are just a few of those admonitions from Christ and the apostles:
- John 17:14: Christ said He was not of the world and neither were His disciples.
- John 18:36: His Kingdom is not of this world.
- 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: The world is blinded by the “god of this age.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:20: We are ambassadors for Christ. We represent His government.
- 2 Corinthians 6:16-18: We are to come out from among them and be separate.
- Philippians 3:20: Our citizenship is in heaven.
- Revelation 12:9: Satan has deceived the whole world.
- Revelation 18:4: Christians are instructed to “come out of her, my people.”
So, how should Christians react to politics and political elections? Some would say that coming out of this world simply means keeping God’s law or being a good Christian and has nothing to do with politics. But think about that. If keeping the commandments is enough to separate us from the world, then why do we need the additional instruction given by Christ and the apostles? We should accept that Christ and the apostles meant exactly what they said—we are to come out of this world. I would suggest that there are few things more “of the world” than politics and political elections, wherever they occur in the world.
An article titled “How Would Jesus Vote for President?” has been published periodically for more than 60 years by the Church of God. The conclusion of the article is that Jesus would not get involved in any political system or political election, so why should we?
We accept the biblical statements that God is the One who chooses leaders and that He chooses those leaders based on His will (Daniel 4:17). We accept the fact that we should respect and obey those referred to as “governing authorities” as long as their rules and laws do not conflict with God’s law (Romans 13:1-3; Acts 5:29). That does not mean we support individuals or a system that rejects God’s law and His values. Should we as Christians be involved in something that is the very opposite of what God says we should stand for? I hear some comment in reference to the upcoming U.S. elections that “we must choose between the lesser of two evils.” Is that what God wants us to do, considering that built within this statement is the idea that some evil is acceptable? Is that true?
Each human being has personal opinions. And, depending on the country where you live, there may be some level of freedom of expression. Personally, I believe that some candidates are better than others. I have opinions, but as a Christian, my life is driven by a calling I received while still a teenager. That calling led to my baptism, in which I committed myself to putting God first. As an American, I love my country, but there is something more important than one’s country. Our love for country must never transcend our baptismal commitment, which requires us to put God and His Kingdom first.
What does all this mean for the Church? Should we debate and argue over which candidate to support, or should we as Christians pray that God will put into this important office the one that He decides we should have? Have we lost faith or confidence in God and His ability to control events based upon His will? We should not forget that Bible prophecy speaks of a time when modern-day Israel (America, Britain, the Commonwealth nations and Israel) will be punished for their rejection of the true God. Have we reached that point? The fact that some individuals or nations profess Christianity doesn’t mean they are worshipping the true God (Matthew 7:21). The United States is a clear example of a country that has rejected the true God while still claiming to be a Christian nation.
Christ told us where our focus should be in this life: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). What part of the Kingdom of God is compatible with modern politics? It is clear from the words of Christ that we must live in this world, but we must not be “of the world.” Praying the night before He was killed, Christ made this point clear: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:14-17).
Jesus did not get involved in the politics of His day. He had a greater mission—to bring God’s government to this earth. While man has consistently failed in his attempts to govern himself apart from God, Christians live with their eyes focused on the Kingdom of God, the real solution to man’s problems.
Please pray for our efforts to preach the gospel, and do not allow tragic events or political elections to distract you from the ultimate goal—the Kingdom of God. After all, the true gospel is the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom, which stands in stark contrast to the political systems of this world.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,