A meditation on the Great Commission and a declaration of Christian political conviction
As worshipers of the Triune God, we proclaim his love for humanity and all creation through the redemptive death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sins. We believe this good news with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, as followers of Christ have for two millennia. In him, our heavenly citizenship is secure as we await his return and the fulfillment of his kingdom. We submit all things to his Lordship, and as citizens of the United States this includes our public participation in our local, state, and national life. In response to his Lordship, we confess and lament not only our personal sins but also the many dimensions of public and social injustice present in our society. Among these, we are particularly grieved by the failure of both major political parties to nominate credible presidential candidates. In light of these failures, let us consider the following convictions, which flow out of our Lord’s pronouncement of the Great Commission at the close of the Gospel of Matthew:
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted…”
As disciples of Jesus, we overcome doubt and temptation in order to worship him and believe all the promises of Scripture. Political order is a component of God’s good creation, and we must resist temptations toward idolatry as we participate in political life. Idolatry is the natural response of fallen human nature to worship anyone or anything other than the one true God. All people are naturally inclined to worship leaders, institutions, and political systems or philosophies that promise to rescue us from danger. Christ alone is able to deliver us from sin and death. We must repent of idolizing our earthly citizenship, our partisan affiliations, and the wisdom of our philosophical and policy formulations.
“And Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.'”
Governments are subject to the authority of Jesus, regardless of whether or not they recognize his authority. Crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, Jesus Christ is the only true Sovereign, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, who will return to judge the living and the dead. We submit to his authority over all things visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth. We pledge to honor our new president and to pray for him or her. God institutes governments and grants them legitimate authority to preserve order, reward good, and punish evil. May those who hold earthly authority over us do justice, love mercy, walk humbly, and rule for the good of all people and for the freedom of our churches, so that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives. And let us repent of our own attempts to live as if we and our governments are unaccountable to God’s judgment.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
God has created and directed the nations of the world according to his wisdom, so that he would be glorified in building a church that will be a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before his throne and crying out to him in worship. May the Holy Spirit prosper our witness and sustain our mission until the earth is filled with the knowledge of God’s glory. Patriotism should be an expression of love for our neighbors rather than an expression of pride, chauvinism, or love of self. We must repent of idolatrous nationalism that misconstrues our earthly citizenship as manifestation of God’s electing love.
Jesus authorized baptism, which signifies the boundary between his church and the world. When churches faithfully obey this command, we demonstrate how to justly include and exclude. We do not separate from our brothers and sisters in Christ according to their partisan preferences or according to our perception of the accuracy or thoroughness of their political reflection. We must repent of the sinful boundaries we so frequently draw which both consciously and unconsciously exclude brothers and sisters in Christ from fellowship; these boundaries wrongly regard ethnicity, social class, party membership, or national citizenship as more significant than our common inheritance in Christ.
“…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
Human persons, male and female, are created in the image of the only true God, who exists in three equally divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Human persons do not exist merely to serve the interest of a collective society; they possess a divinely given nature as image-bearing creatures. Let us pray for grace and courage to bear witness to this truth. Let us repent of our coldness of heart. May we recognize the dignity of all persons, both born and unborn, as image-bearers of the Triune God.
“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Our obedience to Christ includes our responsibility to speak truthfully about the order God has established in the world. The preaching of the gospel is the means by which God redeems sinners and revives nations. Human governments bear false witness when they establish laws, enact policies, or render judgments that deny divinely revealed truth. We must repent of our fear—whether of loss of life, property, prestige, and earthly power. We must act in obedience and trust our Savior with the results.
“And behold, I am with you always…”
Churches gather now in the presence of Jesus, who promised his disciples his abiding presence wherever his people gather in his name. As Christians participate in the processes of electoral politics and legislative advocacy, they should do so with boldness. The Holy Spirit guides believers as they act in obedience to Christ and as they seek to bring his Lordship to bear upon our nation’s political life. As we participate in political discourse, we endeavor to see justice done in ways that honor Christ. We trust our Savior, who abides with us.
“…until the end of the age.”
We await the return of Jesus at the end of this age; he alone is our hope, and neither our country nor its leaders are meant to provide ultimate satisfaction. We pray God’s blessings upon our country and that our nation would act according to his will, but if necessary, we will suffer and bear reproach as Jesus did. We seek the city that is to come. We look forward to a better country than we have ever known. We must repent of our unbelief. We must lament our sin and the sins of our neighbors, but we will not dwell in despair and cynicism. We trust our Savior, our anointed King, and we await the day when the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. Amen.