By Doug Beacham
We are citizens of two commonwealths: One is the earthly nation where we are citizens; the other an eternal kingdom that transcends time and space. The Bible tells us that God holds the nations “as a drop in a bucket” (Isaiah 40:15), and that government authorities “are appointed by God,” functioning as a “minister” of God (Romans 13:1,4).
The Bible also reminds us that there are points where these two commonwealths are in conflict. For example, government can be a “beast” when it has “a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” (Revelation 13:5).the nations “as a drop in a bucket” (Isaiah 40:15), and that government authorities “are appointed by God,” functioning as a “minister” of God (Romans 13:1,4).
By the time you read this column, citizens of the United States will be a month from casting their vote for the next president of the United States and other governmental representatives. I remind you that the IPHC Council of Bishops sent a public letter to the Democratic and Republican party nominees expressing our hopes and concerns.
In light of that letter, and the larger conversations and debates surrounding this election, there are a few things I ask you to prayerfully consider as “citizens of two commonwealths.”
First, we have a privilege, right, and responsibility to vote in this election.
Besides the presidential election, there are congressional and state elections as well as referendums that require our active participation. If you have not registered, you can Google “voter registration” and it will take you to your state voter information. I encourage IPHC pastors to actively promote voter registration with your flock and encourage them to vote.
Second, besides the statements of candidates, be sure to read the platforms of at least the Democratic and Republican parties. I’ve heard people say that the platforms “don’t really matter.” Actually, that is incorrect. Party platforms reveal intentions as well as philosophies of governing.
A fully informed voter will take the few minutes needed to read these documents.
Third, while the IPHC does not, and should not, have a political litmus test for membership and leadership, there are certain positions we have taken through our General Conference that you should prayerfully consider when you vote:
WE ARE A PRO-LIFE CHURCH.
We are historically opposed to abortion on demand, and we believe in the God-given sanctity of all human life from conception to end of life.
WE STAND FOR TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE.
We believe that God established marriage between a man and a woman. We reject decisions and definitions contrary to what God has established.
WE PRAY AND WORK FOR RACIAL UNITY.
As a movement, we have publicly repented of racism and seek to bring about justice and reconciliation according to God’s Word.
Fourth, many are concerned about the future of religious liberties in the USA. The implications arising from court and government administrative decisions related to culturally accepted sexual practices, and the rights of churches and church-related institutions who oppose those practices, are issues we are facing and will continue to face.
Fifth, in addition to these issues, we face a large constellation of challenges that include: race, immigration, leadership character, national security, poverty, and economic policy.
Regardless of the outcome of this particular election, the opportunities and tensions of those issues will remain.
As I reflect on these concerns, I have found myself drawn to the Apostle Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NKJV). I reflect on this, and current events in the USA and around the world, in light of our IPHC emphasis on holiness this year and on Christ’s Kingdom in 2017.
The Apostle distinguished between the kingdom of God and earthly kingdoms. He recognized that people outside Christ’s kingdom (unredeemed) live with values and lifestyles that do not reflect the holy character of God. But he also recognized that the redeemed are not expected to live isolated from such people. To live in that fashion is to live “out of the world” (5:10).
But followers of Jesus, people discipled in the ways of the kingdom of God, are to live differently and hold one another accountable. Such accountability sounds harsh and judgmental to our ears: “not even to eat with such a person” who claims to be “a brother” (5:11).
It seems to me that this is the constant tension we face as we relate to the spirit of the world. A holy life is by nature a judgment upon a sinful life. Whether the sinner experiences that judgment as condemnation or as invitation depends on many factors. The body of Christ in the world should live in such a way that the ungodly find themselves reflecting and responding on what they encounter from and in us.
That means we must be willing to speak out against the foolishness of speech, practice, and policy we encounter. But it also means we must be willing to speak for that which lends itself to righteousness.
This is not an easy task as ideologies press themselves against Christ’s Kingdom, and holiness is decried as judgmental. But we must decide, speak, and act with conviction from God’s Word and holiness of heart and life. And, we must do so with humility and with hearts committed to reconciliation as we await the fullness of a Kingdom that will only appear when the King Himself appears.
So I encourage all of us to prayerfully consider the candidates and policies as we vote. I ask us to remain in a spirit of prayer and hope regardless who is elected. I ask us to remember that people, parties, and policies are part of the world that is passing away and that we are people of a Kingdom that shall never pass away.
This article was published in the October 2016 issue of Encourage.