In the midst of such public scandal, anger, and division, I am compelled to ask what ought to be different about a Christian’s response. Though not always necessarily unique among political or social responses, the world-shattering claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ should make a difference in how a Christian reacts. This summary of the gospel is my starting point - in Jesus Christ, (1) we learn that the depths of our sin require a perfect divine substitute, (2) yet we encounter a love and hope in God we can scarcely dare to imagine, (3) which births us into a new trans-cultural and trans-historical community to show forth that love and hope. Several implications for responding to our cultural moment flow directly from this gospel.
A Christian should have deeper moral outrage than the angriest partisan
By living in the shadow of the cross, it is right for a Christian to hate sin - both in themselves and in the world - because we see what it cost God on the cross. The New Testament reveals wrath and anger at sin even more than the Old Testament (so to speak, contrary to many prejudices) because it portrays the only perfectly innocent human being undergoing the just punishment of our rebellion against God. The deeper our conception of the cross, and the more appreciation we have for the majesty of God, the more anger we should have at sin.
Yet this outrage ought to be void of any self-righteousness
Though it is almost impossible to find in our current world of public scandal and Facebook rants, the starting point of the Christian life (yes, the fundamental place of beginning, without which Christianity makes no sense) excludes self-righteousness. Just imagine being at a place of such humility that when we encounter other’s sin, we think “Yes, I too am capable of that”; and when others encounter our own sin, we think “If you only knew how deep it runs!” We make Jesus Christ irrelevant when we simply join the world in condemning others; we need Jesus Christ for the power to empathize with our enemies, even as we hate what is destroying them and us.
We should expect Good News to transcend fake news
One of the sadder headlines I encountered recently was “Has Support for Moore Stained Evangelicals? Some are Worried”. The whole premise is a failure of what we call “evangelicals” actually proclaiming the gospel (“the evangelion”)! Why was the supposed purity of evangelicals tied to any one candidate in the first place? Christians have one candidate - Jesus Christ - who already reigns in the one government that matters most, and He would not have won any election. In fact, given our choice, we freed a criminal in Barabbas instead of him. The whole conversation has become so divorced from what Christ came to do, I would love to see more Christians even half as passionate about the kingdom of God as they are about the politics of one nation.
Jesus was angrier AND more loving than expected
If we were to stop making Jesus in our own image, and let him speak and act for himself, we would see how he constantly refuses to fit in any political box. His disciples were surprised that he was even speaking with a woman, let alone a political enemy in a Samaritan, yet Jesus promised her living water only he could provide. The religious leaders of the day constantly tried to pin him down to their side, but he actually united the Pharisees and Sadducees against him because they both were unhappy with his mission! Rather than coming as a conquering hero, Jesus wept over his beloved Jerusalem, only later to die at the hands of its rulers. He would confront the powerful with rage for their hypocrisy and selfishness, and yet demand of all his followers - rich or poor, male or female - to take up their own cross and lose their life, that they may find true life in him. In a country of red and blue states, Christ’s Church should be purple.
Is politics important? Of course. Should Christians be engaged politically out of their faith convictions? Of course. Did Jesus come with that as his primary purpose? By no means! As soon as you condemn Trump or Clinton or McConnell or Warren with self-righteous zeal, as if you know their hearts and true actions better than God knows yours, you are acting like the people who killed Jesus. Of course, you and I are the people who killed Jesus, but thank God he took his anger at our sin upon himself so we could have a chance to live life in his self-giving and loving presence.