Gospel and Politics

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I've been attending a very engaging Sunday School class this quarter on Ephesians, taught by John Light, an associate pastor at our church.  This past Sunday we were reviewing chapter two and chapter three.  To impress upon the remarkable nature of the Jew Gentile union, the one new humanity Paul speaks of, Pastor Light threw out a question:  Imagine what it would take today to get Christians who had a deep divide united; imagine democrats and republicans coming together.

The comment got a laugh.  But I found it a very significant question.  Here's my answer to what it would take.  It would take a much bigger view of the gospel than we normally have.  In fact, that, I think, is what Paul is impressing upon us in Ephesians 2-3.  The comprehensiveness of the gospel is what Paul wants us to see.  That it stands over any agenda, any situation.  Jewish Christians who didn't like Gentile Christians had too small of a gospel, and vice-versa.  Anyone who let social stratifications and social identities govern the way they related to each other as fellow Christians had too small of a gospel.  They hadn't realized the newness and comprehensiveness of the new people and the new reality that God is carving out through and in Christ.  Even the Ephesians, who might have had some anxiety over Paul's imprisonment (3:13), had too small a view of the gospel.  If Christ is the one "who fills all in all" (1:23) can we ever have a high enough view of the new reality because of the gospel?

Now back to the Red and Blue divide.  What will it take?  It will take a view of the comprehensiveness of the gospel that keep us from the temptation to hitch our wagon to a political party of political ideology--whether it be on the right or one the left.  Until we get past that we'll make divides in the body of Christ where there should be none.  The "we" I'm talking about here is not the "we" of Americans.  I'm talking about the "we" of the visible manifestation of the body Christ within the boundaries of the United Sates.

Conservative theologians were quick--and quite right--to point out the captivity of the gospel and of the church in the hands of the social gospel movement (in the US) or in liberation theology (in parts elsewhere).  That was and is a captivity to a political ideology.  It is also a cautionary tale.

So to answer some potential objectors.  I'm all for engaging issues, and some issues, pro-life, do matter more than others.  But when will we realize that political parties represent ideologies that have far more in them than a few issues that we (rightfully) care about?  To hitch our wagon to a political party, and sometimes we attribute messianic qualities to these parties and their candidates, is not the right direction for the church.

If we get angry at our brothers and sisters in Christ because of their party affiliation have we really grasped that Christ fills all in all?  Or do we think that an elephant or a donkey fills all in all?

Posted October 13, 2008 @ 11:45 AM by Stephen Nichols
TOPICS: politics
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