I’m struggling. I’m struggling with how to engage culture for God’s glory. The recent nomination fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh forced that struggle to the front of my conscience. There are five realities guiding my decisions on cultural engagement, and five action steps I’d like to take in the future.
- I have friends who I want to influence with the gospel: This reality hits me hard. I have many friends who don’t think like me, vote like me, share my background, etc… I want be a Christ like influence in their lives.
- I see our society moving in a counter gospel direction: I’m concerned about the direction of our culture. We’re not moving toward the gospel. We’re not moving toward Christ. We’re moving away from Christlike values.
- I have opinions: I have opinions on politics and on other aspects of our society. I have biblically informed opinions that I’d like to share. I’d like to be a part of the conversation.
- My political party does not always align with my opinions: This has become abundantly clear in the past two years. The Republican party has moved farther to the right, and has left me feeling like a man without a party.
- God is neither republican or democrat: I may feel like a man without a party, but I am never without God. There will be democrats who spend an eternity with Christ. There will be republicans who do not. This is the most important reality. It connects back to the first reality. My heart’s desire is to see all my friends spend an eternity with God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
What am I to do? These realities are difficult to navigate. I’m not the only Christian struggling with the correct biblical posture for cultural engagement. Here are five action steps I’d like to recommend to those who are struggling with this issue, both democrat and republican. I’m committed to following these steps in the future:
- Do not be a stumbling block: When Southern Baptists met for our annual meeting in St. Louis in 2015, the messengers debated a resolution supporting a ban on the display of the confederate flag on public property. There were emotional speeches on both sides of the issue. Dr. James Merritt said, (I’m paraphrasing here) “If the confederate flag causes my brother or sister to tune out the gospel, then the confederate flag must go.” If the voicing of my political opinions causes my brother or sister to miss the message of the gospel, then I should keep my political opinions to myself.
- Engage with purpose and grace: I always need to ask myself, why am I engaging this person on this issue? Am I just looking for a fight? Am I just looking to prove someone wrong? Christ never engaged just to fight someone or prove someone wrong. He always engaged with purpose and with grace. The message of God’s grace was always on his lips, and He offered forgiveness while simultaneously standing against sin.
- Cultivate more relationships with people who do not think like me: I can’t engage in meaningful discussion in an echo chamber–see reality number one. I want to cultivate more of those relationships. I want to genuinely listen to arguments. Those arguments may not change my mind, but they give me an insight into people and their thoughts.
- Those who have different values are not my enemy: There are too many conservative Christians who treat non-Christians as enemies. They are not our enemy. The Bible says our fight is against the ruler of this atmospheric domain. I want to always be careful not to treat those who ideologically oppose me as my enemies.
- I will not belong to either political party: I’ve found myself in the position of not belonging to either political party. I will still vote for a certain type of candidate, but I will not vote republican just because I’m a Southern Baptist Pastor. The Republican or Democratic, or whatever party will have to earn my vote.
This is where I’ve arrived in my struggle. Paul wrote in Philippians 3, verse 12 and following, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.