Christianity 101: Our Politics Can Cause Us To Forget Who We Are.
By Cheryllyn Dudley – Political Analyst at dia-LOGOS
As a veteran politician, serving as a Member of Parliament for more than 20 years, Cheryllyn Dudley looks at Ephesians 4 as a guideline for those who seek to influence their communities.
Over the years I have observed (largely on social media platforms), that when Christians responded to political issues they tended to do so from a cultural or party perspective and not primarily from a Christian perspective. This was the case even when they sounded ‘super-spiritual’ and especially when they were super-passionate.
One of the things that concerned me was what seemed like a lack of respect for other people’s right to differ with our view. Now I know that many non-Christians are guilty of this very thing, it is just that I wanted to see us as children of God behaving differently. What I saw was that those viewed as transgressors of our personally held standards or passionately held views, immediately become the enemy or we would speak condescendingly to them without any effort to connect. The ability to separate the sinner from the sin seemed non-existent.
Because I believe that words have power and that we are accountable for them, it also seemed to me that death rather than life was being spoken over far too many people (politicians especially) and situations. I saw much evidence that we live in a fallen world but little evidence of a belief that everything and everyone is redeemable.
I too have had to often remind myself that a Christian’s super-powers are love, forgiveness, patience, kindness and long-suffering. They have never been demeaning words, hatred or bitterness (even when I would surrender to ‘agreeing to disagree’ or block those who persist in their disrespect, hatred or lies).
I called what I was looking for ‘evidence of #christianity101’ and lamented what seemed to be the power of politics to make Christians forget the basics.
We are not told as Christians to “no longer live in the futility of thinking,” we are told to no longer live in the futility of thinking that is darkened in our understanding as if separated from the life of God, ignorant and with hardened hearts. So thinking is still on the table for Christians who were born with a brain for a reason, only now we are born again and it is our responsibility to renew our minds.
We are told to “put off our old self, corrupted by deceitful desires and be made new in the attitude of our minds…”. And because this is something we actually have to choose to do we can assume it will not happen accidentally, so it will help if we have a greater awareness of our old and new self – our potential strengths and our weaknesses.
We are also told to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully”. I am suggesting therefore that it is not okay as Christians to simply repeat what we hear as if we know it to be true if we don’t. Apparently we are still going to get angry as believers, only now we must not carry yesterday’s anger into today and we must choose to forgive.
Stealing of course is a ‘no-no’ so considering the not-so-obvious ways we may be stealing can be useful. Self-awareness starts with the obvious then digs deeper. We can steal people’s material belongings but we can also steal their joy, self esteem, self worth, survival mechanisms etc. without giving it another thought. Sometimes we steal other people’s time, as well as their emotional and physical energy, giving no thought to what this could be costing them.
Work, it seems, is not always going to be easy whether this is in the realm of politics or anywhere else, but it is always a privilege for which we are meant to be grateful. Doing something useful and sharing with those in need is not a punishment; it is meant to bring us joy and fulfilment. It is so easy to pick up a habit of complaining especially around others who have this habit (so it seems to me), and so we do have to be on our guard against joining in.
What exactly do we understand by ‘unwholesome talk’ that is not meant to come out of our mouths? The words “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” clears this up somewhat for me. Unwholesome words then become so much more than an exclamation or ‘swear’ word. I realise here that there are so many words that can come out of our mouths that would never be thought of as swear words, but they certainly do not build up or benefit those who listen.
Then there is ‘not grieving the Holy Spirit’ which seems to be linked to the words “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”. This should leave us in no doubt as to how we do this and, I dare say, like me you may well have been told something completely different.
To live a life worthy of our calling, we are told in no uncertain terms, means that we are to be humble, gentle, patient and to bear with one another in love. We are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
As I see it, politics is at play in all spheres of society including church and family (activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an institution or organisation). More commonly we think of politics as the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having or wanting more power. But in a real sense politics is unavoidable and it will affect us whether we get involved or try to ignore it. Practicing behaving as Christians when we confront politics is therefore in my view a worthwhile exercise.