I have a confession to make. I hate this time of year. It’s not every year that I hate this time of year, but every four years, I really find myself hating this time of year. There is nothing that divides like politics. And especially right now, in our season, in our country, politics is, like the tip of a sword, piercing everything. I really, really have a hard time carrying myself with a good attitude during this season.
For the most part, I have stayed away from the political debate this time. No matter what you say, people will find something to hold over your head or disagree with you over. There seems to be two camps within evangelicalism right now; two camps that blow their horn loud, at the same time. So loud, in fact, that the other has a hard time hearing, while the one blowing has a hard listening.
First of all, there are the really conservative Christians that hate everything Obama has to offer right now. They call him a “Muslim” and a “Christian-hater.” They don’t really have anything in common with Romney, except for the fact that they are against Obama, and that is enough for this camp. There cry is “NoBama, no matter what.”
The second camp isn’t as divisive as the first. They don’t really carry a “me-verse-them” mentality to their efforts. They want love. They carry the white flag of peace. They are still evangelical, so it seems, but they don’t harp the one-issue voter card, or the gay marriage and abortion card, over everything else. They really try to think about the issues. They want a third-party. They want a better America.
And I guess there is a third camp… the one that runs. The one the flees when political conversation beings. The one that evacuates.
No matter the camp that you find yourself in tonight, I would encourage you to watch the presidential debate and to participate in caring about what is going on in your country. In my opinion, this is responsible Christian living. This is the tension of the already but not yet. As Christians, we are earthly-conquering, kingdom-driven, world-taking-dominion-warriors. This is what it means for the Kingdom to be here now, but not yet in its fullness. We are to participate in the things of this world, but not as citizens of this world alone. No! We are to partake as citizens of the greatest Kingdom. The Kingdom that this will done do away with all earthly kings, rulers, and presidents. But as we await that triumphal coming, we are called to change, and redeem, our attitude toward culture. And this includes politics. So, no, we should find ourselves in the third camp.
In Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr amazingly suggest a number of approaches toward culture which have been taken by various Christian groups in the past, varying from total rejection to uncritical acceptance of the cultural products of non-Christians, with a number of positions in between. Applying the concept of the already-not yet tension to the question of the culture, though, will help us move forward as true Kingdom citizens in our engagement and participation of the present world, as we await the glories of the new earth (1).
It is commonly thought by many Christians that the relationship between the present world and the new earth, which is to come, is one of absolute discontinuity. The new earth, so many think, will fall like bomb into our midst. They think there will be no continuity between this world and the next; all will be totally different. This understanding, however, does not do justice to the teaching of Scripture, or to our calling our cultural warriors.
There is continuity as well as discontinuity between this world and the next. This principle is most wisely expressed in the words so often used by medieval theologians:
Grati non tollit sed reparat naturam.
Grace does not destroy nature but restores it.
In his redemptive activity God does not destroy the works of his hands, but cleanses them from sin and perfects them, so that they may finally reach the goal for which he created them. Applied to the problem at hand, this principle means that the new earth to which we look forward will not be totally different from the present one, but will be restored and renewed and glorified. It will be a renewal of the earth on which we now live (2).
Applying this to the political debate, let us convince our own minds that all is not loss as we venture into the next 4-years. Let us remind ourselves with urgency that no matter who reigns as president of our country, there is a God who sits on his throne, reigning over the one who carries this earthly title. Though the candidate we vote for might not win, let us go forth and vote. No matter what camp’s horn we blow, let us remember that is all not lost. God is still sovereign. We are not in a state of emergency. Let us go forth and participate in the debates. Let us go forth and not seclude ourselves from voting. Go vote. Please vote. Register now. Let us be Kingdom-driven. Kingdom citizens. Kingdom-minded.
And… let us be gentle, yet truthful. Loving, yet bold. And live as if the Kingdom is here, but not yet… not just yet.
Footnotes are from Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future, 71.