Kingdom Beauty in an Election Year

Posted to our blog on January 3rd, 2012 by Dave Linde
In the On Our Hearts category with 3 comments

I’m going to generalize and oversimplify some things in this article, but bear with me. I trust that my main point will hold.

I’ve been following the presidential race with keen interest. If I allow myself (which sometimes I do), I could waste a lot of time on RealClearPolitics.com.

But you don’t have to be a political buff—or cynic—to realize that there are serious problems in our society, that they’re getting worse, and that the divisions over how to address those problems are growing deeper.

The outlines of two highly different views of what America is, what America should be, and what path America should take keep coming into clearer focus and sharper conflict. On the one side (remember my admission of generalizing and oversimplifying) are Democrats and liberals who believe that our country’s long-term best interests will be served through a collectivist approach to society and government. On the other side are Republicans and conservatives who believe rather that an individualist approach must be pursued. The two sides seem to be entrenching themselves all the more firmly, and each side’s villainizing of the other grows ever louder.

In my opinion this polarization will continue, for neither approach is able to solve the problems our country faces. Neither side’s view of society and government will be able to produce real and lasting change. If it could, we wouldn’t need Jesus Christ. Only his shoulders are big enough (Isa. 9:6) to support a government that is truly just, wise, prosperous, and enduring.

That is something Christ’s church must remember during an election year. And that is where the local churches of the NCD have an opportunity to shine during this election year—and beyond. As the focused expression of Christ’s reign in this world, the church can exhibit the attractive beauty of the Kingdom in the midst of the frustrated attempts by the world’s political systems to bring about a better world.

For example, here’s one glimpse we can give to a watching world (or a ray of light that will prompt the world to begin watching): Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need (Eph. 4:28 NIV). Here, in one beautiful stroke, Christ shapes his church into what the world longs for:

  • Personal industry instead of sloth (so the conservatives can cheer)
  • Genuine provision for the needy (so the liberals can cheer)
  • Individual and collective responsibility blending to create something beautiful

How does this happen? What makes it work? God has created, in the church, a new humanity (the wider context of this verse). In this new humanity the old is put off and the new is put on. God does the inner heart work, through Christ, to create a wonderful new community of new individuals. The King shines through his subjects.

Ultimately, I suppose, in one way or another, all political aspirations and protestations express a desire for a new community, a new world, a new humanity. God has already created it. It’s there for the world to see if we exhibit it. In this election year, and the next, will we?

Comments

  1. Thanks Dave. Good reminder.

  2. Greetings in the name of Christ,
    Good article about Christian responsibility. I believe the church needs to be able to discuss things like this topic ( role of individual vs. role of government) as this article begins, with reliance on what Gods word does say on the topic. The third point that David Linde states is,

    Individual and collective responsibility blending to create something beautiful.

    Does the call to collective responsibility in this point come from the Ehp. 4:28 which addresses “anyone”, or is he refering to other scripture which does call upon the church or state to collectively respond to the needy? If so, which scripture? Isn’t paul speaking to individuals here rather than the church as a group since individuals would logically be “those who steal”.Thank you in advance for your response to this thought.
    John Hilleson

  3. John Hilleson,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think Eph. 4:28 reflects both individual and collective responsibility. The individual aspect is found in the command to individuals to labor instead of stealing. The collective is found in the command to share with the needy. That is where individual responsibility becomes collective: the non-stealing, laboring person not only does that individually–that is, for himself in isolation from others. He or she now connects with someone who is genuinely needy. Neither person is now acting individually; they are joined together collectively.

    The collective aspect is also found in the implicit command (as I see it) that all believers who work–not just those who have repented of stealing–should share with the needy. That is part of God’s design for the labor of everyone who labors. So a local church (such as those to whom Paul was writing Ephesians)is made up of people who together are sharing some of the fruits of their labor with those among them, and outside their fellowship, who are needy.

    As with many of the commands of the New Testament, I believe this one is addressed to individuals who together make up the local church. Thus it is addressed to individuals and to the church at the same time. There is an individual and collective responsibility that mingle together.

    Similar commands to help the needy, both individually and collectively, would include Gal. 6:10 and 2 Cor. 8-9.

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