Several years ago I had the privilege of hearing an older gospel preacher preach on the subject of problems facing the church. I believe the lesson helped me more than any one lesson I’ve ever heard on the subject, because he spoke from his obvious years of experience and wisdom putting the problems of the church into perspective. As a young man I had the tendency to get excited at times thinking where all of the troubles will lead, but this senior gospel preacher surveyed the New Testament church and showed that God was in control and that good finally does win out over evil.
One of the issues dealt with in the lesson was the issue of politics in the church. The older brother simply stated, “It has always been that way.” You see the truth is, it has always been that way because the Lord’s church is made up of human beings who from time to time are tempted and fall into the trap of being political in the Lord’s church. Even the casual observer can easily see from brotherhood publications and lectureships across the country, even around the world, that some people seem to run together. It is almost like a club or a fraternity sometimes. I have talked to my brothers in Christ and asked questions of them and they have referred me to one of their club, even on occasion saying “He’s the best.” Well, that may be the case, but sometimes it is the case that “he” is just a good friend with whom one is comfortable and does not seem to pose a perceived threat to him personally or professionally. What am I saying? That all such associations are wrong and harmful? No, but if such associations serve to weaken the Lord’s church and harm the body of Christ, then forget the politics—the kingdom comes first!
An example of New Testament politics is found in Galatians 2 when the apostle Peter was confronted with the problem of Judaizing teachers versus Gentile Christians. So long as Peter was with the Gentile brethren everything was all right and he would eat with them. But, when the Judaizers came around the pressure led even the apostle Peter and Barnabas to succumb to the politics of the day and withdraw themselves from the Gentiles, giving their attention to the Jews only rather than treating both equally. When Peter arrived at Antioch, Paul withstood him to the face “because he was to be blamed” (v. 11). If all were to be one in Christ as Peter himself concluded from his dream in Acts 10:34-35, then the politics of separation over circumcision was devastating to the body of Christ, the church. I think all Bible students who read the account of Galatians 2:4-13 find themselves endeared the more to the great apostle Paul who would not allow fleshly barriers to separate him from the fellowship of Christ.
In fact, the inspired term for what Peter and Barnabas were guilty of was “hypocrisy” (Gal. 2:13). The word hypocrite has its origin in the idea of an actor playing a part or a role in a play, and that is exactly where politics will lead. Just as it led Peter to practice the exact opposite of what he had been preaching, politics will cause brethren of today to do the same thing. In fact, it will cause a brother in Christ to weaken or even give up a correct doctrinal position held, because his friend believes a different way, or a school has taken a certain position. I have observed that in a certain locality a dominate preacher may influence other preachers to even act irrationally sometimes because they feel threatened! Is Christ no larger than a man? Can a man’s dominate personality overtake one’s love for God? The messenger of God can never be pulled into such a situation for if he is then he ceases being the servant that God would have him to be. The answer to a church issue is a “thus saith the Lord” and not a political poll of one’s friends. A Bible answer to a problem is not even decided by a poll of the brotherhood or what position a journal takes but rather by the word of God (Col. 3:16; I Pet. 3:15). It is a sad thing when brother A refuses to respond to brother B’s error with a statement such as “he is my good friend, and I don’t feel comfortable criticizing him.” If God chastens every son (Heb. 12:6), then we should truly love our friend and brother when we show him or her the truth.
Finally, I’m glad that my final judgment rests in the hands of “the Lord, the righteous Judge” (II Tim. 4:8). As David said to Gad in the long ago, ” . . . let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man” (II Sam. 24:14). I believe King David knew something about the politics of mankind, don’t you? Everyone—especially leaders in the Lord’s church, should be diligent to keep fleshly politics out of the body of Christ. What if every member of the Lord’s church could meet on the common ground of the Scriptures and the common salvation in Christ (Jude 3)? I know the kingdom of our Lord would be better than it is today!
-David Hill