What we saw this past Tuesday was more than a failure of Mitt Romney or the Republican Party to win an election, it was a failure of the Church to preach and live out the Gospel. There is no dispute that in this nation the portion of the Church that could be called Bible-believing or evangelical is firmly associated with the Right. This is not to say that the Republicans accurately reflect the teachings of Christ, or that all those who are saved identify as conservatives, but merely that the Right is believed to be religious for a reason. And if the Church had been doing her job for the past couple of election cycles, had been baptizing and discipling this nation, things would have looked different.
The Gospel can be summed up as “Jesus Christ is Lord.” And if he is, certain things follow. If he is Lord, the government is not. If he is Lord, we must obey him. If he is Lord, we must treat his other subjects right. And if he is Lord, we must require that those who represent us submit to him. We would be looking at a very different America right now, had we been preaching the Gospel.
First off, if Christ is Lord, the government is not. That statement is not a declaration that government had no authority. It does, and that authority is derived from God for our benefit. But that authority is not inherent in the government itself, it is merely a gift from the Lord. This means that it has limits in what it can do. In electing Obama and the party he represents, America is recognizing that our government is the final authority.
An ad was circulating a while back which said that government was the only thing we all have in common. If Christ is not King, that is true, and if that is true, then that government becomes the most important thing to us as a community. It can do whatever it wants for the simple reason that if it doesn’t, who will? Thus government inherits the power to give and take wealth, the power to take away, grant, and educate children, and any number of other powers. If the Church had been declaring Christ’s Lordship, this country would have to at least stop and ask itself whether Christ had granted civil government the authority to do such things.
Second, if Christ is Lord, we must obey him. This means we can no longer support the murder of children in the womb, or sanctify sodomy by giving it the name and rights of an institution which God created. It means we cannot support government-backed theft, whether that money is taken from one person and given to another, or from another generation to feed this one’s decadent lifestyle. These are issues well-addressed by conservative Christian thinkers, so I won’t harp on them. But if we had been preaching the Gospel, this many people could not have voted the way they did in good conscience.
Third, if Christ is Lord, we must treat his other subjects right. This is where we play at the funny edges of conservatism and have to reconsider our current policies. With regards to immigration, while nothing in the Bible is at all inconsistent with a secure border or recognizing the distinctions between one nation and another, there is a great deal in there about being hospitable and showing mercy to strangers from foreign lands. It has been noted that Hispanics, despite being socially conservative, did not vote Republican. We ought to think long and hard about why.
There’s another point to be made under this same heading. Before I make that point, let me state that nothing bugs me more than the people who cheered these wars at the beginning acting like they were never in favor of them, and looking for scapegoats to pass the blame to. Unless, of course, it’s civilians, comfortably at home, and who have never once risked their life, calling soldiers foul names and dishonoring them. That might bug me more.
But it has been said, elsewhere and by better men than I, that we are doing a great deal of harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ over in the Middle East. They say there is an unconscionably high number of civilian deaths, and that the Church there is now hated for its association with us. If we are killing the innocent and preventing the spread of the Gospel, even unintentionally, we ought to think twice about what we are doing. In this respect, and in the arena of immigration, we see evidence not only of a failure to preach the Gospel, but of a failure to live it out.
There is one final way in which the world would be different had we been doing our job. If we are Christians, then our loyalty to Christ comes first. The organizations we create ought to reflect our obedience to him. The people we choose to lead those organizations should also reflect that obedience. Despite being the “Religious Right,” despite evangelicals and conservatives being virtually synonymous, the Republican Party is filled with hypocrites and men swayed by self-interest, not by the truth. We chose as our representative a pagan, we gladly voted for him, and we were disappointed when he did not win the election. We refused to hold the party we thought we ran, and the people who led it, to Gospel standards.
Now this all sounds like a thorough condemnation of the Church’s lack of faithfulness, and in some ways it is. But our Lord is the one who died for us, and the one who forgave us all of our sins, including these. I have seen some wonderful things during this past couple of years, things that give me hope for the future of the Church. But if those things are to come to fruition, we need to repent and begin living the Gospel. And when we have begun living it, people will notice. And as we live it, and begin to preach it, we can have some real hope, and real change. So please join me over the next four in praying for that kind of repentance. We need it.