by Chris Palusky, President and CEO
We will remember 2020 for the global COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide protests for social justice, and one of the most anxiously anticipated presidential elections in modern history. We’ve all felt the divisiveness of politics, and unfortunately, Christians can often be found stirring the pot. When you feel tempted to prove the righteousness of your views (a place I tend to find myself), remember what Jesus said in the hours before his crucifixion—be known for your love.
I’m not writing to condemn politically active Christians. On the contrary, I believe Christians should engage the public square, motivated and guided by our faith. After all, decisions made by elected officials directly impact our ability at Bethany to ensure vulnerable children are safe, loved, and connected.
But I would like to pose two questions to the Christian community as we grapple with hard decisions. First, whom do we trust with our fears, anxieties, and hopes for the future? Second, how do we wrestle with politics and religion in a way that honors God?
Identity rooted in faith
The Bible warns us, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save” (Psalm 146:3). This doesn’t mean we can’t, or shouldn’t, trust our elected officials to do the right thing; it just means we shouldn’t let that trust cause us to lose sight of God’s priorities. American culture tends to correlate religion and partisanship, boxing someone into a political party based on where and how they worship. But our individual political leanings should have no bearing on our Christian identity.
This is why I implore Christians during this heated political time: If you feel strongly about the state of our country—if you want to make a difference, not just a point—consider how you can live out God’s Word, specifically Jesus’ Great Commandment and his Great Commission, by demonstrating biblical hospitality. We should not pour our hope, trust, and allegiance into elected officials or political parties with the expectation that they’ll make the changes we want to see. We should put our trust in God alone and our energy into the simple ways we can be the hands and feet of Jesus for our neighbors and communities. As Psalm 37 tells us, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him.”
When we commit our way to the Lord, he opens our eyes to his priorities—what’s closest to his heart. Jesus spoke about how the Father cares for the most common birds. How much more must he value children—including more than 120,000 children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted! Core tenants of our faith include loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and not mistreating the foreigner (Leviticus 19:33). Don’t you think God cares deeply about the thousands of refugees who need their neighbors to welcome them, not refuse them? Does he not see the thousands of children fleeing alone, and on foot, escaping violence in their home countries? They need loving families to care for them while they wait to be reunited with their parents.
Actions inspired by faith
Christ followers are directed in Scripture to “be doers of the word” (James 1:22) because “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Jesus wanted his followers to be known for their actions—serving one another in love (John 13:35)—not for their opinions or political beliefs.
Instead of defending political views on refugee resettlement, meet a refugee family. Learn their story, and engage your church to collect household items for them and help them get connected in their new community. When you’re moved by pictures of children at the border, apply to become a foster parent. If you want to make a difference for struggling families who are now even more vulnerable because of COVID-19, become a friend to an isolated family. If global poverty breaks your heart, sponsor a family so children can remain in their parents’ care instead of being placed in orphanages. Instead of sharing a disparaging political post on social media, share a hopeful op-ed about solutions for an issue that impacts your community.
When the earliest Christians extended value and dignity to their society’s most vulnerable people, it shook the Roman Empire. They adopted abandoned children, treated slaves as equal heirs in God’s kingdom, and radically welcomed outsiders into their midst. They caught the attention of the ancient world not because of what they believed but because of what they did to live out their beliefs. Emperor Julian said, “It is a scandal that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well.” Not wanting anything to be more noble or more benevolent than the Roman Empire, Julian said, “Let us not permit others to excel us in good deeds.” What if our culture could say that about the Church today?