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Why It Matters

Note: The following post is long but I have included pictures for the reading impaired.


So I've never made it a secret that I'm a big fan of civic involvement.
In fact I'm a fan of civic involvement at all levels. I believe (collectively) Christians should be actively engaged in every aspect of society. In addition to the full body being engaged in the full measure of civic involvement however, I believe that each individual Christian should also be engaged in the matters that concern those whom we are attempting to reach.

Stories sometimes explain where propositions get stuck so let me share what went through my mind at the grocery store the other day.

The other day my wife texted me and asked me to pick up a few things on my way home. I stopped by my neighborhood grocery store and began walking the isles. I needed a few basic items like milk, cereal and trash bags. For the most part I've been blessed financially to where I hadn't paid much attention to the rising costs of products until I realized how expensive milk has gotten. Then as I investigated the amount of cereal I could buy for $3.00 as compared to some older (larger) boxes I used to buy a few months ago, I noticed that the cereal was even much more.

Do you know what it takes for me to offset the rising costs? Well, I can cut back on eating out or coffee or even some money set aside for fun. But I got to thinking. What about the family living near the poverty line. Not the mom or dad on drugs. Just the average family that clips coupons and saves every penny. Maybe they had little opportunity for education or possibly they are recovering from major medical expenses. I personally know of several families in this position. How do they handle the rising cost of basics like food and gasoline, etc.?

So what does the price of milk have to do with our individual civic involvement? Is it a Republican or Democrat issue? Is it a "political" issue? I would say it's a spiritual issue. It's also a very practical issue for the local church. Most of the time Christians are quite content to ignore the concepts and workings of the illusive "government" because they simply don't know how it all works so we turn our nose up and say that "We're all about the gospel."

At the same time however, we embrace that the people of Jesus should do all we can to help people who are less fortunate. Have we ever stopped to consider that maybe the people of God could at least remain civilly engaged enough to ensure that our governmental structure and systems end up helping the least of these? I am in no way advocating which party or a third party will do the best... what I am saying however is I think we've thrown the baby out with the bath water.

If enough Christian leaders understood how the governmental budget works and where money is appropriated. If enough Christian leaders said that it was important to have a balanced budget and a strong dollar because those things directly impact the 'least of these', I'd bet the government would look less like an adversary and more like an avenue.

If enough Christians pressed our government to contribute 1% of our GDP to stopping the spread of AIDS in Africa I'd say that'd be a great testimony for our missionaries to share overseas.
I'd think it'd make for an amazing starting point to tell an African family "In my country Christians fought the spread of HIV/AIDS in your country because they love you and they want you to be alive so they can tell you about their Savior." Currently America contributes only about 0.16 percent of its GDP to official development assistance (ODA) for poor countries. [source]

There are a series of chain-reactions that end up hurting the same people whom we want to impact with the gospel. If individual Christians were educated on what the issues were and how to go about having their voice heard (which is free) I bet we could truly again be a voice of influence for the weak, the sick, the broken and the hurting.

Even in terms of stewardship we can consider the collective cost to the church. Tithes go down, benevolence needs go up, missions dollars are fewer, etc. It just makes very practical sense to have Christians civilly involved in the process as a part of their lives. I think for a lot of Pastors its difficult to show their people how this is spiritually connected because so few Pastors today even have a basic understanding of the governmental process and the consequences. I know I know... "Jesus wasn't involved in government." While I disagree I can still concede that point while keeping in mind the fact that Jesus was not in America either.

The point is to find principles and ask how they apply. Paul told us to take EVERY thought captive to the cause of Christ. For me in America since I have freedom of speech and a vote... I believe my action or inaction there (if it affects millions of poor and it costs me nothing) are up for a spiritual discussion with God. I'm either using those freedoms to benefit others by considering how policies affect the least of these OR I am to be held negligent because I abstained from the process completely and remained rather ignorant.

We shouldn't ignore civic affairs and wait for the poor to call our offices or ask if we have food for them. We should encourage our people to stay aware (no matter their party affiliation) and engage every aspect of society on behalf of the 'least of these'.

The locust of Christian thinking seems to have completely separated into two camps. Either the camp that "preaches the gospel" or the camp who "practices the gospel". I think there is a place where we can come to that keeps preaching the gospel central while using every means available to bless the least of these. I believe there is a place in the Christian mind and heart to both appreciate the salvation and respond to that salvation in EVERY part of our daily life.

Civic involvement isn't dirty and governmental structure is amoral. How those things are influenced by the voice of God's children will determine what type of communities God's children bring about them. I'd prefer to see God's children loving the poor on the front end (civic involvement) as well as the back end (church benevolence).

Nothing comes before the gospel but this is certainly an issue we should consider if we have been blessed to receive the gospel. If not, I'm not sure why we'd pray for God's will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

One last illustration for thought:

(Above: % of people below the poverty line)
(Below: % of Evangelicals in a given area)

The most amount of poor in our nation are surrounded by the most amount of Evangelicals. Does that seem right? It doesn't sit well with me. I hope we can all work to change that.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Wednesday, July 16, 2008


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