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When Should Christians "Get Political"?

Our country is tearing itself apart. Even within the Church there are deeply conflicting views about what we should and should not do.

Because my dad was Bill Bright you might assume I would say we need to focus primarily on the Great Commission. Others who have read my book, GOD is the Issue, might think I would say we need to engage on the social issues. My answer might surprise both groups. In fact, my dad’s actions might surprise both groups.

I recently read a quote by Billy Graham with which I fully agree. However, I suspect some Christians might take it out of context in order to justify their position, one way or another. This is what he said:

“I do not believe that we should spend our time cursing the darkness. I do not believe we should spend our time in useless controversy, trying to root the tares out while harming the wheat. I do not believe that we should give in to the forces of evil and violence and indifference.
Instead, let us light a fire. Let us light a fire that will banish moral and spiritual blight wherever we go. Let us light a fire that will guide men and women into tomorrow — and eternity.”

Dr. Graham was right. We should not waste our time cursing the darkness. We should not waste our time pulling up tares. We should not give in to the forces of evil. And we should light a fire that will guide men and women into eternity.

The question is, what does that look like? Some people think this means focusing exclusively on preaching the gospel, but never getting “political.” Others think it means pushing back against the forces of evil, especially in the political arena.

However, Jesus gave us three primary commands:

  • “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

  • “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He illustrated what He meant in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

  • The Great Commission, to preach the gospel of salvation to the entire world.

If you ignore even one of those commands, you’ve ignored the other two as well.

Many Christians focus on Great Commission but disregard the vulnerable. That’s wrong, as illustrated by Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. Conversely, other Christians focus on the vulnerable but give no heed to the Great Commission. Those latter folks often justify their disobedience by saying, “Evangelism is not my gift.” Well, let me respond by saying, compassion is not my gift. Does that exempt from having to show compassion? Absolutely not! Withholding compassion is sin, whether by turning your back on the poor and the vulnerable, or by refusing to share the good news with those hurrying down the path to eternal damnation.

Jesus gave all three commands. You cannot follow Jesus closely and embrace two of his commands while ignoring the third. You either do what He asked you to do, or you don’t.

Let me ask you a question. If you are faithful to preach the gospel out on the street corner every day, like St. Francis of Assisi, but completely ignore the orphans, the widows, the poor, the hungry, the helpless babies being aborted, the defenseless children being sex-trafficked or groomed in our schools, or those who are enslaved, have you done everything Jesus asked you to do?

What about if you work hard to combat racism, abortion, sex-trafficking, or poverty, but you forget about the eternal souls of the people in front of you, have you done everything Jesus asked you to do?

The answer to both questions is, “No!” Partial obedience is disobedience.

As followers of Jesus, we must love God, love our neighbor as ourselves as illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, and verbally share the gospel with those around us.

Most of the leaders of the abolitionist movement in the 1800’s where devout Christians. They were outspoken about the gospel. They also read Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor,” which Jesus illustrated with the story of the Good Samaritan. Therefore, they believed they must help the vulnerable in their culture who could not help themselves. Of course, in their day, this clearly applied to those unjustly enslaved.

If there was ever an issue in our nation’s history that was highly “politicized” it was the issue of slavery. But aren’t we all glad they took Jesus seriously, rather than listening to the folks who accused them of getting “political?” Just because an issue is “political” does not mean followers of Jesus should not engage. Jesus never said, “Don’t get political!” Asking whether something is “political” is the wrong question—it’s completely irrelevant. Instead, ask:

“What did Jesus say I should do?”

That is the correct question for His true disciples.

As an individual follower of Jesus, I can’t do everything. But as the body of Christ, we can. God has given me my specific focus, which is making God the issue in every issue, both on the personal and cultural level. But I cannot follow Jesus closely, and then turn a blind eye to those in need when it is in my power to help them. This means we all have to work together to get the job done. However, as individuals we can neither ignore opportunities to tell others about the God’s love, or conversely, fail to demonstrate that love to the vulnerable when it is within our power to do so.

For example, my dad was focused on the Great Commission like a laser for 50 years, but he also fasted one day a week for years and then gave the money he saved (by fasting) to help feed the poor and the hungry. He never talked about it publicly. But he knew that the same Jesus who said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” also said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I don’t think Billy Graham meant we should never “get political.” Sometimes, in order to be a Good Samaritan, to truly love our neighbor, we have to cross into those areas that our culture has labeled “political.” Political or not, we must free the slave, protect the unborn, care for widows and orphans, and stand up for the vulnerable amongst us.

Simply because God has called me to make God the issue in every issue, it doesn’t give me a pass to be like the priest or the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. I cannot ignore a hurting person whom I have the power to help. If I must cross into an area the culture has labeled “Political,” then so be it.

Jesus commanded us to love God, love our neighbor, and preach the gospel. End of story. Incomplete obedience is disobedience.

I don’t say this to put anyone on a guilt trip. I have failed in all three of these areas numerous times. Rather, I say this to encourage you to think about what it means to love God with your whole heart, to love you neighbor as yourself like the Good Samaritan did, and to preach the gospel.

As Billy Graham said, we need to both “light a fire” and “never give into the forces of evil.” We do this by making God’s heart our heart, both for the vulnerable and the lost.

God is the issue—in every issue.

© Brad Bright 2023, All rights reserved.

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