by: Scott Little
Rules of Engagement - A Reminder
Pastor Scott Little
Years ago, I heard a conference speaker talk about how often the Holy Spirit had to remind him of things he already knew or had already learned on his Christian journey because, he said, “Truth leaks”. That phrase has always stuck with me because it rings true for me, too. The Lord will show me something or teach me something, but I’ll still need regular reminding because when it comes to the spiritual life at least, truth leaks – like a bicycle tire with a pinhole that slowly loses air over time.
I think that’s why Israel, often at God’s instruction, did things to remind themselves about the many lessons they had learned. They gave people & places names as reminders. They piled up stones & built altars & erected monuments as reminders. They wrote poems & sang psalms as reminders. They knew that we human beings, especially when it comes to spiritual reality, tend to forget what we already know. So they reminded themselves often, in as many ways as they could think of, about what’s right and good and true.
Jesus gave the Church a perpetual reminder, too. He instituted The Lord’s Supper before His crucifixion, and told His followers that it was to be practiced “in remembrance of me” – a reminder of His sacrifice on our behalf every time we take it together.
In that same spirit, as we hurtle toward another presidential election, I thought it would be a good idea to remind ourselves that political engagement for Christians is supposed to look different than it does for the rest of our culture. If you’re a disciple of Jesus, you’re a Christian before anything else – before you’re a Republican or Democrat or Independent. So whether you’re sidin’ with Biden, stumpin’ for Trump, or whatever else, I thought it would be a good time to remind us of some “Rules of Engagement” for Christians when it comes to politics.
What follows comes from a message I preached back in February, so if it sounds familiar, that’s why. In light of everything that’s happened since then February seems light years ago, and since truth leaks, I thought now was a good time to revisit these “rules” before November…
So here again are my Twelve Rules of Engagement. Each begins with this simple preamble: “During this election year (and after), as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and a member of His Body, the Church…”
#1: I will not mock those with whom I disagree.
Proverbs 22:10: “Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.”
Proverbs 29:8: “Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger.”
Friends, mockery is at an all-time high in the political life of America. We may not be able to stop it, but we can make sure it stops with us…
#2: I will not twist or stretch the truth to make a point.
Truth is in trouble in our country, and propaganda is on the rise. And it comes from both sides of the political aisle. I’m afraid it’s become so common that it’s like breathing in our culture. But truth matters…
Matthew 5:33-37: “You have heard it said, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill the vows you have made. But I tell you, don’t swear an oath at all…All you need to say is simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Ephesians 4:25 says: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor…”
This is about simply speaking the truth, and trusting that that’s enough. Speaking of truth…
#3: I will verify that something is true before I say it or post it publicly.
Proverbs 15:14: “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.”
There are people & systems whose entire job consists of spreading rumors and lies in an attempt to influence your thinking and your vote, especially online. Don’t play the game, and don’t be anyone’s pawn. Do some research. Check it out. Be a discerning disciple. Think for yourself, and take the time to discern what’s true and what isn’t and what’s real and what isn’t. Especially before you say it or post it online.
#4: I will not demonize the “other side”.
Ephesians 6:12: “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, and the dark powers of the world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Demonizing those we disagree with is to literally equate them with evil spirits, which is a failure to see them as persons made in God’s image. It dehumanizes opponents and assumes the worst possible motives for those with a different point of view.
One of the reasons our politics are so contentious and so divisive and so ugly, and one of the reasons we can’t find common ground, is because we don’t just disagree with the other side – we demonize them. That’s not the way of Jesus!
#5: I will be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
James 1:19: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
I’m afraid that we have this exactly backward in our culture, especially when it comes to politics. We think there’s something wrong with someone if they don’t get outraged over the issues of the day immediately, and we think we not only have the right but the responsibility to speak up and speak out!
There are times when we should speak up and speak out – I just wish we’d get the order right first: Quick to listen…slow to speak…slow to anger. James says it’s important because human anger doesn’t usually lead to righteousness.
#6: I will remember that no party or candidate has a corner on either truth or righteousness.
In her book Surprised by Paradox, Jen Pollack Michel wrote: “The kingdom of God is not painted in red or blue. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have their pulse on the kingdom of God, and for that matter the kingdom does not grow because of political influence and social clout. In fact, as Scripture makes clear, God’s kingdom is frequently in conflict with the pharaohs and caesars of its day.” I’ve said this before, because I’m certain it’s true – if Jesus were in America today He would anger both Republicans and Democrats!
The gospel and the Kingdom of Jesus has never fit comfortably into any earthly political idealogy, because no party or candidate has a corner on either truth or righteousness, and ALL fall short of the glory of God!
#7: I will hold my party & candidate accountable for their words and actions.
Everybody wants to hold the “other side” accountable. Republicans want to hold Democrats accountable, and Democrats want to hold Republicans accountable.
It’s part of the blindness of fallen humanity that we tend to magnify the faults and sins of others while minimizing our own. In politics, we want to point the finger of judgment and criticism across the aisle, but Jesus teaches us to examine ourselves first…
Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
If we really want to be good citizens, and if we really want to genuinely help our candidate and our party – and our country – to be the best it can be, we’ll hold them accountable…
Proverbs 17:10: “A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes impresses a fool.”
It’s appropriate to hold the “other side” accountable too, but, as Jesus taught us, let’s make sure we take the plank out of our own eye first!
#8: I will pray for our leaders, regardless of party.
1 Timothy 2:1-3: “Pray for all people with all kinds of prayers and requests as you intercede for them. And pray for every leader and representative, so that we can live peaceful, undisturbed lives marked by godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God…” How should you pray for them? Just pray like you think Jesus would.
#9: I will remember that the real solution to America & the world’s worst problems is not political.
Again – “…we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness and spiritual forces in the heavenly realms…”
What ails our country and our world is spiritual, and what heals our country and world is also spiritual. If you want to see America be great, passionately engage in the real battle – through prayer, and worship, and witness, and love. Follow Jesus and trust His way!
#10: I will remember that Jesus is Lord and the source of my hope and security.
Psalm 146:3-5: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save…Blessed are those whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
Psalm 118:9: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
Remember – when the campaign and the rhetoric heats up, our well-being is not dependent on who wins, because the Lord is our Rock and our Fortress, our strength and our shield.
#11: I will not confuse allegiance to Jesus & His Kingdom with allegiance to a party or candidate.
In the book I referenced above, Surprised by Paradox, Jen Pollack Michel quotes Daniel 7:13-14… “Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
She goes on to say: “Every president, every king, every prime minister has a term limit. Death ends every reign except one. Politics are not the means of establishing God’s kingdom, and no president has messianic promise. Paradoxically, the kingdom of God is a seed, a stump: begun small, subjected to suffering, then filling the whole earth with its branches. When God’s people stand, they sing not ‘Hail to the Chief’ but ‘hallelujah’.”
#12: I will remember that my first and highest allegiance is to the person, way, and Kingdom of Jesus – not to a nation, or a political ideology, party, or candidate.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be involved in the political process. We should! It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love our country and do what we can to make it better. It just means we always remember that ultimately we answer to a MUCH higher authority…
Ephesians 1:20-21 says: “God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, his Body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Brothers and sisters, if we really want to help our nation and our world, we’ll give our first and highest allegiance to Jesus and His kingdom. If we really want to be good citizens, and engage in our political process with integrity, we’ll remember who is Lord, and where our help comes from, and how He taught us to live and to speak.
It’s a good thing for Christians to participate in our political process. In our time and place it’s part of “giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s”. But let’s make sure we’re first “giving to God what is God’s”. I hope you’ll carefully and prayerfully consider these Rules of Engagement as this election year unfolds, and beyond.
2 Comments on this post:
Still love this one, thankyou, Pastor!
Thank you for the powerful reminder.