by: Terry Ryan
Over the last couple of years politics has taken center stage not only in the public forum but in the Church as well. I am hesitant to say this is unprecedented for the simple reason that if people are involved in any organization, group, club, society, or church there will be politics. I was asked once if I allowed politics in our church, my response was, “Do you vote on the Pastor, when He is called?” We are all involved in politics even if unaware. Of course, politics are everywhere, and that does not need to be a detrimental issue, even for a Church body.
Living in Georgia this election cycle has been interesting to say the least. Not only has the Presidential Election been in the headlines but the races for Senate and Congress have as well, with the run-off bringing a bombardment of political ads and more mail than ever before. And in this particular run-off one Candidate is a Pastor. Certainly, he feels it is necessary to be involved in politics, and even through I do not agree with his political views I do agree that we should be involved in the Political / Governmental System that impacts the lives of every one of our fellow citizens. Abraham Lincoln said, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.” Lincoln felt that every citizen should be involved. Not only should every citizen be involved but so should every Pastor. As Christians we are to be influencers in our communities. The early church understood this to be true, not influencers for political gain, but influencers for the Gospel. As a Born-Again Believer in Christ, there can be no separation from who we are in Christ and how we engage in politics. Our beliefs do and should influence every aspect of our life. If we can separate our religious belief from our politic ones, then neither will be influential in our community.
According to David Barton of Wallbuilders.com "We also have a problem when only 14% of Christians read the Bible every day. ... And only 9% of Christians have a biblical worldview. ... So we're looking at a nation that doesn't think biblically." Barton goes on to say, "We're now in a place described three times in the Bible where everyone did what was right in their own eyes, I can choose my identity if I want." According to STEPHEN STRANG in an article for Chrisma News, "We now have 92 legally recognized identities in America. So I would say that it's not 'Where's God?' It's 'Where's God's people and why have they stopped studying His Word and why do they no longer believe what He said?' That's where America is right now. That's where the crossroads is." We are at a crossroads, and the Christian must step up.
The United States is a Christian Nation. Even the most casual reading of the Founders of this great nation will reveal this to be true. On 4th of July 1837, John Quincy Adams spoke the following, “Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth?” He had opened this speech with a quote from Isaiah the eight chapter, which says, "Say ye not, A Confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say A Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid." We live in a time when the truth seems to be allusive. But is that true? It is my opinion that the truth is not allusive, but it is honesty and integrity from men that is the issue. We do not have a politic problem in America, politics is just a tool, we have an integrity problem. This problem can be summed up in one word, “Sin!” Emir Caner, the current President of Truett McConnell University in the state of Georgia recently wrote: “Belief in God is essential to a healthy Republic. The less a citizen believes and trust God, the more government will, de facto, become his god.” Sadly, we live in a time when men and women who claim integrity use scripture to make a point or for political gain and in so doing misrepresent the context of the scripture and therefore the principle in the passage as a whole. This happens not only in society but also within the church. This is in part because society has begun to influence the Church and the church has weakened in its influence of society. This trend needs to be reversed.
Recently, Matthew 6:24 has been in the news. And when I first heard the use of it, I was troubled. Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” One of the most dangerous things a person can do is read a single verse and attempt to determine what it means in isolation. There is a process for understanding and interpreting Scripture. Now this is not to say that one cannot state what a single scripture supports, but this most be done in the light of the whole of scripture and not in the influence of contemporary circumstances. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays in their book, Grasping God’s Word, remind us, “We are separated from the biblical audience by culture and customs, language, situation, and a vast expanse of time.” It is this expanse that causes the abuse of Scripture, one must look at all writings in the light of its contemporary and historical culture, customs, language, and situation and from that develop the principle. It is that principle that then must be applied to our current culture, customs, and situation. When done properly, the principles of Scripture become an agent of change in a society. The recent use of Matthew 6:24 was not in context and therefore an abuse of Scripture. To understand the proper context of this verse we need to look back a few verses. These verses are taken from the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus beginning in Matthew 5. It is in this section that we find the Beatitudes beginning chapter 5 followed by topics such as anger, lust, divorce and loving our enemies. In chapter 6, Jesus continues with giving to the needy, the Lord’s prayer, and fasting. So, we see a string of instructions dealing with our understanding and our actions. In short, these verses address attitudes. So, when we get to Matthew 6:19 the topic is treasures in the context of attitudes.
Mat 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.
This is linked to Isaiah 55 where we read:
Isa 55:1 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.
Isa 55:2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Isa 55:3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—The sure mercies of David.
It is crazy for a man to make a long-term investment in something that has a short-term life. A heart designed for God and eternity is degraded by being fixed on these things which are subject to corruption. This is the context of Matthew 6:24, it is one of attitude toward eternal things. Jesus goes on to say:
Mat 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Mat 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The context of Matthew 6:24 is on eternity and things that impact eternity, not the things that are fleeting. We are to look for and invest in the things of God, true things, eternal things. This is not to say that we cannot have a 401K or IRA or that we should not plan for retirement, but it is saying that we should have a proper perspective.
Mat 6:22 "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
Mat 6:23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
The lamp of the body is the eye. This is stating the obvious, a lamp allows us to see with clarity, therefore we are being told that our eyes allows us to see. F.B. Meyers wrote,
“What is in our inner life which answers to the eye of the body? Some have said that it is the intellect; others the heart. But it is truer to say that it is the inner purpose and intention of the soul. When our physical eye is in an unhealthy condition, the image is doubled and blurred. To use a common expression, it has a squint, such as affected the noble face of Edward Irving, the noted English clergyman. We are told that as a babe he was laid in a wooden cradle, in the side of which was a small hole through which he watched what was going on. This distorted his vision through life. So we may look two ways at once. The endeavor to serve God and mammon, to stand well with both worlds, to lay up treasures on earth and at the same time be rich toward God, is a spiritual squint. John Bunyan tells of Mr. Facing-Both-Ways, who kept one eye on heaven and the other on earth; who sincerely professed one thing and sincerely did another. He tried to cheat God and Devil, but in the end cheated only himself and his neighbors.”
In verse 22 we read of a “good” eye and in verse 23 a “bad” eye. The good here is not regarding function alone, but in this context is regarding motivation, so we can have a “good” eye or a “bad” eye. This is to say good intentions or evil ones. So, it is a presupposition or disposition of the seer being spoken of here. The one with a “good” eye is full of light and this light is the truth. But the one with the “bad” eye is full of darkness and therefore the antithesis of truth or a lie.
Therefore, to this point we have been told:
- To focus on the eternal work and truth of God
- To have the right attitude, that the one who looks for truth will find it, but the one who has evil intentions is full of darkness and will find it
It is then that we read verse 24. It is this verse that has been used in many political advertisements of late.
Mat. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
When you look at this verse it is clearly dealing with interpersonal attitude and conflict. One cannot have a divided focus. This is not saying however, that you cannot be a Christian and serve in the Military for example. In fact, our focus, being one of attention on God, should make us not just a better employee, soldier, sailor, or volunteer, it should make the Christian the best employee, soldier, sailor, or volunteer. Since it is true that God through the Holy Spirit would never direct us to do a moral wrong, the Christian should be able to be trusted to always do the right thing. That alone would make a Christian a valued employee, soldier, sailor, and volunteer. So, when we hear a Political candidate say, “You can’t serve God and the Military” that is a gross mischaracterization of this verse. Especially when used to pander to a group.
Recently as well, one of the elected officials prayed before the opening of the 117th House of Representatives. I have listened to the entire prayer. First, let me say, we must be careful when criticizing or Critiquing the prayers of others, this is especially true when that person holds the title of Pastor as this man does.
So, I have considered my words.
This gentleman has disqualified himself from the office of Pastor. He has spoken of God, as “monotheistic” and then says “Brahma” which is the Hindu god of creation and closes his speech with “a men & a women” For a Christian a prayer is to speak to God, the one true God, not a god or one of many gods. For us Christians we believe we serve and worship one God:
“Deuteronomy 6:4 (NKJV)
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!”
“1 John 5:7 (NKJV)
7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”
On the surface this man using the term “monotheistic”, Mono being one, theistic being belief in the existence of a god or gods, sounds right. However, Islam claims to be the only “monotheistic” religion, and calls Christianity polytheistic. Because it is clear in this context that this man is pandering to many groups, I believe this is to appease the Islamic hearer. The use of “Brahma” the Hindu god is also for this purpose, to appease Hindu hearers. Then to close the prayer in “a men and a woman” is clearly pandering, since the definition of the term “AMEN” is not indicative of gender but is an indicator of agreement and is used as a response.
In Acts chapter 17 Paul address the worship of the people of Athens as they worship an “unknown god”, we have moved backward in this country, and we now worship an unknown god, we have pushed the Known God, the one God, the True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who sent his only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of the Old Testament and Savior of the New Testament, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, out of the public discourse. And now our Government worship idols!
So, what are we to do as Christians? In a Word VOTE!
Vote Biblical values, principles, and precepts. Take a stand for right not our own personal preference. Our Nation was founded on Christian values and we cannot allow non-Christians to have a greater say then us, we all deserve an equal voice. If you have questions about How a Christian Should Vote, see the blog post of 09/08/2020.
Our voice must start with asking God to forgive us as a nation.
Therefore, allow me to close this is a prayer:
“God, Father, LORD, KING, we beg you to forgive our Idolatry, we have turned from You, used your name as a political prop violating the proper use, using your name in vain.
We have turned from your precepts and are leaning on our own ways, serving our own desires, making the creature the object of worship. You are Creator and LORD, forgive us, help us to repent and turn from our wicked ways, please hear our cries for mercy. Help us to turn to you, heal our land, for your name sake and as a testimony of your strength. We pray this in Jesus Name. AMEN!