WASHINGTON, January 29, 2016 – Once upon a time, the pulpits in America resonated with Biblical truth. Pastors spoke about the issues of the day from a Judeo-Christian perspective. They also offered special sermons around election time evaluating issues and the candidates in light of Christian values.
It is time to revive this American tradition. Encourage your pastor to speak Biblical truth from the pulpit. Americans need spiritual help to navigate today’s murky political waters. And don’t worry; the IRS can’t take your church’s tax exempt status away.
Two famous preachers, Franklin Graham and Andy Stanley recently gave such election sermons and the world should take note. Rev. Graham is visiting all 50 state capitols, calling Americans to pray, to engage in the political process and to vote Biblical values.
Andy Stanley is the lead pastor of Northpoint in the Atlanta area. Between its various campuses and on-line presence Northpoint may be the largest Protestant congregation in America with about 30,000 people. Andy’s message, “Avoiding Election Infection,” focused on how we should put our faith before our politics – but in a new way. More about that shortly.
Last Sunday, I combined these two messages and preached my own election sermon, “It’s Up to You.” Share this with your pastor. He or she can preach it just like it is or make it their own.
My scripture was the Great Commandment and the Story of the Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37.
The Great Commandment says: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (27)
In response to a question about ‘who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied with a story. “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.” (30) The story continues with two religious leaders passing the poor man by, but the third, a despised Samaritan, stops and helps. He is the neighbor to the one who was injured.
How can you be a Good Samaritan to a hurting and wounded America?
Confess the sins of America. Franklin talked about sexual sin, our culture of death, an entertainment industry that celebrates violence and ridicules Biblical values. I’m sure you have your own list. Pray for America to humble itself before God.
Confess your own sins and trust in God’s forgiveness.
Confess the sins of past generations. Franklin talked about slavery, and the sins that plague the history of many families like abuse and addiction. Ask God to heal those scars.
Pray for those who don’t know the love of Jesus to put their trust in Him.
As Franklin said, “Before our nation can be healed, individual hearts must be healed.” He knows, as I do, that America will only be reformed one heart, one mind, at a time.
Pray. It’s up to you.
Put People Before Politics.
Most of us don’t see any conflict between our faith and our politics, but Andy Stanley challenged us to think about this in a new way.
When it comes to putting faith before politics – we can’t say “Bible first, politics second.” No matter where you stand you can find something in the Bible to support it, and someone else can find something to support their position. (I’m sure you can think of examples.)
And we can’t even say, “Jesus first, political party second” because you can find something Jesus said or did to support where you stand, and again, so can the other guy. (Again, provide your own examples.)
The way you keep your faith in front of your politics… is by putting people first and politics second. Jesus always put what was best for people first. That is our common ground as citizens and our common ground as Christians. That is our common ground with our Heavenly Father.
We can and will disagree, which we will and we should, on what is best for people, but we can’t disagree that what’s best for people is what’s best.
Name any issue before Congress or your county commission. We can debate what the best approach to address the problem is, but we can’t debate that what’s best for people is what’s best. We all want to help the poor, to be like the Good Samaritan, if you will, but how do we do that? Handouts or a hand up – or with some combination of both?
Put people before politics. It’s up to you.
Franklin quoted a 1952 speech by his father, Billy Graham, who said,
It is the easiest thing in the world for us Christians to think of national and world politics as something involving only men and women of the world. That is where we fail. Our job as Christians is to make the impact of Christ felt in every phase of life. Religious, social, economic and political. We must not do it in our own strength or wisdom. We can only do it when we surrender ourselves completely to God and allow him to work in us.
We all have opinions, but how we share them can make all the difference. Engage in respectful conversation. Listen to people whose opinions are different than yours. Learn from them. Be a student, not a critic. You may just discover a new way, a third way, to solve the problem at hand.
But engagement is more than conversation. Billy said, “One reason we have such bad leaders is that in some places only bad ones offer themselves for office.” The presidency is important, but local officials also have a tremendous impact on our daily lives. Can you imagine what education would be like if most of our school board members were Christians? Pray about throwing your hat into the ring.
Being engaged also means being informed about the issues and candidates. Expose yourself to the news from a variety of sources across the political spectrum. Our knowledge of a subject is limited by the resources we consult. Too often the sides of an issue are painted in a broad stroke that taints our thinking.
And, listen to your pastor. Billy said, “If I were the pastor of a church, I believe would speak to my congregation about where the candidates stand morally, spiritually and in relationship to the church.” And who are the candidates who will put people first, and be willing to listen to other opinions to make that happen?
Below are the names of the current presidential candidates of the two major parties. Over 20 others have declared candidacies as well. If you don’t know where they stand morally, spiritually, in relationship to the church and in regards to helping people, it is your responsibility to find out.
Read their own words, listen to their speeches, and visit their websites. Like them on Facebook and other social media. Look at what they have done and accomplished– and how they went about accomplishing these things. Have they sought God’s guidance in prayer? Have they honored God? Have they done what is best for people?
Think about these questions as you read the names: Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Martin O’Malley, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush.
My preference this election cycle is Ben Carson. I can confidently answer yes to all these questions and respect him as a healer and as a strong leader. If you don’t know much about him, check him out. If you have another opinion, let’s talk about it.
If it’s still not clear to you, pick the person who best represents godly principles, whose life exhibits the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. This isn’t just a quiz for presidents, but for all elected officials.
Get engaged. It’s up to you.
We all have opinions, but in America our vote is our voice. America’s politics is a reflection, not of all Americans, but of Americans who vote. There are some statistics out there that say millions of Christians aren’t registered to vote, and millions more don’t bother to go to the polls. Are you one of them? Check with your supervisor of elections, get registered now and vote. Make your voice heard.
After the San Bernardino terrorist attack, the headline in the New York Daily News declared, “God Is Not Fixing This.”
But God can fix this. God can fix this through you – for you are God’s hands and feet and voice in this world. That’s the role of the Good Samaritan.
Pray. Put people before politics. Get Engaged. Vote.
It’s up to you.