Friday, May 05, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part V)

Okay, so far in this series, I've talked about how we need to place God first, submit to authorities, and engage in politics with love, truth and respect. So far so good, and on paper there's little there with which to quibble. It's easy to pay lip service to these things, and truth be told violating any of these principles can often enough be rationalized so that we can believe we're still following them even when we've long ago ceased to do so. But I'm not going to set where those lines are; that's between each individual and God. I'll let it rest that I've seen too many people ignore the lines altogether, and blatant violations are easy for anyone to notice if they care to pay attention.

If we know, then, the general principles for engaging in politics, and we have some interest in doing so, are there other considerations to make before we dive in? Well, there are a few. In practical terms, learning before doing, and observing before critiquing are good things to do. At the very least it minimizes the chances you'll make a fool of yourself by taking on topics or activities that you're not quite ready for. I've learned many a hard lesson that way, and if my advice is worth anything, I'd offer the counsel that entering a political debate woefully uninformed strengthens your opponent even when, in reality, your position is ultimately a better option.

But Biblically there are some additional steps to take too. First is to seek wisdom and God's will, second is to set priorities, and third is to figure out your gifts.

In all things we are to glorify God, and politics is no different. That means, though, that we need to make sure we're also aligning with God's will. Doing our own thing contrary to God's will, no matter how well intentioned we are, does little to glorify Him. That sets us up as allegedly better arbiters of our time and energy, diminishing God as we raise ourselves up. We need instead to seek God's will, and ask that He'd give the wisdom to do what He wants us to do in the area of politics.

We all have limited time, energy, money and talents, although some of us have fewer limits than others. We also have varying demands that compete for those resources. Devoting 100% of our non-sleep hours to politics leaves nothing for family, church, friends, rest or anything else. Devoting zero time to politics leaves us at risk of having our views unheard (and for some people, this is acceptable, and I don't want to make it sound like we have a duty to be politically active; God calls some of us to ministries elsewhere.) We need to prioritize. As I said in the first post, God is necessarily first. After that, we need to make sure that our political involvement is placed in proper perspective and priority, not inappropriately superseding our responsibilities elsewhere. Jesus' priority was prayer. That's not a bad place to start in setting ours.

God gave each of us different gifts of talents and abilities. If we don't know what those are, we will not likely make best use of our time. Just as knowing our gifts is necessary to make best use of our time serving in the church, knowing our abilities and talents is necessary to make best use of our time and energy in politics. Someone with good organizational skills is better suited to running a campaign than someone without, and one with good people skills is a better candidate than someone who is a jerk. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and we have them for a reason. We can accomplish much more by matching our gifts to our work, as much in politics as in the church or the family.

Engaging in politics is like engaging in any other aspect of life. We need to seek God's will before jumping in, finding wisdom to set priorities and choose the right role to play. We do not do ourselves favors by letting our political involvement screw up our priorities so we miss out on other aspects of life. Nor do we bring glory to God by choosing our own way instead of listening to where He wants us to focus. We may have strong views on an issue or cause, yet do that cause better by focusing our attention elsewhere so that those more capable can see to the defense of the cause. Seek God and use the gifts He's given to be most effective, and use wisdom to find the place where we can be of best use - to God and to our political views.

God bless!

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