Jonathan Leeman on How Political Action Begins in the Church

“If our political hopes should rest first in our churches, we must learn to be before we do…As one of the elders, or pastors, of the church, I often remind our Hill staffers, K Street lobbyists, and military officers that real political action starts in the teaching ministry of our church and then flows outward from there—from our relationships with other members, to our families, our workplaces, and beyond. First be, then do. Don’t tell me you re interested in politics if you are not pursuing a just, righteous, peace-producing life with everyone in your immediate circles.

Paul asked the Jews of his day, “You who preach against stealing, do you steal?” (Rom. 2:21). Well, I’ve got a few questions of my own:

  • You who call for immigration reform, do you practice hospitality with visitors to your church who are ethnically or nationally different from you?
  • You who vote for family values, do you honor your parents and love your spouse self-sacrificially?
  • You who speak against abortion, do you also embrace and assist the single mothers in your church? Do you encourage adoption? Do you prioritize your own children over financial comfort?
  • You who talk about welfare reform, do you give to the needy in your congregation?
  • You who proclaim that all lives matter, do all your friends look like you?
  • You who lament structural injustices, do you work against them in your own congregation? Do you rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?
  • You who fight for traditional marriage, do you love your wife, cherishing her as you would your own body and washing her with the water of the Word?
  • You who are concerned about the economy and the job market, do you obey your boss with a sincere heart, not as a people-pleaser but as you would obey Christ?
  • You who care about corporate tax rates, do you treat your employees fairly? Do you threaten them, forgetting that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven and that there is no partiality with him?
  • Finally, as you share your opinions about all these issues on social media, do you gladly share the Lord’s Supper with the church member who disagrees? Do you pray for his or her spiritual good?

“All politics is local,” said former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip 0-Neill. He spoke better than he knew.

Politics should begin with our putting away the verbal swords we might be tempted to wield against church members who vote differently than we do. Any political impact our fellow members make in and through the church will last forever. I love how my church’s senior pastor Mark put it: “Before and after America. there was and will be the church. The nation is an experiment. The church is a certainty.”

When I say we must be before we do, I mean the local church should strive first to live out justice, righteousness, and love in its life together. Then it can commend its understanding of justice, righteousness, and love to the nation.”


Quoted from Jonathan Leeman’s new book, How The Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age.

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