Here is a blunt question sure to stir up trouble at your next dinner party: Should pastors preach politics from the pulpit? Some Christians, of course, consider the practice wrong in all cases: “The pulpit is for preaching the Word!” Others respond by saying, “But the Word is full of social, cultural, and political matters.” Our answer, were we invited to your dinner party, is: “Yes and no.” But mostly no.
Because the Bible allows room for application regarding politics, we must be exceedingly careful in addressing matters of public policy from the pulpit. If we decide to make that connection, we must be confident our words and concerns mirror those of God. As Mouw suggests, if we have such a confidence, we might speak directly to a situation and offer our opinion. But this should be rare. The usual pattern, rather, should be merely to raise the questions and encourage the Christians who have competence in that realm to find an answer.
When exercised judiciously and rarely, a church’s public stance on a matter of public policy can be a powerful statement. But the church’s greatest influence on public life will come through the power of the preached Word as it shapes its members to live righteous lives.
Engaging in the public square, like all worthwhile endeavors, is no easy venture. In fact, the pattern of wisdom and virtue outlined here will be impossible for us under our own power. We cannot, of ourselves, seek the good of our nation, take a longer view, or respond with grace when impugned. Insofar as we attempt to apply Christian principles to public life in our own strength, we will fail.
But we are not driven merely by Christian principles. We are driven by the Christian gospel. With Paul we confess that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). The heart behind every political action, for the Christian, is the simple yet endlessly relevant truth, that because he died for us, we will live for him. Wisdom and virtue are not attitudes we cultivate abstractly, in isolation from the biblical story. They are grateful responses to a Savior who took our place on Calvary’s cross.
- Hey Christian, Withdrawal from Politics Is Not an Option!
- How to “Christianly” Engage in American Politics
- Thinking About the Gospel and Politics
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