- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - With a round of local elections freshly in the rear view and a presidential election ramping up, it is perhaps only a matter of time before discussions flare up over the religious vote, the evangelical vote, the Catholic vote, and so forth.

The Rev. Brian Collier, pastor of The Orchard church in Tupelo, said it’s easy to become jaded by the political process. This frustration, he said, comes from the dissonance between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.

“The Bible says we hold dual citizenship,” he said. “As Christians, we have to remember that we are here for kingdom purposes, not country purposes. The world will not be saved by who’s in government.”

But the lines between religious responsibility, civic duty, and political activism become more blurry when put under a microscope.

The Rev. Terry Garrett, pastor of King’s Gate Worship Center in Tupelo, said it is first and foremost important to be thankful for living in a country that allows citizens to elect who rules them. Many Christians, he pointed out, exist and minister in far less friendly environments. That being said, Christians would do well not to underestimate the brokenness of earthly government.

“We should put priority on trusting God’s sovereignty, because he is the God who puts kings up and takes them down,” Garrett said. “But it is a mistake to trust government to protect and advance Christian values. When it comes down to it, even self-proclaimed Christian candidates are hard-pressed to compromise their platform to win votes.”

The Rev. John Armistead, former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo, said, in fact, if a candidate heavily plays up their faith, it deters his trust in them.

“To me, that smacks of manipulating religion. There are honest Christians that come down on different sides of any hot button issue. One danger people of faith fall into is vilifying, or deeming ungodly, those whose views differ from theirs,” Armistead said. “Plus, a person’s faith doesn’t guarantee their effectiveness in office. Lots of people would say Jimmy Carter was a bad president, but few would deny he is an upright Christian.”

That being said, being a good citizen, and an educated voter, is a godly obligation, according to Armistead. The writings of Paul, primarily, confirm this. Furthermore, Collier said, faith is the lens through which Christians should look at every issue, free of party affiliation.

“It’s important to find the place where the Biblical stance differs from the party stance, and to examine why that is,” he said. “There are issues on which each party has a more biblical stance than the other, but neither has everything right. As it is now, the purposes of the kingdom and the purposes of man’s government are incompatible.”

Another pitfall for the voting faithful who tie religion too closely to party affiliation is the effect of time on perspective, Armistead said.

“There’s a real danger in saying, ‘This is the candidate God supports,’” Armistead said. “I was a college student during the Civil Rights movement, and I remember so many pastors railing against desegregation from the pulpit on the basis of religion.”

God works in mysterious ways, as they say, and Armistead noted what seems bad at the time may offer unexpected blessings.

“Without Alexander the Great, who took the Greek language all over the continent, and without the Pax Romana, the great Roman peace time, and the roads built by the Roman government, Paul and the apostles wouldn’t have been able to travel as freely and safely as they did,” Armistead said.

Collier said it’s also important to understand a stance or issue that is provably scriptural and one that is personally inferred from the interpretation of scripture.

“For instance, I don’t drink, but I make that inference from the passage that says my body is a temple. My reading of it tells me that to honor that, I should be in control of my faculties at all times. That’s a personal interpretation,” Collier said. “A biblical issue if you can take me to a specific point in scripture that addresses it directly, right there in print.”

Garrett said it was no coincidence that in Matthew, when Jesus tells Peter he will build his church on the rock, Christ uses the same Greek word - “ekklesia” - that the Romans used for the senate.

“Jesus is referring to the authority being granted to the church through his name,” Garrett said. “We have to keep the governance from above in mind before all else. I can only feel like godly authority will be sought more and more in the world in the days ahead.”

Armistead agreed. Christians should seek to have a Christ mentality, not a Republican, Democrat, conservative, or liberal one.

“That means we see others as Jesus would see them, with love and concern for them, and out of that love and concern comes the way we see issues of war, immigration, abortion, and so on,” Armistead said. “The last thing we should be caught up in is anger toward other people who are different from us.”

After all, Collier said, the duty falls to individual Christians to make the world a better place, to try and bring on earth what is in heaven.

“Hope can’t be invested in government. It has to be invested in people,” Collier said. “The people of God are his redemptive instruments to engage the community and society.”


Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide