The pastor at my home church was preaching one Sunday, and as an illustration, he shared that some senior adults received so little in Social Security, they had to eat dog food. Then he added this phrase, "I don't think God likes that." Everyone can agree on that, right?
On the way home, one family member said, "I just don't think preachers should talk politics." Maybe I missed something, but how is people getting enough to eat (so they don't have to eat dog food) politics?
There are people (and obviously some in my family) who think preachers should stick to issues like salvation, heaven, hell, the second coming, and "Did Adam and Eve have belly-buttons?" There is another set of folks who think preachers ought to preach politics if it agrees with their politics. Then there are preachers who think politics is the way you change the world. One well-known pastor in Dallas had a TV studio built into his new church so he would be instantly available to news networks to share his opinion.
Part of the problem is the way we see the world. We think faith is just about what happens after you die. Jesus kicked this idea in the head when he said, "Whenever you visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, and visit folks in the prison, do it just like you are doing it to me." If you really are a Jesus follower, you will care for the least of these.
It's also a problem when people think their way of thinking is God's way of thinking. That's the way the Chief Priests and Pharisees thought. They were so convinced of their own "rightness," they didn't recognize God in the flesh in front of them. Before you start telling everyone what God thinks politically, you might want to check with him.
I am always amazed when preachers think political power is the way to change a city, a state or a country. I think there is greater power on a prayer bench than in a ballot box. That doesn't mean Jesus' followers shouldn't vote or run for office; it simply means our hope is in the power of a resurrected Jesus, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords (and President of presidents, Governor of governors, and Mayor of mayors).
One of the reasons the first part of the Bible - the Old Testament - matters is because it tells us how God's judgment comes upon nations that sell justice, abuse the poor, reject the foreigner, worship sex and lust for power (of course, none of those issues impact us today). Jesus' followers have a mandate to speak truth to power, no matter what party holds that power. That is why the church of Jesus should never sell its soul to a political party. The church never has to figure out whose side it is on; the church puts itself on God's side. Everything else falls in place from there.
Jesus' followers need to speak with a clear voice that every life, every soul matters to God. Therefore, every life, every soul, matters to us.
Call it politics if you want. I call it seeing Jesus in the faces of every man, woman, boy and girl.
I think back to that preacher's statement so long ago, and he was absolutely right to say those words in church. Jesus said if you feed the hungry, it's like feeding him. I wouldn't serve Jesus dog food, would you?
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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