As a Christian, you are beholden to no political party. You are beholden to the church and to the theological principles by which church makes its ethical decisions.
It is important that we remember this today. Our political life in the United States has become toxic. Never in my lifetime has it been so difficult to discern the truth about what is really happening. Fake news is called real news and real news is called fake news. There has always been a manipulative aspect to politics, but now it seems that manipulation is the constitutive element of political life. Truth be damned. Reason be damned. Winner take all.
This puts Christians in an odd spot. Human beings are social creatures. Aristotle believed that human beings were, by nature, political. Hence the oft-quoted maxim, “Man is a political animal.” I would tend to agree with him on this. We are inextricably bound in relationships that form our worldview and morals. As Christians in the United States, we live in a context that is increasingly unfriendly to our perspectives. Yet we are nonetheless political animals. The temptation is to “go along to get along,” to allow ourselves to be formed by the ambient culture, rather than the righteous counterculture set before us in Scripture. The identity of the church is thus subsumed by the identity of the culture in which we live, and while we may use the language, symbols, and structures of the church, we have abandoned her God-given mission.
Every day, all day long, we make ethical decisions, and it is imperative that we test these decisions against the witness of Scripture, the witness of our communities of faith, and the witness of the historic church. That way, when we engage the hot-button issues of our day, we will make principled Christian decisions, rather than simply going with the persuasive flow of a particular political tide.
By now you’re probably asking, “What’s your point, Watson?” Okay… I’m getting there. I’ve been asked to support a resolution during the United Methodist West Ohio Annual Conference this year. It can be found on p. 48 of the Book of Reports. The purpose of this resolution is to affirm the dignity and God-given value of populations in the United States that are under political fire and may face considerable discrimination. I don’t sign my name to very many resolutions, but I have agreed to support this one.
My reason is simple: my primary way of understanding people is theological, rather than political. The title of the resolution is “All God’s Children,” and yes, I believe we are all God’s children. Many of my fellow evangelicals will counter that, in the New Testament, only those who follow Jesus, those whom the church comprises, are described as God’s children. Becoming a child of God is something that happens through adoption into God’s household.
Well, yes and no…. There are passages like Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:5-7 which speak of the Spirit of adoption that Christians receive, and which allows us to cry out to God, “Abba! Father!” (see also Ephesians 1:5). The way Paul describes becoming a child of God in these letters, it involves accepting Christ and being adopted into God’s household as heirs.
I was recently reading Acts, though, and I came across a passage that made me think more deeply about the relationship between all human beings and God. As Paul is speaking to the Athenians, attempting to persuade them to become followers of Jesus, he says to them,
From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals (17:26-29).