Monday, September 28, 2020

Biden, Trump, and the stewardship of kingdoms in conflict

 We are living in a day in which Bible-believing Christians seem to have difficulty connecting the bright lines of Scripture to the dots of life. One of the spheres in which this is readily apparent is that of politics.

Having said that, let me quickly affirm that God is not a Republican or a Democrat. Some of you might be shocked to learn He’s not a Libertarian, either. He is not a liberal or conservative. He doesn’t belong to the now-defunct Moral Majority, nor is He hiding out in the chapel of Liberty University. God does not fit under human rubrics or categories. Quite the opposite, in fact. Humans fit under His rubric as either Christ followers or rejectors.

It’s possible that Christians have lost the ability to interact profitably with the political world because we have an amazing citizenship that trumps all others: our citizenship is in heaven and we are participants in the reign and rule of Christ. Sometimes pastors and theologians can speak and teach as if that’s the only citizenship that matters. We’re told not to be concerned about elections because “no matter who wins, God is still on the throne.”

Well, of course He is. But that sort of statement can be little more than Christian fatalism, and can potentially be very irresponsible. God is wholly sovereign over all things, yes, but the Bible also teaches that our actions are consequential (Galatians 6:7, James 5:16). We make a difference by what we do. (Contact me in about two thousand years, and maybe I can shed some light on the paradoxical mystery between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.)

The point is that we also have earthly citizenships, and while they must never take priority over our heavenly one, neither can they be neglected. Our opportunity to rub shoulders with fellow earthly citizens is a stewardship that cannot be shrugged off as though God does not care. Our concerns about good government and the ordering of human society, about justice and equity, about opposing oppression and racism, about families and family stability, and about sexual morality are political concerns, to be sure, but more importantly they are biblical concerns. The stewardship of our vote, and how we interact with other citizens and our elected leaders should be matters of biblical concern to Christians. The Bible actually speaks to these things.

Even the most cursory perusal of the Scripture will show that God wants us to be involved. Joseph served pagan Pharaoh and virtually saved the kingdom of Egypt. Daniel served the wicked Babylonian kings with distinction, and while serving them even rebuked them for their bad behavior (Daniel 4:27). The exiles in Chaldea were told to seek the good of the city where they lived.“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’” (Jeremiah 29:4–7, NASB95)

In the New Testament, Paul tells us human government is appointed by God (Romans 13:1-7). In 1 Timothy he admonishes us to pray for governors and kings and all in authority, implying that good government (1 Timothy 2:2) is useful to the advancement of the gospel of Christ (vv 3-4).

So here is the point: as believers we should be involved in elections, in politics, in the commercial world and marketplace, and in our communities, supporting good legislation and governance, good policing and a just legal system, and the safety, value, equality, and dignity of all of our citizens.

And here is precisely where so many Christians stop connecting the dots. Our citizenship is dual: heavenly and earthly. We have responsibilities and a stewardship to both. But one and only one citizenship is preeminent. Our citizenship in the kingdom of Christ sets boundaries around what we can endorse in earthly kingdoms. We cannot support in our communities or our politics what is forbidden by our Savior.

But what do we do when it seems we are presented with two bad choices? I’ll look more at this in the next post, but let’s put down a ground rule first, regarding the differences between Trump and Biden. To establish this guideline, I’m looking only at the negatives for the moment.

Trump is an immoral man of poor character and poor communication skills. Remember, we are only looking at the negatives. Each candidate also has some positives.

Biden is a reliable supporter of abortion and the progressive left and sometimes has trouble telling the truth. See disclaimer above.

Here is the trap: in disputing with one another, if you can accuse a Christian Trump voter of hypocrisy and compromising his values because he is voting for a scoundrel, then it must also be fair and accurate to accuse a Christian Biden voter of precisely the same thing: voting for abortion and the progressive sexual revolution. That sword of accusation cuts both ways.

But neither accusation is necessarily true, and slinging these sorts of charges is not helpful. The situation is considerably more complex than such reductionism implies. Am I arguing that it is a moral equivalency? No, definitely not. I believe one choice is far better than the other, and for very solid reasons. There is more involved here than the personalities of the two candidates. But if we're going to discuss this rather than fight about it, let's drop the slanders so we can talk with mutual respect.

In the next post we'll look at why I don't believe the two candidates pose a moral equivalency, with respect to our vote.

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