(I wrote this in 2012, but the situation has only gotten worse. I feel even more strongly than I did then.)
It’s an election year, apparently. I’ve noticed the sprouting yard signs and the increasing emotional urgency in political conversations. The internets buzz with people making their case and stomping their virtual feet.
As a follower of Jesus this season makes me tired. Everyone seems to have expectations and obligations for me; commitments that I have never signed up for.
In the course of a single week, for example, I had two different Facebook friends make essentially the same claim. One was lamenting an action of the President that they disapproved of, commenting that they couldn’t imagine how any Christian could vote for a Democrat ever again. My other friend, frustrated with a bill that was passed in congress, declared that it was inconceivable how anyone who took the Bible seriously could possibly vote for a Republican.
I’m told there’s a culture war on. Also a war on Christians. Possibly a war on women. Certainly a war against Our Way Of Life. As a Christian, and as a pastor, I am expected to march in this war.
Wave the flags as much as you like. This is a war I’m not coming to. I am officially declaring my status as a Conscientious Objector in the culture war.
A Conscientious Objector?
What’s that, you ask? A Conscientious Objector is someone in the military who objects to violence on religious or moral grounds. In certain circumstances they can serve in non-combatant roles. Growing up in the Seventh-Day Adventist church, I heard a lot about Desmond Doss, an Adventist Conscientious Objector who served as a medic. Through heroic and self-sacrificial service, he won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I have no illusions that I will be heroic, but I will being doing my best to follow Jesus. I’m tired of having people co-opt Jesus for their political agendas — both on the left and the right. Jesus said and did things that were profoundly political, but He was not the founder of a political party.
As a follower of Jesus my actions are also political, but my loyalty is not to any cultural agenda. My loyalty is to Jesus. Not only to Jesus as my Lord, but also to Jesus as my guide. That means that the way I follow is just as important as the One I follow.
To remind myself, I wrote this declaration. Some people in my community have found it helpful, and so I share it with you.
I claim Conscientious Objector status in the culture war.
- I will not see people who disagree with me or believe differently from me as the enemy. They may be innocent bystanders. They may be victims. They may be prisoners. They may even be acting against me–but they are not my enemy. (Ephesians 6:12)
- I will not be tricked into thinking that anything they can do to me will do me irreparable harm. My security has nothing to do with other people. (Romans 8:28-39)
- I will not accept the lie that I must fight back when I am attacked, or else I am letting them win. In fact, I know that if I fight back, I will lose what really matters. (Matthew 5:39)
- I will not fall into the trap of using power in any form to compel people to believe or to behave. God has chosen not to do this, and I cannot cross that line. I will not manipulate, or lie, or misuse politics, with the agenda of forcing others to conform to my way of being or thinking. (Matthew 4:1-11)
- I will, however, be aware of the real battle going in people’s hearts and souls. (James 4:1)
- I will watch for what God is doing in the lives of people I come across. (John 6:44 & 2 Peter 3:9)
- I will give God access to them through me and through my prayer. (1st Samuel 12:23)
- The real enemy is selfishness and greed and every other satanic manifestation of pride, that leads to rebellion against God, whether in me or in others. (Romans 8:7)
- Against this I choose humility, service and every other form of love, which I have learned from Jesus and which I able to live out through His sustaining power in me. (1st John 4:8)
- I know that God’s plan for impacting culture is to change people’s hearts. I give Him access to change mine, and ask His grace that nothing I do would harden the hearts of people around me. (Ezekiel 36:26)
- I give myself to be an avenue through which God’s love can brings about transformation in other people’s hearts. (Matthew 28:19-20 & Matthew 25:34-40)
God, change me first.
* I shared this declaration along with some other ideas about how Christians can engage in and think about politics in a recent message at Bridge City Community Church. If you’d like to watch that video you can do so:
* If you’d like a nicely formatted version of this declaration for yourself, you can download a .pdf here.