BE FREE: HONORING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY IN THE POLITICAL REALM

INTRODUCTION

B362C18F-75D0-4496-93BE-F94CD2CE8659_4_5005_cI was blessed to have my roots planted in a conservative evangelical community. I am grateful for a church that taught me to love and to be committed to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Body of Christ. One of the tenants of this evangelical community I learned growing up was, “When it comes to leadership, character counts.”

I still strongly revere and adhere to this tenant despite the trajectory of many politically conservative evangelicals in recent years.

Apostolic grace brings with it a personal passion for all things leadership and government. Since being called to ministry in 1968, I have been a student of leadership. I have also had the privilege of knowing and even addressing some great contemporary leaders. One such leader, for whom I have a lot of admiration, is Silas Yego, the Bishop of the African Inland Church in Kenya. I first met Silas in the year 2000 when a team from our church traveled to Kenya. He was the assistant Bishop at the time. In 2001 he became the Bishop for 3,800 AIC churches in Kenya. During his watch, that number grew to 9,000. During his term of service, AIC Kenya also planted churches in the surrounding nations of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. There have been other amazing accomplishments during Bishops Yego’s administration.

Joanne and I and our team members have enjoyed the hospitality of Silas and his wife Roselynn in their home on several occasions. They have visited Lakeview on three occasions. He promised to visit again after his retirement.

Recently, my friend and leadership colleague, AIC pastor Isaac Gikonyo, sent me the picture of a newspaper article detailing Bishop Yego’s ministry and imminent retirement. Silas is to retire at the end of 2019. Hopefully, you can enlarge the photo if you need to, as I did, to read the whole article.

The fruit of Bishop Yego’s 45 years of leadership reaffirms for me once again the tenant, “When it comes to leadership, character counts.” Bishop Yego’s faith and moral authority have moved many mountains.

4CFE0BCC-BFE1-432E-BC52-A85AC6D5FBEC_1_201_a

OPINION

One of the responsibilities of leaders in the Body of Christ is to protect the liberty of their charges. In the New Testament, Paul, Peter, and James focus on this concern in some of their writing.

James refers to the law of liberty:

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25)

“So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)

Paul has several teachings about Christian liberty.

Liberty for His followers was the intention of Jesus:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Liberty is an endowment of the Holy Spirit:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”                    (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The expression of one’s liberty is a matter of conscience:

“For why should another’s conscience judge my freedom?” (1 Corinthians 10:29)

The expression of personal liberty has boundaries:

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

Peter reaffirms this boundary:

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.”                 (1 Peter 2:15–16)

Christian leaders and followers of Jesus Christ are to be alert to potential threats to their liberty:

“This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.” (Galatians 2:4)

As we approach another intense political season in the run-up to the next presidential election, I am sensitive to threats to our liberty in Christ. These potential risks come from such sources as the public opinions of well known Christians, peer pressure within the church, and political prophecies.

One’s faith in Jesus Christ and the growing fruit of righteousness evident in one’s life defines one’s Christianity. Political world views or political allegiances do not. Worldwide there is a wide diversity of people within the Body of Christ. It is a mistake to assume that every believer is like oneself or like everyone in one’s particular expression of Christianity. It is an even more grievous error to assume that Christians who are not like one’s specific tribe are not Christian.

Within the Body of Christ, there is a wide diversity of political world views. After my family settled in Burbank, California, having migrated from Canada, my mother heard a knock on the door one afternoon. Two gentlemen who were canvassing from door to door asked mom if she was registered to vote. Mom explained her visa status as a new immigrant. She told them she could not vote until she became a citizen. Being the evangelist that she is, mom soon discovered that these gentlemen were Christians. They then told her a fib. They said that all Christians in the USA were Republicans.

Politically, I registered as an independent. As I prepare to vote, I assess each candidate individually. My top consideration has to do with moral authority. For me, character counts! In my opinion, moral authority is a significant indicator of potential success in political leadership. When I have the opportunity to express my voice by voting on specific political issues, I assess each matter independent of whatever political party is advocating that issue.

We Christians are to guard our liberty. We are privileged to be lead by the Holy Spirit.

      “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14).

We Christians are also blessed to have received various human endowments granted to us by our Creator.

We do not have to be led by celebrity Christians, our peer group, or prophetic words. We certainly can weigh the opinions of these individuals, but we are free to disagree. I find this story from the life of Paul inciteful.

 “When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt on the shore and prayed. When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home. And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. On the next day, we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:3–14)

In this crucial decision about proceeding to Jerusalem, Paul rejected the Holy Spirit inspired charge received from the disciples in Tyre. Surprisingly, Paul affirms that what they counseled him came “through the Spirit” yet; he did not heed their charge.

The well-known prophet, Agabus, did not sway Paul either. Previously, Agabus prophesied a worldwide famine. The church received and acted upon that word.

“Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” (Acts 11:28ff)

We Christians have the responsibility and right to judge prophecy

“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others, judge.” (1 Corinthians 14:29)

The Greek word for judge is “diakrino” which means “to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer.”

More often than not, I have disagreed with prophetic words given to the church regarding the realm of US politics. People become incredibly passionate when talking about their own personal political world view. There is nothing wrong with passion; however, strong emotions can be blinding and binding. Self-control includes control over one’s zeal and one’s mouth. Anyone unable or unwilling to research and consider other political world views may suffer from unfettered passion.

It would be an exceptional person who could overcome their passion about their political worldview to issue an objective prophetic word. More often than not, I suspect that a political world view slants the prophecy. I weigh the word, but I retain my freedom to disagree.

Lastly, Paul resisted the passionate pleas of his closest advisors and fellow believers. I am sure Paul carefully weighed all these words from his Spirit-filled fellow believers, Agabus, and his traveling companions. The final decision belonged to Paul. Decision made, He continued his journey to Jerusalem.

In the realm of politics, we members of the Body of Christ are graced with liberty in Christ and with incredible human endowments given us by our Creator. These human endowments enable us to research, study, reflect, weigh in the balance, discuss, debate, and make decisions. To mindlessly follow a particular political path is an insult to our Creator who has so endowed us. Assuming our fellow believers must politically agree with us is also an insult to our Creator.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.