Maybe like me, you’ve been watching some of the Republican and Democratic conventions. Part spectacle, part showmanship, part pep rally, and part democracy, it’s interesting to see who speaks at these events, and what they say.
But perhaps the most interesting element of the conventions is how they sometimes feel like church. You have a speaker “preaching” core elements of their party’s beliefs. You have enthusiasm, fellowship, music, and disagreement (just like church). And you have passion. You even have prayer – though, I gotta say, I wasn’t comfortable with this one (not least, because the minister seems to forget about Ephesians 6.12), or this one (not least, because prayer becomes just another opportunity for people to cheer or jeer a candidate they like/dislike). But most of all, these prayers concern me, because they seem to forget that the Church has its own form of politics.
It’s true. The Church has a specific form of politics. But it’s not Republican or Democrat, Green or even Independent. It’s something far different.
First off, the word “politics,” at its most basic level, simply refers to how we structure our common lives. Politics is what we do to find a way to live together. And so, every group or city, every organization or country, has a politics.
The Church is no different. What is different, though, is how we live out our politics. For the Church is not first concerned with government structures or policies, but in embodying the truth and life of a person from Nazareth. Believing that Jesus is the embodiment of God, we as the Church seek to embody his life and presence through our common life as the Church.
So, to be a follower of Jesus is to be political. But not in the way Republicans or Democrats have been embracing these past couple of weeks. But to be a Christian is to live out a politics that puts into practice what we say we believe.
So, what do the politics of the Church look like? Let me suggest it looks something like the following:
- We surrender our right to claim our own rights. Christians aren’t first concerned about claiming their right to live how they feel, but in picking up a cross and walking in the way of Jesus.
- We surrender our right to go at life alone. To walk in the way of Jesus is to bind yourselves to others on the journey. To follow Jesus is to follow him with others – it’s what we call the Church.
- Which leads to the next element of the politics of the Church that I believe is so often missed: we don’t leave when things get tough. Church isn’t something you “come to” until you get mad at someone, or you don’t like the music or the minister, or until “it just doesn’t work for me anymore.”
- And #3 is true, I believe, because we grow best when we join our lives with people who are just as messed-up, and grumpy, and selfish as we are. In fact, this is exactly why we need to find a church family, and settle in with them. If we bounce around from church to church, we take our mess and selfishness with us. But if we stay put, we are more likely to be shaped and changed by those we share the journey with over the long haul.
- By staying put, we learn to love each other, and to share that love with those outside the Church. And a core element of the politics of the Church is that we exist to share the love of Jesus with everyone. Every one. Long before political parties were talking about equal rights for everyone, the Church was talking about equality for everyone. And when we haven’t been talking about this, we haven’t been the Church.
- That equality extends to the equal need we all have for a Savior. All are broken; all need restoration; all are called.
- The Church then believes that all who respond to walk in the way of Jesus are then called to use their gifts in service to others. The call of Jesus extends to everyone, as does the gifting of his Spirit to all who respond. All are called; all who respond are gifted; all who are gifted should then work out their giftedness for the sake of the Church and the world.
Imagine what the Church can look like when all 7 elements of our “politics” are on full display. Imagine what kind of gathering we can have on Sundays, and what kind of “scattering” we can embody Monday through Saturday.
So, yes, I believe in politics. And I believe in the Church. And I believe that when we get both of them right, we embody the very Kingdom of God. Not arrogantly, or perfectly, or completely. But when we understand the Church’s politics – that is, our very way of being – we become a living witness for the love of God, the presence of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
And that’s a platform I can endorse wholeheartedly.