Church and Politics

I just read that President Trump is promising to "totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment, a law passed in 1954 which prohibits churches from engaging in political activity at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. That should be great news for all those pastors of churches who have been engaging in political activity all along. The bigger question is what the role of the church is, or ought to be in relationship to the culture in which it lives. After all, isn't the role of discipleship one of transforming the world, reclaiming all of creation and pledging allegiance to the Reign of God? Yet, it seems that, here in America, Christianity for many is more cultural than transformational. So, what do I mean by transformational? In the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the poor, the merciful, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for justice (not punitive justice, but, rather, restorative, healing, justice) the meek, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for justice' sake, those who are reviled for trying to live a Christ-like life." (Matthew 5) In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40). At the heart of the matter Jesus tells his disciples: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) The original Greek language is far more poetic, powerful and prophetic. In finer translations of the Greek language, we hear Jesus saying: “Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth.” (UM Bishop Ough) Where are the Jesus followers now? Where are the strangers being welcomed? Where are lives being given in self sacrificial love and concern for others, especially the most vulnerable in our communities? Where are the Jesus believers loving even their enemies? Where is there compassion? Hospitality? Empathy? Where these things are there is the transformational work of God. Notice this work is not inwardly directed, but, rather, focused on others. You see, salvation is not something an individual earns. You don't earn your way to heaven. You participate in the heavenly work of living as if the Reign of God is completed. Sadly, we know the work is not finished yet. But Jesus launched a revolution when he died on the cross. It is up to his followers to continue the revolution until that time when God completes it all and there is the marriage of heaven and earth, and God reigns. No more tears. No more sorrow. And so, being the church means we have choices to make. We can focus on making sure our own lives are safe and secure, building walls around us as insurance, or we can risk it all on caring for those who are marginalized and demoralized, demonized and hopeless. We can pool our resources, sharing with those who are less fortunate. Or not. We can lay aside the petty arguments about biblical interpretation or continue to use those arguments to create division, alienation and condemnation, smugly claiming heaven, one's personal entrance into heaven while judging others as unworthy. We can be political. In our pulpits. In our church halls. Or we can seek to live as we are called to live, summed up biblically in the three "Greats." The Great Requirement to "act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God." The Great Commandment to "love one another," and the Great Commission to "make disciples for the transformation of the world." If we did that wouldn't it be great? It would be heavenly.