“Mixing religion and politics,” it’s been said, “is like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn’t do much to the manure but it will absolutely ruin the ice cream.”
Then there’s this saying, sometimes attributed to Albert Einstein: “Those who believe that politics and religion do not mix understand neither.”
Additionally, I heard someone say that religion and politics mix as long as the results support their cause.
I don’t know about you, but each of these quotes trigger certain emotions for me. The reality is we are seeing an increase in this mix of religion and politics, and it seems to be creating a greater divide in our country.
First, let me be clear that I am grateful to the many men and women who have chosen to serve our communities and our nation as elected officials. My observation is that, for the most part, these individuals — from both political parties — have a desire to make our communities and country better places to experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There are just vastly different ways of accomplishing that end.
Does the Bible give any guidance for this mix? I’d like to suggest that there is a posture for Christians to exhibit that will influence how they engage in our political system.
In the Old Testament, King Solomon, son of King David, was considered the wisest and wealthiest king of Israel. His great wisdom showed up in the writings of the Book of Proverbs; he led Israel in many years of peace and prosperity; and he built a massive palace and impressive temple to the Lord.
When Solomon had completed, and had succeeded at, what he had set out to do, the Lord appeared to him and gave him an incredible message that could not be more relevant for what we’re experiencing today in our country. The Lord said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, New International Version).
God gave a message that clearly defines the responsibility of the people who are called by his name to have a specific posture connected to the land where they reside. If you are a Christian, meaning you have placed your faith in Jesus as your savior, then you are representing his name more than your own name. You are an ambassador for God first before any political party or ideology.
The very next directive for his people is to humble themselves. Choosing the way of humility is not weakness, but controlled strength. It is the way of Christ. Jesus gave up his divine privileges and chose to humble himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. And then God elevated him to the place of highest honor.
Building on this posture of humility is the continued responsibility of people to seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways. His promise is that he will hear and he will heal our land. And our land needs continued healing.
Solomon began as a great king leading with wisdom that brought peace and prosperity to his nation, but sadly his lack of integrity led to his downfall. Which again reminds us that leaders are imperfect humans just like you and me. We will let each other down because of our humanity, but we can build each other up when we choose humility.
Choosing the way of humility and the posture of prayer will set us up for healthy discourse when there is differing of opinions. The mixing of politics and religion will always be a tension to manage and while we don’t always get it right, my hope is that those who have identified as followers of Jesus would be the example of this posture of humility. Humility is the foundation for finding unity in diversity.
Matt Mylin is a pastor at Worship Center, a Lancaster church. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.