Followers of Jesus are charged with being ambassadors of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul, in a letter to a church in Ephesus, explains to us that we are to be ambassadors of the Good News that God’s redemptive and freeing power, made possible by death and resurrection of Jesus, is continually at work today through the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes it clear that the implications of the Good News knows no bounds—religion (2 Cor. 3:6), relationships (John 13:34), even politics (Luke 4:18)—everything is transformed in light of the Gospel. Yet when Christians unknowingly fight against the implications of the Gospel, we inadvertently blot out the glory of the God to a dark world and amputate the feet of very Good News we claim to spread. For example, it was only a few months ago that the United States Senate, a body composed almost entirely of self-identified Christians, voted against the DREAM Act and the repealing of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on the same day—the glory of the God became hidden by our brokenness just a little bit more. And by the time DODT was finally repealed in December, the move was reluctant and managed to demonstrate an even greater hostility towards the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act would have allowed children of illegal immigrants who were taken into this country when they were under the age of 16 to be put on a six-year long conditional path to citizenship if they could get into an American college or serve in the U.S. military. Each year 65,000 children are, through no fault of their own, brought to America by their parents and constantly live under the threat of deportation to their parents’ country. Currently, they will be deported regardless of their contribution to society, whether they have any ties to their parents’ place of origin, or even whether they can speak their parents’ language. The DREAM Act would provide a reasonable and fair alternative to that fate. Instead, politicians who prided themselves on standing up for “family values” voted it down without offering any alternative. Were these votes a demonstration of loving our neighbor or manifesting the Good News to these sons and daughters of illegal immigrants? Perhaps the Good News is only “good news” for some people.
The majority of these same politicians also voted against allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military both in September and December, making strikingly similar arguments used to keep African-Americans from integrating into the Army in the 1940s. In spite of the Pentagon’s support of inclusion, numerous studies showing inclusion would not affect combat effectiveness, and the grim reality that we’ve already discharged 13,000 GLBT soldiers in the last sixteen years—including 59 Arabic linguists in the last five—many Christians in our Senate still felt the need to continue discrimination. Yet, with reluctant vote overcoming the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, our government is now finally treating homosexuals with the same kind of equal treatment under the law granted to heterosexuals (marriage notwithstanding). No special privilege or preference, just the same opportunity to serve our country. But for the Christians who voted against this repeal twice, were these votes a demonstration of loving our neighbor or manifesting the good news to gays and lesbians? Perhaps they just don’t count as our neighbors.
Tragically, these were not primarily nominal Christians-in-name-only, but instead strongly self-identifying and strongly outspoken Christians making the case against both of these chances to legislate justice: to be for the DREAM Act equated to supporting the lawlessness of illegal immigration, or to be for allowing gays and lesbians to serve our country equated to affirming sinful lifestyles. In reality, these are nothing more than false choices, just as it is false choice to say that defending the rights of the unborn means being anti-women. Yet beyond this tortured logic, the false dichotomies created by some Christian leaders who offer no compassionate solutions of their own make us look just plain nasty. In the eyes of a hurting world examining the legitimacy of our Gospel, we seem far less like ambassadors of the Good News and far more like schoolyard bullies picking on the kids that aren’t like us. Why are we Christians behaving like this?
A well-intentioned Christian friend of mine inadvertently pinpointed the problem when, in response to my lament of the first vote, he wrote to me, “I thought you were a preacher of the Gospel of Christ: the cross, redemption, belief in Jesus, holiness, repentance of sin? I didn't know that included actively drumming up political strife—unless your gospel is one that favors illegal immigration and homosexuality, in which case I wonder what gospel it is you preach.”
The reason why many Christians in politics look like bullies is simply because we have not yet understood the totality of the Gospel. We embrace only a fraction, but believe the fraction is the whole. In doing so we open up the potential for worldly philosophies and prejudices, as well as our own inclination for pharisaical thinking, to fill the space in our worldview where the Gospel is supposed to be. We can even end up working against the Gospel, not out of premeditated malice, but because we are unknowingly viewing an issue through something other than a Gospel-centered lens.
Yet if we are to avoid sabotaging the Gospel we have been entrusted with, we must seek to know it in its fullness. Declaring Jesus as the one and only redemptive savior of the world and striving for Biblical justice in the world are not competing “gospels”, they are both intrinsic in the singular indivisible Gospel (James 1:27). To focus on either one without the other is to see only a fraction and not the whole.
So in the sphere of politics we must come to realize that one of our foremost roles in being ambassadors of the Gospel is in taking up the political cause of the voiceless and marginalized (Isaiah 1:17, Daniel 4:27, Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 15:1-2). On some level we already know this. Most Christians already see defending the lives of the unborn (and their mothers), alleviating extreme poverty, and stopping genocide as part and parcel with the nature the Gospel. But that is only part of the whole. We must be on the side of all who are voiceless and marginalized, without exception. Whether that's the unborn or the poor or the children of illegal immigrants or homosexuals rendering military service, for us to do anything less is treason to our charge as ambassadors of the Good News and a renouncement of our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Instead then, let us seek to be loyal only to our King of Kings.