On Martin Luther King Day, the national attention is centered on the start of Obama’s second administration. Following Election Day—when voters also approved a number of measures opposed by many Christians—many felt the country seemed to be headed in the wrong direction. At least, that’s how it appeared to some Christian leaders and commentators. One called it “a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns.” At the same time, the federal budget, political impasse, and a host of problems divide the nation. What are we, as Christians, to do?
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It seems that trying to change the course of the country through political initiatives has failed. Our purpose as Christians in this nation is not to try to appoint political winners but rather to point people to the saving truth of the Gospel. We need to go back to the basics of living as disciples of Christ, living missionally for Christ and demonstrating the Gospel in tangible ways within our schools, workplaces and communities.
Not only would our elections have different outcomes, but we would likely see more justice, compassion, and moral direction in our society as a whole.
As always, Christ is our ultimate guide. While Jesus was on earth, he was obsessed, not by earthly kingdoms, but with the kingdom of God. Just like us, he was subject to earthly rulers—Herod, Caesar, Pontius Pilate. When Jesus was challenged to take political sides, he told the Herodians and the Pharisees, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” When we put Jesus on the side of tangential political issues, when we make a political stance more important than loving our neighbors, we are making Christ smaller.
Jesus sought to avoid petty political debates—such as whether to pay taxes—yet he nevertheless showed his concern for our earthly troubles. Christ clearly demonstrated what it means to live in the world and not of it. He was concerned for the suffering of the sick and for mercy and justice, yet he didn’t seek to accomplish his goals by political ‘kingdom building,’ but by ushering God’s kingdom into his culture.
No matter how we foresee the direction of the country based on an election, we Christians have a job to do. God’s greatest command was to love him and love our neighbors. As the second inauguration of President Obama approaches, let’s focus the next four years on making Christ bigger. Let’s follow Jesus’ model for building the kingdom of God, loving our neighbors, demonstrating the gospel in action, lifting up the poor, freeing the oppressed, caring for the sick and suffering, and sharing Jesus’ love.
Richard Stearns is president of World Vision US and award-winning author The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished: Believing Is only the Beginning (releasing in April). Follow Rich on Twitter (@RichStearns) and Facebook.