I am not into politics. In fact, if I were being honest I would say I vote out of obligation. I don't get excited about politics. I don't really think about politics. Much of that is due to a quote I read some years ago that said, "Politics are for the politicians that make the laws that most of us don't even understand." For some reason, that sentiment stuck with me. Not to mention, the almost universally accepted law, that you can't talk about religion and politics with anyone. It's not in scripture, the constitution, or any other recognized document that I can find. Yet, people apply it like it's gospel. All that to say, for me, politics hasn't really been a big part of my life.
However, I have always been fascinated with other people's obsession with politics. At the very least, it has been amusing to me to see political allegiances dominate some people's lives. Even among believers. I have watched many Christians question people's salvation, simply for some of their political perspectives. And worse, I have seen what appeared to be genuine friendships torn apart because of irreconcilable, ideological, differences about how one should think through politics.
Personally, I've never felt tied to a particular party. I've always said I am a Christian not a Republican or Democrat. What that means to me is, I vote for who I think will be best for where our country stands at that time. And it has become harder with each election. Especially now. I have waited for the day when there would be two candidates of the two major parties that people have a hard time trusting. Or, when the candidate of said party, is fine with things that would make the people that follow that party cringe in horror. I have waited to see this because I've wondered how many people will still associate themselves with a political affiliation, when that affiliation no longer satisfies their governmental perspective on particular issues. I believe this is happening now.
So what does all of this have to do with the title of this post, "Suffering, Sovereignty & Politics?” I have been paying closer attention, specifically to this year’s political race, trying to understand what it is that makes us vote the way we vote, in light of God's sovereignty. We believe that God is in control. And that nothing truly happens outside of his knowledge, and allowance for that matter. Yet, many of us still carry on as if somehow our political affiliations determine the direction of even life itself. While there are a number of reasons (age, ethnicity, specific issues, fear of man) why people vote the way they do, I can't help but wonder if we (in particular American Christians) vote based on who we think will cause us the least amount of suffering.
Don't get me wrong, there are a number of good reasons to vote and to even align yourself with some political affiliation. But we are also Americans; we loathe the idea of suffering. And that loathing is not compartmentalized to simplistic preferences for personal space, and unabated pursuits of how we each personally define happiness. It is also woven into the underpinnings of our faith. Where genuine believers can, like Israel, put their hope in a king like Saul instead of Jesus. And that is how I have seen many Christians talk about their political aspirations. As if to say that if everyone were a republican, the world would be godlier. Or if everyone were a democrat, the world would have more equality. As if Jesus is an American. No. God is not an American. And many believers can be found all across the political spectrum.
My concern for believers is not who we vote for, but how much hope we put in who we vote for. Can we honestly expect a politician to be like Jesus? Are we not the least bit discerning of how dangerously close we are to Old Testament Israel? Do we honestly believe our political association makes us godlier than another one? And, have we considered the fact that our political hopes may be rooted in a hope for a suffer-free life, that subverts our call to suffer as Christ suffered, yet persevere to the end? God's people have rarely had an easy time this side of glory. We've always been outnumbered and second-class citizens. Always suffered because of our faith, but have always persevered because of his grace. Ironically, the western church is the least persecuted church in redemptive history. Our time to suffer some for Jesus' sake has arrived. Even if that means our confidence in our political party and system is being shattered before our very eyes.
The truths we hold to be self evident are that all men are created equal, in that all men are created in the image of God. And in that, we submit our lives to the glory of God. But not our idea of what would glorify him. But his idea that his people trust Jesus, and accept the reality that many, if not all of us, will suffer for his name sake. If that's true, then we should not be surprised, nor dismayed, at our current political climate. But should, as Jesus once prayed, have a, "Not my will but your will be done," perspective with all things. Especially in politics. If, we truly believe he is sovereign.
Curt Allen is the Lead Pastor of Solid Rock Church. He has been in ministry for 12 years. Married for 11 to Betsy and has three boys. He has written two books "Education or Imitation" and "Does God Listen To Rap?" and he currently writes for blog site "The Blazing Center".