Love Where You Live: Politics by John Burke

Along with 300 plus churches in the Austin area, Gateway Church in Austin began a series called “Love Where You Live.” John Burke kicked off our series talking about a love greater than politics.

Check out the Next Steps here:

Next Steps – A Love Greater Than Politics

Consider a conversation with your life group, family over dinner, running partners, or neighbors using the questions and exercises.

Watch the message here:

Read the message notes here:

There are two reasons I want to talk about politics.

First, here at Gateway Church we’ve always said we don’t take a political stand, and we couldn’t care less who you voted for in the last election. At the same time, 50% of you said on our survey that you voted democrat in the last election. The other 50% of you voted republican. And 100% of you think we’re all just like you—until…election year! Then suddenly, these people you’ve come to know and love in your life group over the past year or so start to voice their opinions, and you realize—oh my gosh—you’re one of THEM? People leave groups, people lose relationship, people leave our church because we’re not like them.

Second, we need to learn to love our neighbors who may disagree with our political views.

We’re starting a 4 weeks series today that you all need to engage with if you claim to follow Jesus. And even if you don’t yet, this is really important for you to understand who Jesus is and what he taught about ;ove and how it is more important than our differences—whether political differences, ethnic/racial differences, religious background differences, or just offensive differences.

My goal is not to espouse some political view. Politics matter, and especially in a free, democratic society we should engage in our civic duty to vote and care because it does matter—but it doesn’t matter more than anything. And that’s what I want to help us remember today.

What matters most to God, and if we are going to claim to follow Jesus, what should matter most to us—and how do we negotiate prioritizing those things with our neighbors, at church, work, and in the neighborhood during this heated political season.

Jesus is on my side!?

Now, one of the things that makes politics and faith so heated is that everyone thinks Jesus is on their side—politically. Jesus did address political/governmental matters that should direct our attitudes and behavior during this season.

Jesus got caught in the political crossfire of his day. The Jewish people had a theocracy—those in religious power also held political power. In the end, their power corrupted them to the point of wanting to kill Jesus when he threatened their political power.. The Jewish government was subjected under Roman Rule. Pilate was the Roman governor trying to govern the Jews. Then Herod was a Jewish ruler appointed by Rome to govern the area of Galilee under Pilate. Three political parties all hated each other. The Jewish Sanhedrin ruled according to Mosaic law, they hated the Romans who were there oppressors. They also hated Herod because he sold out to Rome, but Herod hated Pilate and Pilate hated Herod, and both Hated the Sanhedrin. So Jesus ends up in the middle of all this political hatred.

God is bigger than the worst or best of politics.

God foretold all of this political hatred and fear mongering and used it all for his purposes. In about 2000 B.C. God creates Jewish people from Abraham, Isaac his son has Jacob—who blesses his son with this prophetic word:

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor. – Genesis 49:10

God says authority and rule will not leave the Jewish nation until the Messiah comes. It wasn’t until Roman rule that Jews could not exercise authority. The Jewish Chief Priests of the Sanhedrin arrested Jesus for claiming to be the Messiah—Son of God, the ruler who would set all right. But the Jewish religious government had their right to capital punishment taken away by Rome. So they could not kill Jesus, but had to persuade Pilate to do it. All these political means God foretold and used:

The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed [Messiah]…The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them…saying,“I have installed my king…You are my son; today I have become your father… Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession…Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.11 Serve the Lord with fear [awe] and celebrate his rule…. Psalm 2:1-11

God is bigger than all politics. This is the first thing Christ Followers must understand. God’s not worried about this election. He could use the worst Kings and power mongers to accomplish the best for all humanity, then he can even use Donald or Bernie or anyone in between.

No Fear Mongering!

Which here’s what this means if you follow Christ the Messiah. We can’t be the ones spreading fear because fear is not a tool of God, it’s a tool of evil. God says, you want something to fear, fear me—stop worrying and fearing what might happen if others rule, and start thinking and acting like God rules.

So Jesus is arrested by the Jewish religious political chiefs, sent to Pilate with political smear tactics saying “Pilate, Jesus claims he’s a king—if you let him get away with that, you’re in treason against Rome which says no king but Caesar.” Pilate interrogates Jesus.

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
John 19:10-11

Jesus is the King of Kings. He is the ruler over all kingdoms, but his kingdom rule and ways do not operate by the world’s rules of power, politics, fear, and greed. If Jesus wanted us living first by the ways of politics, he would have fought against the Jewish and Roman governments, but he didn’t! He didn’t rule by the ways of power or politics, and in fact, he allowed all their political fears, protecting power, and political maneuvering to kill him. Now think hard about that—Jesus somehow loved people beyond all their worst political beliefs, ideologies, and even political power-mongering. He showed that Love is Greater than Politics, and that God is greater than politics.

If you claim to follow Christ, you are first a citizen of God’s Kingdom, second a US citizen. And if the One you follow did not fight with political or military power to protect himself or his Kingdom, you don’t have to either. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote—vote! But don’t think a political party or candidate is going to save us or destroy us. God’s the only Savior, and he can use the worst governments to save and do what’s best for humanity.

That’s why we are told:

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. – Romans 13:1

Remember—this isn’t referring to Democrat or Republican but Roman authority, which worshipped idols and had lots of horrible policies, including persecution of Christians. So what does this say to us? It says choose who you follow first—God’s Kingdom or the kingdom of politics (whichever party). God’s Kingdom, his will and ways, are more important all other parties, rule, and ways.

How should we treat someone with whom we disagree?

Jesus said that loving God is the first and most important commandment. Here’s the problem with this: almost everyone would say they love God. The problem is there’s lots of wiggle room with what that means, but Jesus didn’t give any wiggle room. Look what he said after Love God:

This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:38-40

Jesus says “Loving God” is like “loving people.” Jesus uses this greek word “Homoia” many times—always to try to help people see what Heaven is like. In other words, Jesus is saying “You can’t see Heaven, but it’s like this: if you understand this, you’ll have an idea of that. Everyone can say they love God actually looks like “loving your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

Jesus’ plan to change the world is not for His Kingdom to come through politics, force, or power, but as His followers learn to daily say “Not my Kingdom come or my party’s will done, but Your Kingdom come, as your will is done, on earth (through me) as it is in Heaven.”

As we bring the Light of His love, care, and concern to our neighbors, and learn to Love God BY loving and caring about those we live around just as much as we care about ourselves—that’s how we live under His Kingdom, and that’s How he changes the world.

People matter more than politics.

When politics come up with a neighbor, or someone at Gateway, and it differs from your view, ask a question:

How did you come to that view?

This let’s the person explain the deeper story behind their views, and you’re valuing the person more than political views by wanting to know about them. This expresses humility.

Then ask another question: “What’s most important to you?” Now instead of political fighting, you’re getting to know the heart and soul of your neighbor. That’s loving. So let’s do that for one another—here at Gateway, and to our neighbors.

We can debate ideas respectfully which is important and good, but we should listen more than we talk. In addition, we should never gossip, slander, or belittle. When conversations start that turn to gossip and bad-mouthing candidates.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 4:29-30

God is always doing what’s best for people. People don’t. And God’s Kingdom is teaching us to love our neighbor more than we love our political views.

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