Disciplemaking and Politics #2: Living in a political world with a different road map.

Wow! I didn’t expect that to happen. We had our neighbors over for dinner recently and the conversation soon turned to the elections. It wasn’t a contentious discussion but a sharing of opinions. After about ten minutes, Steve jumped up from the table and started walking around the room! He was so worked up about the candidates that he couldn’t sit still. We didn’t cause an argument, he was simply passionate about what he believed in.

When Steve and Jane left, Peggy and I talked about the evening. “It’s amazing. We’re both looking at the same set of facts but we have very different perspectives.” The reality is that each one of us makes our way through life by an internal road map. These road maps represent our life assumptions — beliefs forged from school, life experiences, influential people, or religious training. Author James Sire describes this road map as a “worldview: “. . . a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world.” Like many things, our political beliefs are governed by our worldviews or life’s road maps. What does this have to do with discipleship?

Disciplemaking helps people establish biblical roadmaps that guide us through life. When we become Christ-followers, these road maps are transformed by the Holy Spirit at our conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). We think differently about God, faith, life priorities, relationships, etc (1 Thessalonians 1:8). It can be such a dramatic change, that the Bible describes it as moving from the “dominion of darkness” to “the kingdom of His Son” (Colossians 1:13). This replacing of one road map, or worldview, with another is not fully automatic but is an on-going practice.

Consider Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Author William Barclay comments on this verse’s meaning writing, “We are not to be like a chameleon which takes its color from its surroundings.” In the J.B. Philips translation, the passage is paraphrased this way, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remould your minds from within.”

We are imitative beings. We need a model to copy and there are ultimately only two. There is “this world,” which is passing away, and there is God’s will, which is “good, acceptable and perfect.” We stand between these two value systems, choosing one over the other, as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

What does this have to do with discipleship? Sometimes our disciplemaking emphasis is helping people conform to certain behaviors or set of positions. Let’s aim for something more than external behavior and personal positions. Let’s engage people in the re-shaping of their mental maps through the lens of the Scriptures. Politics is one arena in which our road map’s assumptions are quickly exposed.

Behind positions on abortion rights, gun control, taxes, racial justice, or the care for the poor, stand a set of assumptions. Have we identified and examined these assumptions to see which ones reflect “this world” and which ones reflect the Scriptures? Have we intentionally exchanged one set of assumptions for another? Notice that I say assumptions not positions. Disciplemaking is not about passing on our positions but helping people identify their assumptions behind those positions.

I’ve formulated eight questions to take me to assumptions and not positions. These are my questions. You can use them for inspiration but not for imposition. You have the responsibility to renew your own mind. So, here’s my questions for a candidate or political party.

  • Does the candidate speak for the sanctity of life (Genesis 1:26-27; Amos 5:11-13)? This is not only the life of the unborn but a valuing of all life. When we speak of people as “trailer trash” or use ethnic slurs, we devalue life.
  • Do they inspire people to embrace a moral vision for life and for the country (Micah 6:8)? We all want an inspirational calling to something greater than our own self-interests.
  • Is there a pattern of truthfulness in a candidate’s life (John 1:14)? Each of us have moments of speech or actions that we regret. Despite these lapses does one’s life demnonstrate a pattern of truthfulness?
  • Will a party ensure a freedom for the practice of religion (1 Timothy 2:2)? We’re to pray for lives free to live out our duty to God. This is a freedom to practice our faith without government interference.
  • What is a candidate’s standards for justice (Isaiah 28:17; 30:18)? Our Lord is a just God. We live in a moral universe upheld by the character of God’s justice.
  • How do they think about power (Romans 13:3-4)? While I cannot expect a candidate to embrace a biblical perspective of service, I should discern how they might act once acquiring a political office’s power.
  • What is their commitment to the helpless and hurting (Psalm 82:3-4)? The Lord calls us to “give justice to the weak and fatherless,” those who are hurting or unprotected in our society.
  • How would I describe their stewardship to finances and the environment (Matthew 12:41-48)? The Bible teaches that we are stewards, managers of another’s wealth and resources. How does a candidate or party practice a stewardship of financial and environmental resources?

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