August 2022 Connection

What’s Informing What?

“What’s informing what?” Throughout my 10 years of ministry, I have found that, time and time again, this question has been extremely helpful. The complete question, though, is a bit more nuanced: What’s informing what? Is my faith informing my politic, or is my politic informing my faith? You could also ask the question with a little bit of a different verbiage: Is my faith forming my politic, or is my politic forming my faith?
Now before you classify this as a political speech by a pastor, no matter your feelings or leanings, don’t run away. Give me a few minutes.
Politics has become a bad word in the church…and maybe just about everywhere. We’ve equated “politics” with trickery and self interest by those who compete (and even fight) for our votes throughout the year. The word evokes images of yard signs, bumper stickers, and painfully bad television endorsements and attack ads. I’m going to suggest that we refuse to call that “politics” any longer. Politics is something far different – and far better.
The true definition of politics was defined long before Washington D.C. rose from the marshy land it sits on. It comes from the Greek politica, meaning “affairs of the cities.” Maybe that origin doesn’t blow you away. It shouldn’t really be a surprise. Politics has always been, in its truest form, about caring for the day-in, day-out affairs of our communities, local, national, and even international. Politics is about how we care for our collective whole, rather than how we might selfishly care for ourselves. Politics is about how we move forward as a community – as a whole. It is not about the preservation of the status quo. Politics, in its truest form, is about how to grow as a society and as a community.
And so, from this moment on, let’s do our best to understand the word “politics” to be about our collective, less-biased efforts to grow and thrive in community.
Now that we have a better definition of “politics,” let’s return to our initial question: “What’s informing what?” Or “What’s forming what?” To explore this, let’s take a pretty obvious example. In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus teaches:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
If our politics forms our faith, we might look at this passage and make the following argument: There are so many in this world that seem to be out to get us. No matter where you look, it seems that there are enemies of the United States, and no matter how much I try to do the right thing, it seems that there is no escape. We need to do everything we can in our power to eliminate those who hate us. Certainly, Jesus understands that we need to protect ourselves. I can love my enemies and still do what I need to do to stop them, right?
This perspective doesn’t sound that unfamiliar, does it. And, quite frankly, it’s not hard to justify it (I’ve done it, myself). But, what if we let our faith form our politic? Let’s take a look at the same scripture: There are so many in this world that seem to be out to get us. No matter where you look, it seems that there are enemies of the United States, and no matter how much I try to do the right thing, it seems that there is no escape. What would it look like for me to love them, though? Have I been praying for them? Have I tried to understand where they’re coming from, even if I don’t agree with them? When I’m voting, I wonder which candidate is praying for those who are against them and their campaign? When I’m signing petitions, does the proposed law seem to extend love or withhold it?
Don’t get me wrong, this second approach is much more difficult, far more often. That’s because Jesus’ teachings, when we look closely, are quite challenging. (I’d encourage you to keep practicing this with other teachings of Jesus).
And so, my commitment to you as your pastor is this: our church’s affiliation will be to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will continue to preach that same gospel and encourage you to let that same good news inform and form you in every way. Will we always agree? Of course not. And so in these spaces, let patience, love, and grace reign, and let the gospel inform and form our every relationship and interaction. Let the gospel inform and form our compassion and generosity. Let the gospel of Jesus Christ inform and form our desires for a more loving and just community and our individual and collective actions toward that end.
I just know that there’s a word for that…
That’s right… politics.
Love one another.
Pastor Brian
Download Connection