(1 Cor 5:12–13 ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Now here we have perhaps the most disobeyed passage in the entire Bible (which says a lot). Paul could not be more plain:
* We have a duty not to judge those outside the church.
* We have a duty to judge those inside the church.
And we normally have this exactly backwards. We use our pulpits and the ballot box to condemn those outside the church, while tolerating dreadful sins within our congregations.
What does the Bible say about homosexual marriage for non-Christians? “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?”
What does the Bible say about pornography and gambling by non-Christians? “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?”
I’m 60 years old, and I’ve learned that the more messianic the presidential candidate, the worse he is as president. Republican or Democrat, if you think your job is to save the world through the power of the United States, you’re doomed to failure. Salvation is only through the power of the cross.
On the other hand, government does have a proper, God-given role. And that role sometimes overlaps with Christian teaching. The government should protect us from murderers. Christ teaches us not to murder and changes our hearts by the Spirit not to even be tempted. Similar, but distinctly not the same. The government puts murderers in jail. Christ forgives them (ask Paul) — but also transforms them. Try as it might, the government will never pull that off.
(Rom 1:28-31 ESV) 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
God does not ask the church to gain control of government and to use the power of police and the military to impose Christianity on an unwilling citizenship. In fact, when God gets his way, those who refuse to serve him are given up to debased living. From God’s perspective, the world without Jesus should not be the Kingdom Built by Man. It should reflect the true depth of the wickedness that abandoning God is.
And there’s something about mixing Christianity with government that tempts the church to gain advantage through the power of the state. But the Scriptures declare —
(2 Cor 12:9 ESV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(Is 40:29–31 ESV) 29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
A constant theme of the Scriptures is God’s desire to work through our weakness. From Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to Gideon, to David, to John the Baptist, and finally to Jesus and his apostles,
(1 Cor 1:27–29 ESV) 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Political solutions to what are ultimately spiritual problems turns God’s plan on its head. Paul lays out the exact opposite of a political campaign to bring the blessings of Christianity to a nation.
In Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media, Bradley Wright reviews the research to understand why Christianity declined in the US in the late 20th Century.
[A]bout 7 or 8% of the American adults surveyed stated that they had no religious affiliation. Then in the 1990s, the number doubled to about 14 or 15%, and it’s been above that ever since. …
[M]any Christians left the church because of the church’s active affiliation with conservative politics. In the 1980s and 1990s, high-profile evangelical leaders snuggled up with Republican politicians under the banner of the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition. This drove away more liberal members of the Christian church who were at odds with their leaders’ conservative agenda. In the current decade, most prominent evangelical leaders in America, such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, have not actively supported a given political party, and this might have slowed the rate of religious disaffiliation.
(Kindle Locations 243-244, 250-253). Wright gives other examples of times when the politicization of the church cost the church members — and cost God souls.
Now, my own politics tend to be fairly libertarian, in that I don’t think the government can solve many of our problems. There is a place for government, and so I can’t buy many of the stricter forms libertarianism. We do need laws against fraud and all sorts of other corruption. People are capable of evil, and the government is one of God’s answers — but not one of God’s solutions.
The solution to evil is the cross of Christ. It’s the power of God to transform those who have faith in him. And there is no secular alternative.
We cannot bring about the Kingdom through the ballot box or by hiring lobbyists. Just as football will always come down to blocking and tackling, the Kingdom will always be about prayer, worship, evangelism, and benevolence — done by people transformed and empowered by God’s Spirit.
It’s not complicated, and there are no shortcuts. The failure of American society is simply this: the failure of the church to be the church. And there’s no political solution to that problem.