Four biblical perspectives
In an election year, preachers are forced to decide how, and if, they will address the controversial issues raised by campaigns. That is a daunting task, particularly when people within the church differ on how biblical teaching applies politically. Brian Lowery, managing editor of PreachingToday.com, asked four pastors how they approach the task of preaching in a season of heightened political awareness without wandering off course. He discovered four distinctly different views.
Keep the Gospel Clear and Distinct
Mark Dever pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and author of Twelve Challenges Churches Face (Crossway, 2008).
Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world, so I don't want to confuse my role as a preacher with the role of politicians and government servants. I don't act fundamentally as a counselor in political matters. I expound Scripture and the truth about the gospel, letting the political parties do what they will.
One party may increasingly identify itself with something I think is clearly sinful in Scripture—like same-sex marriage—while the other doesn't support it at all. But I can't allow myself to be duped into believing that either party is acting out of obedience or disobedience to Scripture. While one party may be more consistent with Scripture on one particular issue than on others, both parties operate primarily with secular mindsets.
We must not confuse the gospel with other passing matters. Ours is not a Christian country. We are Christian stewards of the votes the Lord commits to us, but we can't presume that we are creating morality for a nation of regenerate people. As much as we hope to persuade our fellow citizens that it is in their best interest to act in accordance with the morality we see in Scripture, I have no reason to presume in a fallen world that we'll always be able to persuade sinners to live according to what God has revealed of himself.
Too many Christians today are trying to improve on the gospel. The gospel is what it is: the Cross of Christ. Christians on both the political right and the left are downplaying the effects of the Fall, and instead buying into a secular myth of progress through market economics or socialism. That is not something a Christian preacher should adopt.
A Christian preacher should be critical of any temptation toward earthly Utopianism. The answer to the world's ills is not even something as good as outlawing abortion. I certainly would like for us to have such laws, but even more, I'd like people not to want to kill unborn babies. There's only so much outward conformity that laws can build into a people who are not in agreement with the heart issues.
It serves us well to understand the difference between the gospel and the implications of the gospel. Too many evangelicals are concerned about the latter at the expense of the former.
I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend who works in the federal government. He said, "I'm around people all day long who work alongside me toward better labor laws or a reduction in Third World debt. They're with me on all the larger social goals, but they're non-Christians. Do I have anything left to say to them?"
My response: "Yes! You have the gospel! They are sinners alienated from God, and they need a Savior."
When preachers start talking about a larger vision for the gospel, their political views often get mingled in. People who disagree with those political views, then, are seen as opponents of the gospel.