I am asked often to make public statements or sign specific petitions regarding political policies. The requests sometimes come from the left, sometimes from the right. And the issues constantly change. We never back away from teaching truth, of course, but when should the church make overtly political statements in response to current events?
Let me suggest two biblical truths we must hold in tension, and then suggest two questions that can serve as a guide for when to speak.
Smart, educated women who decide to end, pause, or part-time their careers are often treated as defective parts in the machinery of egalitarian social justice, or as children who have asked for a plate of food and then thrown it in the garbage. The general argument is that an education, like a treadmill or a bag of flour, is wasted if it is not used (the definition of “used” being, “used to make money”).
The thing is, though, anyone who castigates a woman for failing to cash in on her degree reveals a complete misunderstanding of two things. 1. The nature and purpose of education, and 2. The actual needs of society.
You may be the kind of person who can just ignore looming problems, but I’m not. I stewed on it the entire way to my meeting. I played out options of what might be wrong and what I might say in reply. I stepped into my big meeting in mental turmoil and the result was predictable. It went bad—really bad. I was off my game. The pitch I’d rehearsed for weeks fell flat. I missed my opportunity.
We preachers have an ingeniously subversive tool in our scriptures: the narrative. But the narrative loses its subversive effect when we force it into a 3-point outline, as though sprinkling practical and theological nuggets throughout can somehow improve upon the God-ordained format of the text. Pauline outlines are wonderful for Pauline letters, but it is a subtle betrayal of scripture to force everything into a Pauline outline.
In an excerpt from This is Our Time, Trevin Wax asks, “Is a wedding the mountaintop of a romantic relationship? Or is it the base of the mountain, the foundation for all that follows?”
The sovereignty of God can be both a tremendous comfort and a source of spiritual angst for us at different moments in life. It is comforting to know that there has never been an occasion which caught God by surprise – that even though we might find ourselves reeling at this circumstance of that, the Lord is firmly in control. Of course, that control works both ways, and it means that whatever does indeed come into our lives is only there because God, in His sovereign wisdom and power, has seen fit for it to be there.
But there is another implication of God’s sovereignty that we might tend to overlook.
A favorite from the archives:
You might think I’m oversensitive, but there are some things in the North American church experience I have a really hard time with—behaviors and practices, I think to some degree, all of us are complicit in encouraging. I have a hard time with the vapid and silly songs sung in so many congregations, many of which seem to have nothing to do with Jesus, but a lot to do with us. I struggle with the weirdness of “Spirit keys,” which make the end of a sermon feel like the emotional moment at the end of an episode of Full House. I get uneasy when I watch preachers use carefully rehearsed techniques to whoop people up, as if yelling and jumping around were the sign of true zeal. I get the heebie jeebies when it’s discovered that there are churches that manufacture baptisms, leaving behind lots of numbers but doubtful fruit.
There’s a common concern with all of these: they may well be counterfeits. They are a representation of true biblical zeal, of Spirit-wrought transformation, of heart-felt affection, but they lack the Spirit’s power. We might add numbers to our weekly services by practicing such things, but over time it becomes questionable how many among them are true disciples.
Many, I fear, are coming for the show.