Saturday, September 19, 2020

Political Power

The date for the NZ general election in October has been set. Many New Zealanders seem to be a bit bored by it, but Christians are really stirred up about the election. Most see it as an opportunity to use political power to push back on the Big Four Social issues. The big four social issues are:

  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Marijuana
These issues are symptoms of the state of our society; they are not the cause of these problems. Focussing on political power to push back on social change is a a distraction for followers of Jesus that stops them doing what is really important.
  • The reason that evil is spreading in our society is that sin has become widespread. The reason that sin is widespread is that we have not shared the gospel of Jesus effectively. We cannot blame the world for sinning, if they have not heard the gospel clearly. We must not blame the world for failing to obey a God they don’t know. We should not expect sinful people to behave responsibly, if we have not shared the good news of Jesus with them.

  • The majority of the NZ population is not Christian, so we should not expect them to elect Christian MPs. If the majority of MPs are not Christian, we should not be surprised if they change laws in a way that Christians don’t like. Politicians follow the way of the world because that is the pathway to power. Forcing them to apply Christian principles is not an option. The solution is to change hearts by proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • The gospel of Jesus and political power do not go together. Political power is coercive power. The state has the ability to force people do things that they do not want to do. Jesus refused to use force and coercion to get his will done. He wants people to be free, so his followers cannot use coercion either. The Kingdom of God comes by the Holy Spirit changing hearts; it does not come by coercion (Luke 22:25). Jesus does not want his people "lording it over" the rest of society, so we cannot use political power to advance the kingdom. Those using coercive political power to advance the kingdom are serving the devil, because he is the master of domination and coercion.

  • Using laws to outlaw behaviours that we do not like is “salvation by law”. Christians know that salvation by law does not work, and they do not believe in it, so it does not make sense that they are trying to use political power to bring social change. Advocating salvation by law is wasted effort.

    The church has an amazing gospel, and the Holy Spirit. These together are far more effective for bringing social change. The gospel can transform human lives and society. The gospel and the Spirit are effective tools for changing lives and transforming society. They deal with causes, rather than just supressing the symptoms.

  • A law does not make people good. A law does not stop people doing bad things. Rather, a law provides for people who do bad things to get punished. When Christians push for laws that punish behaviour that they do not like, it gives people the message that the Christian’s God does not like them and wants to punish them. This undermines the gospel, because when Christians say that their God loves people and will forgive them, it does not ring true. That is sad, because when people put their trust in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, they stop doing the things that upset Christians.

  • Using the power of the law to force people to stop doing things that Christians claim God does not like makes people hostile to God, which make it hard for them to receive the message that Jesus loves them.

  • Christians hate it when secular politicians pass laws that force them to do things that they believe are wrong. Christians want freedom to live according to the standards of their religion, but they do not seem to want other people to have the freedom to live according to their beliefs. This is hypocritical.

  • The “moral horse” has bolted in New Zealand. Society has already decided where it wants to go, and it is going the other way. Most people are glad that the shackles of religious constraints have been thrown off. They do not want to go back to the old world of religious condemnation and shame.

  • The four big social issues are often used to sucker the church into supporting right-wing political parties. They will use these “wedge issues” to entice voters to gain power, but will give very little back. Political power will always be a trap that brings disappointment for the church.

  • God does not care about the big four social issues as much as Christians do. He is sad when people reject his love, but he is not surprised when they sin or do evil. The big four social sins that concern Christians so much are normal in societies that have turned away from God. The solution is proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit, because God’s heart is to rescue lost sheep, not to punish them.

In the New Testament, Jesus did not challenge the religious and political powers to bring in laws to eliminate abortion, euthanasia and sexual immorality. Instead, he went around proclaiming the good news and demonstrating God's love by healing the sick and casting out demons. Paul explained to the Roman Christians that increasing sexual immorality is the normal in a society that has rejected God's presence (Rom 1:23-27).

With thousands of Roman soldiers tramping around Judea, unwanted pregnancies would have been common in Jesus time. Many young women would have been seduced or raped (people assumed that Mary had been in a liaison with a Roman soldier). A secret abortion would have been the only way for a Jewish family to avoid terrible shame and ostracism. Homosexuality was common amongst soldiers too.

Jesus did not agitate for the Roman senate to pass laws that would stop these practices. Instead of advocating changes to the law, he urged his followers to preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that people's lives and society would be transformed.

Jesus was far more concerned about a different set of sins. He was particularly concerned about the sins of religious people and religious leaders than the sins of the world. When challenging sin, Jesus focussed on:

  • Unrighteous wealth (Luke 6:24-25; 16:13).

  • Religious leaders colluding with political power (Mark 3:6; Luke 23:2: John 19:12).

  • Imposing legal burdens on people to solve problems without doing anything about the underlying causes (Matt 23:2-4).

If the church persists in agitating on the big four social issues, there will be a harsh and hostile reaction. Persecution will be persecuted quicker than expected.

If pastors push hard on these issues in the lead up to the election, there will be a backlash from the media and activists that see them as a threat to their agenda. They have political support, so the fight could get really nasty. The social activists who have pushed these causes are tired of being pushed around and put in their place by the church. They feel like they have escaped that pressure in recent years, and they will do anything to avoid losing the ground that they have gained.

Dark clouds are rolling in from the sea and over the land.
The season of favour and privilege has come to an end.
A season of hostility, hatred, harm and harassment is beginning.

A sword of persecution will come against preachers
who go hard against sin with salvation by law.
When church leaders campaign hard against their freedom,
the people of the world will react with hostility.
Preachers will be accused of stirring up hatred and hostility
towards those who are hurting and helpless.
Pastors will be labelled as lacking in kindness and compassion.
If fear, anger and hatred squeeze out their love and empathy,
the world will react with hostility.

When church leaders use the sword of the state against sinners
and forget that sin carries its own punishment,
they will find that sword turned back against them.
A sword of persecution will rage against preachers
who go hard against sin with salvation by law.
A sharp division will come between political leaders and church leaders.
Hostility will rise up between them and feed into hatred and harm.
Some facilities will be closed to voices speaking loudly against sin.
Some Christian leaders will be hounded from their position.

When their pastors fall,
sheep will be scattered across the city,
afraid to return to big meetings.
After an explosion of anger and hostile threats,
some Christians will be afraid to come together in crowds.
When the sheep hide together in their homes,
something amazing will happen.
The Holy Spirit will make his home amongst them.
He will heal those who are sick and broken
and many people will choose to follow Jesus.

God will raise up helpers from within their homes
to watch over them
to teach them the way of Jesus
and to bond them into his body.
They will gather to love and support each other in their homes.
Elders with balanced giftings will arise from within their midst to watch over them.

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