He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. Luke 21:8
It has been my experience that when a discussion reaches a point where one said has nothing left the judgment accusation gets thrown around. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been accused of judging someone or something they said or some action they took or did not take. Well, there is a difference between judgment and discernment, and discernment is a task that we are all called to perform.
When Paul wrote to the members of the church in Thessalonica, he told them to test everything so they would know what was right and what was wrong. Failure to verify the spirit so to speak leaves us open to false teaching, and false teaching leads us to an unbiblical mindset, and this is what we have to avoid.
“But test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
In the passage quoted above from the 21st chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is warning is followers that there will be many that come after him claiming to come in his name, we call these false prophets. But how are we to know who is and is not a false prophet? It is not always easy to distinguish because they false prophet usually comes wrapped in the mantle of some church or para-church operation.
The first test I use comes from the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Mark starting with the 30th verse:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
If what is being professed does not show love for God or love for others than it is my discernment that what is being professed is not from God. Notice that there are no conditions associated with this command, and yes it is a command from the very lips of Jesus, love God, Love neighbor, or as I like to say love others.
This can be taken a step further by reading from the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Luke starting with the 32nd verse:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
We are told that we even have to love those who do not love us back and that we are to show mercy. So if what is being professed as the word of God does not show mercy or is not in keeping with the loving those who do not love us back, it is false.
But what of our enemies, or those we perceive as our enemies? We are to love them as well. Turn to the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew starting with the 43rd verse:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Calling for the destruction of those who oppose us is counter biblical. Now there is nothing that says we have to let our enemies roll over us, but we are people of peace first and foremost, and all attempts to resolve differences with love and understanding is what we are called to do.
The final, and perhaps the most important analysis for me comes in knowing politically what is a Christian position and what is not a Christian position. Does the candidate or the legislation help or harm;
Those in prison
The 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew tells us that nations will be judged and the separation of the sheep and the goats will take place. This judgment will not be based on how full our churches are how many copies of the Ten Commandments we have carved in stone but by how we treat the least among us. Starting with the 34th verse we read:
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and you took care of me, I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave me no food, I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me, naked, and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Candidates who call for cuts in programs that help the poor, refuse to fight for a living wage, disenfranchise voters, mostly the poor ones, do not welcome the stranger among us, will be judged for their actions and those who support such actions are following a false prophet.
Religion was used a lot in this last election cycle and most of it, not for good. Many religious leaders sold their souls for political gain and became Judas to those who look to them for comfort and guidance. The role and obligation of the church are to seek to bring peace not division. If the church brings division, it is not from God! When politics and religion are mixed all, we are left with is politics.
The role and responsibility of the church is to accept those the world does not accept. To love those the world does not love. And to speak for those the world wants to silence. Unconditionally. Why? Because this is what Jesus did.