“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’” (Luke 10:8-9 NIV)
I used to be less like a news junkie and more like a news ostrich, hiding and hoping no one would see me. Then along came Facebook, and later Twitter. I find myself reading a lot more about news and politics than I used to because I want to know what my friends are reading. But now, the more I read, the more I feel angry at injustice and helpless to change anything.
Why does political debate get me so riled up?
In part I have such strong feelings because some issues are literally life and death. Even issues that are “just” about money or freedom have a profound impact on people’s lives. We argue and disagree because no one person can ever be completely right, so we each have parts of the truth. But most of all, we will disagree if we are looking for answers in the wrong place.
While I believe that government is an essential part of human society, the government does not have the answer. Government policies can help people, but it can’t solve our real problems—greed, hatred, jealousy—because they are a result, essentially, of sin.
Do you remember the old Sunday School joke that ends with the kid saying, “I know the answer is Jesus, but it sure looks like a squirrel to me”? Well, in this case, Jesus is the answer. He came to proclaim that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15 NASB). It’s here. It’s you and me, living more like Jesus, causing a peaceful revolution that transforms society and government from the inside out. It’s Creekside’s vision: “We are a community where people ENCOUNTER JESUS, BECOME like JESUS, and IMPACT our world for JESUS.”
This idea was brought home to me several years ago when I read The Secret Message of Jesus, by Brian McLaren. I can tell that it’s time for me to read it again, because I’ve been forgetting that the real power is not in government but in living out the kingdom of God. He writes:
[W]e all might agree that the poor and hungry should be helped and fed in theory, someday, and perhaps even that the rich should be willing to part with some of their wealth to help make that happen someday. But what if someone arose and said, “The time is at hand! The time is now! Shut down your weapons factories! Open your checkbooks!”
I believe that citizens of a democracy should participate in it, but there’s no specific policy prescribed in the Bible for the government’s role in activities that we are also called to do individually, such as helping the poor and seeking justice. Whatever government does, we are not excused from loving our enemies, helping the poor, and being Jesus to a world trapped by darkness. We are to minister where God placed us, be that in the workplace, in the grocery store, at school, or anywhere else in society.
At the risk of a using a fraught analogy, it’s like wearing masks to stop the spread of disease: the government may or may not mandate it, but it works best when everyone does it. I protect you, and you protect me. All of us, making our individual choices (not just about face masks but about where we serve and donate and fellowship), can together have a positive effect more profound than any government policy.