On September 6, I conducted a poll on Twitter, asking, “If you had to choose between the two, which do you feel is more important for the good of America? That we have the best potential president in the White House or that the Church maintains a good witness before the world?”
What do you think the final results were? What’s your guess?
To give you an idea of the demographics of my 46,000 Twitter followers, among those who responded to a previous poll I did on September 1, 68.7 percent voted for Trump in 2020, 7.5 percent for Biden, 8.9 percent for another candidate, and 14.9 percent did not vote for president.
So, it was people like this who responded to my September 6 poll. How do you think they voted?
Less than 3 percent (2.9 percent, to be exact) were not sure which was more important. Even less (2.7 percent) answered with having the best potential president in the White House. And a massive 94.4 percent responded with the Church maintaining a good witness.
What an encouraging, positive response. In fact, I can’t remember a polling question I have asked on Twitter that ended with such one-sided results. The people have spoken, loudly and clearly.
More importantly, their answer is absolutely right.
That’s because, in a country like America, where there are tens of millions of believers and where the church still has a major influence, a church with a compromised witness will do far more to harm the nation than the right president will do to help the nation.
And if the nation will not listen to our message because we have disqualified ourselves from being taken seriously, if we cannot serve as moral examples because we have compromised our standards, then we have failed in our mission to the nation.
Of course, the ideal scenario is to have the best possible candidate in office while the people of God also shine brightly. And in many cases, there’s no reason why we can’t have both.
Why can’t we help the best candidates get elected without sullying ourselves in the process? Why can’t we retain our testimony while advocating for our political causes?
But if we had to choose between the two, the first and greatest priority is simple: we cannot sell our souls for the sake of political expediency.
Not only is that spiritual suicide for us as a body of believers. It is also a recipe of disaster for the nation. If our light doesn’t shine, the darkness will only increase.
As noted by New Testament scholar D. A. Carson, quoting another biblical scholar, R. V. Tasker, “if Jesus’ disciples are to act as a preservative in the world by conforming to kingdom norms, if they are ‘called to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent ... they can discharge this function only if they themselves retain their virtue’.” (Carson and Tasker were commenting on Jesus calling His disciples to be “the salt of the earth.”)
Yes, to function as salt and light, we must retain our virtue. After all, if we lose our saltiness, of what use are we? And what is the use of a light that does not shine?
Martin Luther King once said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
He also said this: “There was a time when the church was very powerful, in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
We must function as a thermostat once again, lest America’s temperature drops to fatal levels.
That means that, if we call ourselves the “values voters, we need to live out those values ourselves. If we shout to the world, “Morality matters,” we ourselves need to be moral. If our motto is, “Character counts,” we need to be people of character – and that applies to the world of politics too. We don’t take off our Christian hats when we vote or when we lobby or when we run for office or when we post on social media.
Put another way, we should be better known as followers of Jesus then as supporters of a candidate or members of a party. Let our priorities be unmistakable. (For more on all this, see my latest book.)
Of course, this is easier said than done. As believers, we face many serious battles and are confronted by many powerful temptations. And when it comes to the political realm, the stakes are incredibly high, and emotions will be at a fever pitch during the midterms in November and the presidential election in 2024.
But let us always remember: Political leaders will come and go. Political parties and movements will come and go. Nations and even empires will come and go. But the church of Jesus is eternal, and the consistency and quality of our witness will make the difference between heaven and hell.
In that light, I suggest we introduce a new slogan. It may not be as catchy as MAGA, but it’s even more relevant. How about MACGA? Make the church godly again!