A Message from Ellen – Jan 20, 2021
January 20, 2021
As I write this, the inauguration of our new President and Vice-President are about to get underway. With the events of the last few months behind us, I am sure that you join me in praying for a peaceful transfer of power and that our nation might not split into irreconcilable camps, but instead find a way forward that allows us to be unified for the common good even if we disagree on much.
I am praying for peace. I am praying that cool heads will prevail, and that both parties will give up the past practice of retribution. In Galatians 5 the Apostle Paul calls us to use our freedom in Christ to love each other. “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:13-15. I fear that two major parties and the many sub-groups in our country are on the way to devouring one another.
But even as we pray for peace, I want to challenge you to consider the relationship between your faith and your politics. I am firmly convinced (and have lots of Scripture to quote if I had the room) that our faith is always lived out in the political realm. By that I mean that what we believe affects how we spend our time, our money, our influence, and our vote. How we spend our money is a political decision. How we spend our time and attention are political decisions. Political decisions allow us to affect the world around us. The Christian faith is always political, but we must guard against becoming partisan. To be partisan is to claim God for “our side alone.” To be partisan is to collapse our Christian beliefs with any one political party. The Christian faith is not bound by either the Republican or Democratic party but calls both parties to accountability. The Christian faith pledges ultimate allegiance only to God. We are grateful to live in a country that provides us so many gifts, advantages, and blessings. Love of country is a good thing. But love of country, or love of a political party, or ultimate allegiance to any person over and above God is sin – specifically idolatry (see Deut 5:8 and Exodus 20:4). We can argue over partisan issues, but our politics (how we spend our time, money, vote and influence) are directly related to our relationship with God. And it is that ultimate allegiance to God that keeps our excesses and our sin in check. Those who attacked the capital on January 6th were misled and were wrong. Their political action showed an allegiance to that which is not true. When we can agree on the Lordship of Jesus Christ and when we give to God our ultimate obedience, then we can see that destruction of property and threatening physical harm to elected leaders is wrong. We can and we must be politically active Christians, and we may identify in our political action as Republicans or Democrats, but we must refrain from the partisan devouring that currently passes for politics on both sides. And if you ask me what that looks like or how I know where the divide is between being political and partisan, I will read you the list of the very different descriptions of the outcomes of serving our own egos/ourselves versus serving God that is spelled out in Galatians 5:19-26.
Let God’s Peace begin in our hearts and spread to everyone we meet.
Ellen Fowler Skidmore