Phillip Yancey writes a timely piece here:
“Politics is the church’s worst problem,” warned the French sociologist Jacques Ellul. “It is her constant temptation, the occasion of her greatest disasters, the trap continually set for her by the prince of this world.” Christians have a divided loyalty, committed to helping our society thrive while giving ultimate loyalty to the kingdom of God.
We are resident aliens, taking guidance not from a party platform but from the life Jesus modeled for us. Sometimes that means crossing the gap, rather than widening it.
Yancey rightly identifies what I hope will be a growing trend in the Church in a post-Christendom era, namely that the Church realises that its purpose is not to try and make the world a better place, or to make the national political discourse more polite, but to be an alternative to the world. I am not convinced that ultimately this means we are called to make Republicans and Democrats or Socialists and Tories more kindly disposed towards each other. That we spend so much time trying to tell those in power what they ought to do so often betrays the fact that we are still secretly interested in being in charge ourselves.
Being faithful to the Risen Christ means that we do not need to worry about who gets to wield power. Rather, we are able to understand all those who would claim to be the Rulers of The World in the light of Christ’s resurrection and see them for who they truly are. This is why I think it is so important that Christians should not only embrace non-violence as part of our witness, but also realise that political powers that ultimately rely on violence to survive cannot simply be polished up and improved. Instead the Church is called to be an alternative to the political systems of the World, not to join their struggles for power, or to suffer the anxieties that power conferred by violence brings. Rather:
“Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.” I that see as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.