Tear Down the Walls: Galatians Part 2
This week we are working through the false gospels that are common in our world. Yesterday (link here), we addressed the common refrain: “God just wants me to be happy!”
“A vote for my political party is a vote for God.”
The scriptures encourage us to respect governing authorities, but there is no indication that any political party adequately represents God. Let’s read Peter’s exhortation…then I will explain some key points.
11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. 13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.1 Peter 2:11–17 (NLT)
Peter writes to the church that was under deadly persecution at the hands of the politically powerful. Christians were unfairly blamed for many of the societal ills that affected the Roman Empire. Rather than tell the early church to rise up against the political injustice, Peter draws upon the example and power of Christ to weave an expectation that their witness (even unto death) would bring honor to God when God judges the world.
Listen, Peter is not saying: “The governments are holy and untouchable,” but he is saying that what should be considered holy is our response to the governments of the world. We are to stay away from “worldly desires that wage war against our souls” (vs. 11). What are the worldly desires?
- To dominate.
- To coerce others into our point of view.
- To demonize people.
- To use fear as a means of control.
- To attempt to bureaucratize goodness into the world.
Recall that our Savior submitted to the governing authorities: allowed himself to be arrested, did not demand his own release, endured the humiliation of being whipped, carried his own cross, was rejected by the Jewish Leaders, the Jewish people, his own friends and followers, was crucified on a Roman cross and buried in a tomb. And, through these humble acts, the powers of coercive religion, fearful political leaders and fickle followers were broken.
Peter wrote to the early church with that model in mind—our witness to the world is this: God is redeeming the world through humble sacrifice and not domination. We don’t even need to hope for societal domination, majority power or control. Instead, we serve, we love, we stand up for the weak and the lowly, we follow the rules, but we are not ruled by the rules.
I’ll say it again: The Christian does not need to dominate. We need only to bring honor to Christ by being like him.
Back to our false gospel statement: “A vote for my political party is a vote for God.”
A political platform can embrace anti-christian policies (abortion, inhumane immigration laws, swollen military to name a few) and should be held accountable. However, political parties in the USA will never embrace the fullness of the true gospel, because at the center of the true gospel is a suffering servant (Jesus) who died at the hands of political and religious powers for the sake of others, rather than taking up political or religious powers. Jesus didn’t raise support or even try to convince a majority. Rather, he secured his kingship by laying down his rights.
If we try to align a political platform with Jesus, we are faced with one of two propositions: to elevate the dignity of the whole platform beyond what is plausible, or to diminish the holiness of Christ.
Lee Camp argues:
“Until the consummation of the kingdom of God—until death has been finally defeated and resurrection triumphant—there are no utopian possibilities to be had. Any given structure of power may be more or less in service to its created ends, but there is no idyllic or partisan utopian solution to be had.
— Scandalous Witness
These are difficult matters. But, they are important.
At the time of writing, the election was a few days away. You’re probably reading this post-election. No matter the outcome, the hope for the Christian is the same:
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.Galatians 2:20–21 (NLT)
To conclude, please re-read Galatians 2:20-21 out loud and personalize it:
20 <YOUR NAME> has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer <YOUR NAME> who lives, but Christ lives in <YOUR NAME>. So <YOUR NAME> lives in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved <YOUR NAME> and gave himself for <YOUR NAME>. 21 <YOUR NAME> does not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make <YOUR NAME> right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.Galatians 2:20–21 (NLT)