Are Politics And Worship Connected?

by Jeremy Quillo

in Worship Leading

Jesus Christ On The Cross mural from Christ The King Church in EttumanoorWhile Kristen and Bobby take some time away from blogging, several guest bloggers will appear here at Today, welcome Jeremy Quillo¬†a founding member of Sojourn Church. As a Sojourn Music worship leader, Jeremy is featured in several Sojourn records. He is also Sojourn’s first worship songwriter.

With only a day left until we vote for our next President (well, in the U.S. anyway), the church needs to consider the connection between politics and worship. During a previous election season a few years ago, one moment stuck in my memory more vividly than any ad or political speech. I was sitting next to my wife on our couch, watching two politicians go toe-to-toe in a debate that basically amounted to “my facts are less inaccurate than yours.”

Now, as much as I’d like to say I saw the bigger picture and engaged in an informed, gospel-centered discussion with my wife, that’s not what happened. Instead I let myself get pulled in, much like I would watching my favorite football team drive the length of the field with two minutes left in the game. I made a remark about how one guy on the TV was just plain wrong, and the other made perfect sense and it should be obvious to everyone.

My wife responded to this, not by agreeing or disagreeing with me (nor with the talking heads), but by gracefully quoting a line from an 1834 Edward Mote hymn:

“On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand! All other ground is sinking sand!”

God used this moment to remind me that my identity is in Christ, and my world-view is to be informed by the gospel above anything else. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Since then I have wrestled a lot with the question: Do politics and worship have anything to do with each other? I’ll go ahead and give a spoiler and say I believe the answer is “yes;” and here I’ll give three reasons.

In Christ, We Have Dual-Citizenship

The short-hand version of that is we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, and we are also citizens of the places we live here and now. For a more in-depth description of that concept, I’ll defer to Justin Taylor’s blog over at The Gospel Coalition. What does that have to do with worship? A lot.

When we expand “worship” beyond simply singing songs at our gatherings, we remember that all of life is worship. From sleeping to eating a steak to casting a ballot at the voting booth, our worship is constant. Unfortunately our worship is often directed toward anything or anyone but God, who is the only one deserving of our worship. We can then easily make our favorite candidates into practical deities, and our political leanings into closed-handed doctrines.

On the other hand, when we worship out of our identity in Christ, as God’s children who have been made alive and are being redeemed by His grace, our perspective on everything (including our politics) changes because we are now seeing things from a redemptive perspective. We are able to embrace questions about politics instead of pushing them into the corner next to the other “taboo” subjects.

Does this mean we suddenly start singing songs about the President and quoting the U.S. Constitution in our liturgy? Not at all. But it may mean that when we gather we remind one another not only of who we are in Christ, but what Christ wants to do through us in this world.

Do Christians have the freedom to disengage from politics? To not vote? To turn off the debates? Absolutely.

In our congregations, should we emphasize political agendas rather than Biblical truth? To tell folks whom to vote for? Absolutely not.

But what would it look like in our churches to sing, speak, read and pray knowing that our identity is in Jesus, not in a political party; our hope is in Jesus, not in a specific candidate; our need is for Jesus, not what the government can do for us. The message we preach is “Jesus plus nothing.” Since we are dual-citizens, however, that message is one that a dying world needs to hear. We are still in that world, which brings me to the second reason…

In Christ, We Engage With Our Culture

I first learned this as a middle-schooler. Through various youth ministries I learned that we are in this world, but not of this world. The problem, however, was that I was mostly taught to live out just 50% of that truth. I had a good grasp on the “not of,” and generally copped out of the “in” (more on that second part in a bit). In fact, I was often taught to steer clear of “the world” altogether.

This was often conveyed via the “standing on a chair” illustration. Remember that one? You stand a kid up on a chair, then ask him to try pulling a second kid up there with him. The second kid ends up pulling the first kid out of the chair and everyone laughs. The moral of the story is that it’s easier to pull someone down than pull someone up. I took that to mean I should never hang around “bad people” (even if my purpose was to minister to them) because I would become bad too. I failed to see that I was already “bad people” just like “them” (Romans 3:23).

What does that have to do with worship, or with politics for that matter? First, as I matured in my faith I began to see that Jesus stepped into the mess of culture, the mess of individuals’ lives; and He did so with a redemptive purpose. He came for the sick, not the healthy. He hung out with “bad people” and got mocked for it.

Second, I began realizing that I could engage culture and still be 100% devoted to Jesus. Does this mean all Christians should put campaign signs in their yards and attend political rallies? Not at all, unless they choose to. For me, however, the example of Jesus engaging culture has given me freedom to step into informed conversations about politics without feeling like I have to pull the other person up on to a “chair.”

Recently I was talking to one of our church’s pastors, and I asked him if he stayed away from politics, ascribing to the belief that we Christians are only to pledge our allegiance to God and His kingdom. He caught me off guard when he responded: “The Gospel doesn’t make you less of an American.” This was a reminder for me that while we are set apart for God’s work in this world, we are still called to step in as Jesus did. Since we are called to engage culture as God’s children, we can engage our friends, neighbors and co-workers with informed political discussions with a Biblical world view.

Only Christ Brings True Change

Many people approach politics with the desire to see change, both locally and nationally. However, if Christians are not careful, we can forget where true change comes from. As Christians we expect change. From a political standpoint, “change” can mean someone new taking office, different legislation, etc. Gospel change, however, begins not with government, but with Christ in us. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we experience God changing us personally as He saves us from sin, draws us into relationship with Himself and continually redeems us as we see more of our sin and more of His righteousness.

That change can and should impact our marriages, our relationships with family and friends, our posture toward our communities, and even our politics. Our desire for change, then, is fueled not by a political agenda, but by God’s transforming grace. From our identity in Christ, how we choose to participate in politics (including the choice to not participate at all) becomes informed, intentional and (most importantly) motivated by the gospel.

Our worship is connected to our politics in that our response to God and His pursuit of us impacts every aspect of our lives. So as we put our trust in Christ, we can step into a politically-charged week, support whomever we choose for office,vote or not vote, all while remembering that Jesus alone is ultimately our only hope, the only “solid rock” we have to stand on.

Photo of Jesus Christ on the Cross artwork from Christ The King Church in Ettumanoor, by Buggychip. Used via creative commons license.

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