This week I attended the Right Now conference in beautiful Dallas, Texas with others from my church. There was a lot of good things discussed there, but there is one that has been on my mind for some time that holds a lot of meaning for the moment we live in.
There is a lot of talk these days about how we live in a politically charged, divisive time. However, the Apostles of Jesus also lived in a politically charged time, and the stakes were extraordinarily high.
There was plenty of hatred for those in governmental authority, and that was not unfounded: the Romans were ruthless, violent, and unrelenting in their domination of those they ruled, and the Jewish rulers had no qualms in arresting, beating and murdering the disciples of Christ by throwing rocks at them until they died.
So what did the first church leaders have to say about government?
First, there is Paul, who was a Roman citizen in good standing, yet was arrested, beaten, and eventually beheaded for the offense of believing in Jesus. Paul said this:
“be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”. – Romans 13:1.
And then there is Peter, who would be beaten and arrested for preaching the Gospel, and according to tradition, died at the hands of the Romans by being crucified upside down. Peter says,
“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” I Peter 2:17.
Now, I love politics as much as anyone. I have strong views of what American government should look like. I hate injustice, corruption, and I love a good campaign. Yet in my lifetime, there have been 8 presidents of the United States: 5 Republicans and 3 Democrats, generally switching off every few years. The world wasn’t destroyed under any of them, and I don’t figure it will be anytime soon.
Should we drop out of the political process? Not at all. We should be actively engaged and involved. But never in hate, always for the good of the Gospel, and with the knowledge that this world, and this nation, as much as we love it, is not the end all of our salvation.
Just like Paul and just like Peter, we are citizens of a different kingdom, ambassadors from an eternal realm that is not of this world, and nothing that happens in any election will change that. Our future is not here. Our future is Heaven.
If we are successful in changing policy, that is wonderful. But if we are successful in changing hearts, starting with our own, that is eternal.