Why do church leaders excuse lying, adultery, and other serious sins when committed by their political allies?
Early in my Christian walk, I was taught to strive for holiness in every area of life. Sin must not be tolerated in thought, word, or deed. “Do not evil that good may come!” As a disciple of Jesus, I was to live “separate” from the fallen world, not physically, but spiritually and morally. His follower must not be “unequally yoked together” with sinners.
Jesus warned his disciples that anyone who loves a father, mother, or child more than him is not worthy of him. Instead, we are called to “deny ourselves, take up his cross, and follow after him.” That is not exactly a formula that encourages compromise with egregious sinners! And Paul was the great teacher of grace, but of a grace that is not entirely free of conditions – “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
Today, at least publicly, most if not all church leaders will agree with such stated principles, though implementing them may be a different matter. For whenever these biblical mandates are applied to the political arena, the Great Exception rears its ugly head. Pragmatism prevails over principle when the time comes for politically active Christians to employ the political means to push their agendas to reform society. Besides, all is fair in love and war, and is not partisan politics simply another way to wage war against one’s political, economic, and cultural enemies?
Paul warned believers at Corinth not to be “deceived,” for the “unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” And that category includes “fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners.” And I dare say that the average politician is guilty of at least three or four of the ten sins Paul listed, which means they will be excluded from God’s kingdom.
Or take the list of sins in Revelation that will land you in the “Lake of Fire” – The “fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderer, the fornicator, the sorcerer, the idolater, and all liars will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” The category of “liar” is especially stressed in the passage by the addition of the term “all,” and politicians are not exactly known for forthrightness and honesty.
So, if lying or adultery condemns a man or woman before God, how is it that in the political arena prodigious liars and serial adulterers get a free pass, that is, if they support “Christian” policies? Even worse, in some cases, church leaders make excuses for the “mistakes” of their political allies. Certainly, they will denounce very publicly any politician from the “wrong” party who is caught in a lie or accused of some sexual sin, but not the liar or adulterer who promotes their favorite causes.
Repeatedly over the last fifty years, I have heard the same tired arguments from Christians determined to immerse themselves in politics and to support morally questionable men and women running for elected office:
- “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
- “I agree with you, brother, except when I operate in the political arena.”
- “You can’t accomplish anything in politics if you refuse to compromise your principles.”
- “That’s how it works in realpolitik.”
- Etc., etc. ad infinitum
Of course, the excuses only strengthen the case for Christian non-participation in the whole sorry mess, and they all boil down to the same thing. You must do evil to accomplish good!
Compromise, sin, and hypocrisy are the inevitable fruits of participating in an inherently corrupt system, and Jesus called his people to something far higher. And hypocrisy quickly becomes the defining characteristic of church leaders who replace the biblical mission of proclaiming the gospel with an agenda of social, political, and national “reformation.” And if resorting to the political means compromise, hypocrisy and sin, that alone answers the question – Should disciples of Jesus be involved in politics?
Human society is in trouble due to sin, not because the wrong set of sinners is running the show. Sooner or later, politically active Christians will find themselves sleeping with very strange bedfellows. That they excuse the sins of their political allies demonstrates that they have compromised their commitment to the biblical faith, never mind the great damage they are doing to the gospel!
Paul predicted the coming “apostasy” that he linked to the “man of lawlessness” who will seat himself in the house of God. Over the decades, I have watched and waited for that inevitable reality to appear, but it is distressing to see it unfolding before my eyes as so many church leaders climb into “bed” with politicians, parties, and agendas that are certainly not Christian.