(This article is a sidebar to Ben Cachiaras’s “The Separation of Church and Hate”; that article and this sidebar both appear in our July 2020 issue.)
Three Changes We Must Make to Stop the Infighting and Get Back to the Mission
By Ben Cachiaras
In his excellent book Dancing in No Man’s Land, Brian Jennings describes the elaborate bunkers used in World War I. Soldiers hunkered in deep trenches for months, close enough to shoot at their enemies but separated from them. They might raise up their head to hurl a grenade or take a shot, but they had to be aware—they could get shot themselves.
The politically hostile war zone we live in has us living the same way—in bunkers. Tucked deeply in ideological echo chambers, we surround ourselves with like-minded voices that speak only that with which we agree.
Political strife is nothing new. The problem now is that fellow believers in the Lord’s army are shooting at each other, and the bunkers we are hiding in are defined by politics. Our ideology defines us more than our theology. Anyone in a different bunker is the enemy.
So what can we do?
Let Christ Shape Our (Political) Thinking
First, we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The lordship of Jesus means we allow Christ to shape our thinking on every issue. Isn’t that what it means to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)? It has the same effect as when I put on my glasses and the lenses change how I look at everything. Taking every thought captive means keeping our God glasses on even when it comes to politics. Too often, however, our political perspective becomes the lens through which we look . . . the glasses that affect how we look at everything else.
Realize Our Real Identity
Here is the big question: Are you primarily a Christian who happens to be a Democrat or Republican or independent (or whatever view you hold)? Or are you primarily a Democrat or Republican or independent who happens to be a Christian? Do you look at politics through the lens of Jesus, or do you look at Jesus through the lens of your politics?
Christian is not a modifier, as in “I’m a Christian Republican” or “I’m a Christian Democrat.” Christian is an identity. And without ultimate allegiance given to Jesus as Lord, the church and its mission are on shaky ground.
Stay Focused on the Main Thing
Churches and pastors should refrain from taking a public stance for a candidate or aligning with a party or political position. Is that because we are weak and timid, afraid of standing up for truth? Is it because we don’t believe Christians should be involved in political issues? Is it because we don’t want to lose our tax-exempt status . . . or because we just hate conflict . . . or because there are no issues of justice important enough to weigh in on?
NO! NO! NO!
The reason churches should not align with a candidate or partisan perspective is because we have been given a much higher calling. And we must not do anything that prevents us from executing the mission we were given.
I’m a minister. If I make it clear I’m a “Trump guy” or a “Biden guy,” I likely have forfeited my ability to represent Christ to anyone who disagrees with me politically. I am now one more droning voice in the news cycle rather than a herald of good news. History has proven marrying the church to a political affiliation is always bad for the church. It’s bad for mission. It’s bad for Jesus. What do you really want to be known for? What is the main thing?
When Christians sell their birthright for a pot of political stew, not only does it leave us unsatisfied, it makes many others despise us—not because they don’t like Jesus or need the hope of the gospel, but because they don’t like our politics. How many more studies do we need to convince us that the rise of the “nones” is directly tied to the perception that the evangelical church is overly entangled in politics? The fruit of this approach is clear. Climbing in bed with any party only makes the culture we are sent to reach despise us.
People who come to your church need Jesus. Don’t make them wade through a bunch of politics to find him.
Ben Cachiaras serves as lead pastor at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland.