When you mix religion and politics, you just get politics. Ed Stetzer
The discussion in late October on literal Biblical womanhood led me to study anew how the Bible presents its instructions. What is wisdom? What is law? What law was fulfilled in Christ and is no longer to constrain us today? What commands does God give us that transcend culture or time?
The Bible clearly presents that Old Testament Law was fulfilled in Christ. Jesus could have remained on earth an earthly King, which is what His followers wanted at the time, but Jesus changed much in terms of theocracy when He declared the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, not the Kingdom of Earth. In the Gospels, even as Jesus declares the Law fulfilled, He still instructs us in God’s ultimate purposes in the Law. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus goes through the moral code of the Ten Commandments. Instead of minimizing them, He actually intensifies them.
Matthew 5 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. …
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus eventually boils it all down in Matthew 22 by reiterating what God first said in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19.
Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
When this story is recounted in Luke, Jesus gives the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what He meant by loving your neighbor. We understand that our neighbor really is simply whomever needs our help, even grown men we don’t know. Finally, in Matthew 25, Jesus speaks in very practical terms.
Matthew 25:31-46 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I agree with Ed Stetzer that when you mix religion and politics, you tend to only get politics. So I waited until after the election to put forth some principles that transcend politics but nevertheless have potential application to them. I live in a very diverse and liberal city, and most of my friends voted democratic though I did not this election. Many of my CHRISTIAN friends voted democratic. It would benefit us all for a moment to give the benefit of the doubt (that long lost aspect of Biblical love that Paul clearly establishes in I Corinthians 13) and actually listen for a moment to those who vote differently than us.
Among my Christian friends who voted democratic, they have a pro-life commitment, but that commitment extends past the single issue of abortion. (By the way, did you know there is a pro-life, anti-abortion caucus in the Democratic Party?) Pro-life commitment for them includes caring for life well after birth, providing basic health care, food, and education to children in particular. It includes concern for the life of those in other countries as well, including the lives of children considered collateral damage in a war whose need now seems murky. These friends have a strong sense of mutual responsibility to people who are less fortunate, and they see government as one of the avenues for this mutual responsibility. Mutual responsibility for the poor and sick is firmly a Christian value. God is definitely the first one to propose this value, and He instituted a government which was supposed to do this very thing. Of course, we are no longer under the theocratic government which God set up in the Old Testament. Our US government is set up under very different principles. But if we were obeying OT principles of debt, every 7 years every person’s debt would be forgiven them. God instituted practices (that Israel doesn’t seem to have ever obeyed) that would have repeatedly reset the playing field (Leviticus 25). It’s interesting to think of how His desire to level debt should impact our principles today.
As Jesus first declared in Matthew 3, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. In God’s kingdom, His children provide for the poor, the immigrant, the sick, and the prisoner. Whether we do it by way of government or not is worthy of debate, but the need to provide for the marginalized is not.