By Pastor Matthew Watson, MVGB Church
Few conversationalists engage their craft without learning the volatility of politics and religion. Commonly said you should avoid discussing either in mixed company. If you must discuss one or the other, keep it to one or the other, and do not mix the two subjects they say. For the purposes of this article I want to take on the risky proposition of discussing, if only generally, these two hot topics together!
Politics, Religion and Her is a 1996 album by country musician Sammy Kershaw. The album launched several charting singles and itself charted at #17 on Top Country Albums. Charting songs included “Vidalia, Meant to Be, and Fit to be Tied Down (see Wikipedia here).” The album’s title lyrics remind me of subjects I want to expound upon: politics, religion and her.
Tis the season for politics. And politics inevitably leads to political candidates running ads. These ads saturate the time slots between your favorite sport event, drama or sit-com on television. Even the politically uninterested find it hard to miss. Tis the season for politics.
Politics inevitably wander their way around to religion. What are your religious views? What are my religious views? Is it fair to ask about religious views? How important are religious views? Which religious label do you accept? How do you practice your religion? How often to you practice your religion? Do you believe in organized religion? Do you believe in disorganized religion (you’re supposed to smile here)!? What do you believe?
Patrick Lencioni writes business books in parabolic form. His book The Five Dyfunctions of Team is quite interesting. At one point in the parable one character makes a profoundly truthful statement: “politics is telling people what you think they want to hear. Principle is telling people what you actually believe.” Political talk often leads to religion talk. Religion is about what I believe. Catholic theologian Michael Novak said: “What you believe makes a difference at every level.” Theologian GK Chesterson said: “There’s nothing more interesting than a person’s worldview.” What do you believe? Or better yet, in whom do you believe? Religions form based on beliefs. Christianity formed based on a person that is truth and that person Jesus Christ.
Christianity is undoubtedly known as a religion but is needs to be thought of as a grace-based eternal relationship. Religion is thought of as an exterior action that meets a certain standard. There are certain practices that one participates to be religious. Someone you know may have “found religion.” The hope is that what you see is a result of what you don’t see: something within. The hope is that what you describe as religion seen on the outside is a result of something more deep and profound on the inside. The New Testament of the Bible is largely built on the precept that powerful authentic lasting action comes from God’s work within a person. The biblical idea of Christianity is built on the person of Christ and thus a person constitutes a personal relationship as opposed to just outward conformity to religion.
The meek and mild ‘why can’t we all just get along in religion’ Jesus sort of gets blown out of the water in Matthew 25: 24-26. Jesus is engaging in a conversation with socio-religio-political leaders of his day. He firmly notes: “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law…you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will be clean.”
The point Jesus is making is that guides need to discern big from small concerns. In order to be an effective guide you must know the difference between a “gnat and a camel.” The most educated and status-oriented people of first century Jerusalem, according to Jesus, were acting hypocritical. And Jesus must have thought that they needed some direct rebuke. Other places the Bible records Jesus as indirect in his rebuke or simply loving people into change. Not so with these guides for Jesus is painfully direct! Jesus goes on to use a cup/dish metaphor. Cleanliness is a more large issue than what you see (politics). Cleanliness is an issue of what you do not see (principle).
Politics and religion need to meet her. The Bible gives a specific gender to the collective body of believers in Christ this church. This specific gender given is female and results in references to her.
Pollsters say church attendance has done a one-hundred-eighty degree turn in the past forty years. Something like 8 out of 10 people attended church then and something like 8 out of 10 don’t attend church now. I’m not saying that to anger you if you’re on the outside looking in, this is just the fact. Church attendance is not prioritized as quite the priority is once was. I do not want to presume upon all of the reasons for waning church attendance here. And quite frankly our church family is blessed to have good participation so I’m not writing this paragraph from a position of angst. With these disclaimers the statistic, if remotely accurate, begs the question: why?
Perhaps our guides focus more on religion than relationship. Perhaps our guides focus more on contract than covenant. Perhaps our guides focus more on self-indulgence than self-surrender. Perhaps our preachers sounds too much like politicians and our politicians too much like preachers. Perhaps our guides place too much emphasis on being liked and not enough emphasis on being respected. Perhaps spiritual guides have ever so subtly succumbed to political pressures for mammon rather than heart pursuits of God. Perhaps our guides focus more on politics than principle. Perhaps they feel like they have too. I’m not sitting in the seat of judgment here. These “perhaps’s” are for any who have an ear to hear and a love for her, the bride of Christ, the local church. I’m just saying (as the teens say).
Perhaps the remedy is in a new idea rather than an old idea: participation in a Bible-believing church. Maybe you can find a church who emphasizes a relationship with Jesus Christ of the Bible? The Bible book of Ephesians 5: 25-27, 33 says: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless…This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” May our concept of politics and religion drive us back to a place we once come, the original her, the church. And may we once again nurture her through our participation not because we have too but because we want too. The Lord will rise up people of character who will guide us based not on politics but principle; not on religion but on relationship. Work, pray, live, and yes do VOTE…with the groom (Christ)…and…her…firmly in mind.
Pastor Matt has a passion for you to know Jesus. If you don’t have a local church to call home, we welcome you to Mount Vernon General Baptist Church any Sunday at 9 or 10:30 am. To learn more go to www.mvgb.org. He loves his three girls, trout fishing, and playing basketball.
By Pastor Matthew Watson, MVGB Church
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