Contending as One

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As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

Emotions run high in the U.S. among Trump supporters and even higher among those who favor Biden, at least in the city where I live. A sea of dark blue covers the island of Manhattan, not a speck of red—land and water are indistinguishable on an electoral map.

Partisan passions do not surprise me, but what does is that these emotions are very much in the church. I would go as far as to say that battle lines are drawn up. Some cannot imagine a faithful believer voting for Trump; others have the same sentiment about voting for Biden. John MacArthur said that all true Christians must vote for Trump, John Piper disagreed, Tim Keller is more nuanced, and the list goes on. The issues are complex. However, if history repeats itself, then Israel’s history might offer a perspective to help the church at this time.

In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites want a king in a time of transition, moral decay, and uncertainty. They want to be like the other nations; they want a man a head taller than others to lead them even if it means the loss of freedom, remarkable to say (1 Sam. 8:10-18). Samuel warns them, even pleads with them, but they are undeterred, so God complies with their request.

My point is not to say that Donald Trump or Joe Biden is the equivalent of Saul or that we are like the Israelites clamoring for a leader. It is to offer a framework. At root, Israel forgot that no earthly leader, no matter how good, could lead to a utopian society. Worldly men do not usher in the kingdom of God. Every judge failed, even Samuel, and every king will do the same, even David. Failure and frustration are built into a fallen world; the creation groans and longs for something more (Rom. 8:18-24).

If this framework is true, then the church must not look to parties for peace and prosperity. I am not suggesting that the church exit the political arena or lose its political convictions. Not at all, the church must be civically minded, well read, waist deep in society, and ready to debate, but it should have no illusions about worldly solutions and be on guard against narratives that promise much. Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians will never bring shalom to society, and the church should never act or pretend that they will. The outcome will be sober-mindedness, measured responses, unshakable peace, and persevering hope.

For America to flourish, we need Christians in both parties speaking truth to power with love. From this perspective, isn’t the fact that God-fearing men and women are in both parties a blessing? Salt spread is better than salt clumped. More importantly, Christians in both parties must realize that, ultimately speaking, they are all citizens of another kingdom with a true king, who has shed his blood for sinners. Political or even ecclesiastical memberships are at best penultimate. I would even go as far as to say that they are third behind our allegiances to God and family.

About the Author

John Lee is the head of the Upper School at The Geneva School of Manhattan, a Christian classical school. He also serves with Ben Spalink at City Grace Church in the East Village of New York City.

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Comments

Thanks for this John -- well said.

Thanks, John, for an article that makes a good point.  We understand the divisions out there in society, but how can there be such division in the church?  As you pointed out, MacArthur said, “All true Christians must vote for...”.  The emphasis is on “true” Christians, meaning one’s claim to Christianity means little if you don’t vote as I do or as I suggest.  Certainly believing in God doesn’t make one a Christian.  People of any and all religions believe in God and that includes the vast majority of the world’s population.  So that hasn’t been very helpful in giving people a unifying motive.  There are thousands of so-called Christian denominations, so I doubt that Christian church membership is really helpful.  There is little unity under the banner of “Christianity.”  There is even little unity under the banner of “Reformed” Christianity with the many splits over the years and even at present.  People’s concept of God and being under his banner is so varied that such a banner offers little help in holding people together.  Whose God do we rally under?  Realistically speaking, just as being Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian will not bring shalom to society (as you suggest) neither will being Christian.  It hasn’t helped in the past, and it’s doubtful if it will help now.  I think your article is talking pie in the sky.  But on the surface it sounds good.  Thanks again, John.

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