Politics and Christ

I believe the Christian church is least effective when it is intimately linked to the state.

My wife and I are leaving shortly to visit several European capitals.

At one time, the Christian church was a dominant force in each of these great cities and the surrounding countryside. Not any more.

One reason is that the church became too closely linked to the political authorities of the day. In many places, church leaders were also the state’s political leaders.

When the poor rose up against their rulers, they turned against the church as well as the state.

Some may claim that Jesus was a political revolutionary. He was not. He was calling for inner change with people turning back to God.

But his message of spiritual change did achieve social change over the 2000 years since he returned to heaven. That happens often when the Holy Spirit transforms people’s lives.

Yet, when the church becomes the state religion, it tends to adopt the state’s political ideology.  And the salt loses its savour.

Europe, of course, went through great religious struggles over many centuries.  Much of what emerged was good – great Christians who have left a mark on the ages.  We all benefit from the works and the writings of monks, priests, ministers, evangelists and missionaries from Europe.

But the light has dimmed over time.  Last fall, I saw a beautiful Protestant church in Amsterdam, built in the 1600s and now owned and occupied by a real estate association.  For me, it spoke about the strength of the reformed faith years ago and the weakness of the church today.

We face the same problem in North America. There is no state religion in Canada and the United States.  But many church leaders have consciously or unconsciously accepted the political and social philosophy of the day. Some of them are more politician than pastor.

I fully support Christians getting involved in politics.  We live in a society where there are many competing views.  As responsible citizens, we need to make our opinions known.

But our focus should be on people and their needs.  The greatest need is a heart change toward God.  Once we have a close relationship with God, we will find him sending us out to touch the lives of family, friends, neighbours and the wider world.

That was Jesus’ way.  The way of love – God’s love.

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