Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Unintended Political Consequences of Godliness

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) Similarly, what does it profit Christ's church if she gains low taxes, renewed federalism, secure gun rights, an end to abortion and an array of family friendly laws, if she looses her Christ-centeredness and, as such, her godliness in the process?

Where is the pursuit of godliness among evangelical Christians today? On the one hand, we have political Baptists (et al.) focused on electoral outcomes and public policy. On the other hand, we have megachurches absorbed in rock and roll sentimentality. (See "Megachurches Found to be a Megabust.") Who is discipling the saints in personal godliness? Some churches are. Many more should be.

If we were to focus less on politics, and more on repentance, reformation, revival and a return to Christ-centeredness, many of the social problems of our day that people are attempting to remedy by political means of one sort or another would find a more profound solution. This would come through the back door, as it were, as an unintended political consequence of godliness cultivated for reasons that are trans-political. On account of the great number of evangelical Christians in the country and the effect they have on their families, neighbors and associates, these happy effects on social and economic issues would accrue quite naturally through the market and the democratic process. Furthermore, the benefits would be realized more securely (though far from indefinitely) because they would come as a result of change that is primarily spiritual, not merely political.

Isn't this in the spirit of what Jesus said in his sermon on the mount? "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)

Nonetheless, the practical citizen duty of selecting a president is before us, and Christians are called to be good citizens. But we are not to exercise that citizenship in neglect of, or to the detriment of, our heavenly citizenship in Christ.

For a previous reflection along these lines, go to, "The Attributes of Christian Political Involvement."

For further reading on the cultivation of godliness, consider the following.

My post on "Spiritual Classics," an expansion on my sidebar of the same title.

Three excellent books by Jerry Bridges: The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness, and The Discipline of Grace.

For men, Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes.

For women, Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot, and Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss.

For parents cultivating godliness in their children, Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp.

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