"Christians Aren't Politicians"
(or, Where Do I Get My Good Name Back?)
by Ken Gardner

Yes, I know it's possible to be a Christian and hold public office. It's just that there are a lot of things said and done in the political arena that are plainly wrong, and it's truly sad when Christian brothers and sisters adopt some of the attitudes of politicians and engage in the same kind of antics. Ambitious souls desperate to become our so-called "public servants" have always had a tendency to get away from issues and attack each other personally: George Washington was accused of "debauching" the nation, Abraham Lincoln was called a despot and liar, Thomas Jefferson was accused of being a traitor and Andrew Jackson was called a drunken, ignorant adulterer. The current political scene is even worse, according to some. Our president decries the "politics of personal destruction." A prominent member of the press, David Broder, contends that political campaigners and advisors are "debasing the dialogue of democracy." A radio talk show host in Florida didn't appreciate the "unusually civil" debate between Al Gore and Jack Kemp--he commented, "These people who talk about civility, they should all be shot in the head."

Politics are getting "nastier," according to political advisor Paul Begala in a recent editorial in the Dallas Morning News (January 27, 1997). Begala says he has "more friends than he can count" who have "legal bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars--people who aren't accused of any wrongdoing. They just are caught up in the scandal machine." Begala also notes the case of Raymond Donovan, who was unjustly hounded out of President Reagan's cabinet. When he was later acquitted of all charges he asked, "Where do I report to get my good name back?"

Tragic consequences result not only in the political arena but also in the church. Most people seem to be willing to accept a little bit of name-calling in politics, but you and I, as children of God, are not Republicans and Democrats--we're Christians, we're brothers and sisters in Christ. When we start treating each other the way office-seeking candidates treat each other, then the church is indeed in sad shape. I know that we must stand for the truth and refute error. I know that error is rampant in the church now and that false teachers (under the cover of intellectualism and academic freedom) are wrecking havoc in the Lord's body. But we still need to be careful what we say and how we say it. We are still obligated to be fair with others, even those who may be unfair with us. We must not misrepresent anyone, nor distort their views, nor impugn their motives. We still must give an account to God for every word we utter or write.

What could be more tragic and sinful than "power-politics" in the local congregation? Hard feelings arise, suspicion abounds, cold silence prevails, and deep, years-old friendships are destroyed. Unfounded accusations are made, and division takes place, all because of jealousy, ambition, and arrogance. Brethren, I beg you, please give serious consideration to New Testament instruction: "if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" (Galatians 5:15). Diotrephes was condemned because he "loved to have the preeminence" and "prated" against faithful Christians "with malicious [wicked, ASV, evil, RSV] words" (III John 9-10). According to the New American Standard Version, Diotrephes "loved to be first" and "unjustly accused" his brethren. John wrote that Diotrephes "laid baseless and spiteful charges against us," according to one translation. He "likes to be the number-one leader," he "wants to be head of everything," he "loves to push himself forward," he "is eager to be a leader," are renderings of various versions.

I can't help wondering. I wonder if Diotrephes was a politician in secular life.