I could also say: Principles but not policies. And that is part of our problem!
The Bible is loaded with beliefs, values, ethics, morality, and spirituality.
The Bible is loaded with indicatives (statements) about who God is and what God wants.
The Bible is loaded with imperatives (commands or instructions) from God that tell us what to do.
But the Bible is much less concerned with directives. Directives are the specific guidance on how to obey the command or how to put into practice the instructions God has given.
For example, the Bible says, “Be holy” (1 Peter 1:22-23). That is a command-imperative. The instruction underlying the command is the statement “for God is holy.” While there are areas of life where we must be holy (like our sexuality), there is little or no guidance for how to be holy.
When it comes to politics, the Bible is loaded with beliefs, values, ethics, and so on, but it has VERY few concrete, specific instructions on how to be political.* There is next to nothing on how to act politically in a democracy. The idea of democracy barely existed at the time the New Testament was written. Some of the Greeks in the Mediterranean region were experimenting with city states and a republican way of governance.
The Bible’s world is one of kings, pharaohs, emperors, and military generals. The biblical world is one of family dynasties or violent wars to replace a dynasty. You don’t find democratically elected officials in the Bible, nor a democracy where people have freedom of speech, expression, protest, and critical denunciation of views with which they disagree.
On almost any social, cultural, political issue you name there are beliefs, values, ethics, and principles that can be applied to the issue. But when it comes to specifics about how to actually do it, the Bible is remarkably quiet.
Side Bar Note: The Bible barely tells us how to do governance in a church, much less providing us insight about how to govern a nation! That is why various churches and denominations have quite different policies about church-governing systems.
Therefore, we must reflect on the theology, ethics, and spirituality, and figure out what helpful applications and policies may look like.
One things is crystal clear. Christians have come to serious and vast differences on the applications and the policies of application. Christians are involved in every political party there is. When it comes to the parties, platforms, and policies of politics, there is no consensus among Christians.
I have very dear friends who are in serious disagreement about important political matters. These friends all love Jesus with wholeheartedness. They know their Bibles very well. They have great integrity of character. But when the conversation turns to political issues, there is no consensus.
Because they love Jesus, know their Bibles, and have great character, the conversations are conducted with respect, trust, and dialogue. They know that what unites them is greater than the political issues that divide them and the political parties that distinguish them.
They experience at a deep level what the Apostle Paul taught. For those who are in Christ, the old dividing distinctions of Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, fundamentally cannot divide them. Being in Christ and being of the Kingdom of God is supremely important. Being Democrat or Republican or Independent is merely important.
They also can hold loosely to their political policy preferences, for they know that Jesus stood above EVERY political party of his time. Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots, the Essenes–they each had clear policies on matters of state. Jesus was not a member of any of those parties. Jesus challenged and critiqued every political party of his time.
My friends know that Jesus would do the same thing today about their political parties. (I have other friends who seem to believe Jesus would be a member of their political party.)
Finally, my friends know Jesus would also speak powerfully, prophetically, and pastorally to the issues of our day. They know Jesus would speak theologically, spiritually, ethically, and morally to the issues of life.
What kind of things might Jesus say?
That is what I will unpack tomorrow.
* In the Old Testament, things are different. There are many specific policies and instructions about the civil and political life of the nation. These policies are part of the Civil Law that was given to Israel, that would clearly specify how they were to conduct life in their nation. Virtually every Old Testament scholar agrees that these specific laws/policies were designed for Israel as an ancient theocracy and are not the norm for other societies. The principles of the Moral Law are considered by these scholars as normative and enduring. Read this short explanation for an overview of the difference in moral and civil laws in ancient Israel.
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