About a month ago, I read a column by New York Times columnist David Brooks entitled “When Politics Becomes Your Idol.” In light of the sexual harassment and impropriety charges of many people that have come to light in recent weeks—and the enthusiastic support of the accused by many who claim membership and even occupy positions of leadership in the Body of Christ—Brooks’ article has become one that I’ve had a hard time letting go of. The article makes the claim that many good people in America today are trying to find connections with one another to take the place of the traditional connections that used to hold them together: the family, the community, a stable career, ethnic/family heritage, “an enveloping moral culture,” etc. The article doesn’t mention “the church”…but it seems appropriate to add this item to Mr. Brooks’ list, considering the subject matter. As a result of losing these traditional connections, Brooks argues, the world of politics has become the only or main place that many people now sense alignment with any sort of moral compass. “People on the left and the right who try to use politics to find their moral meaning are turning politics into an idol,” he writes. “Idolatry is what happens when people give ultimate allegiance to something that should be serving only an intermediate purpose, whether it is money, technology, alcohol, success, or politics.”
Are we saved by our politicians…or by Christ and empowered by the love of God to be politically active in the world in service to others? We all know the answer to that question. Yet too often we live as if the strongest ties that bind us one way or another are either our allegiances to—or dead-set opposition against—one politician or another.
On this last Sunday of the church year, sometimes called “Sunday of the Fulfillment” or “Christ the King Sunday,” we see the image of our loving Savior as he truly is now and will one day be revealed: the Son of Man, welcoming his sheep into the kingdom that they have inherited because of His work to bring disconnected people into the realm of GOD’s reign. Though they have done nothing to deserve it, the sheep know that their sins are forgiven, for Christ's sake. Jesus now calls attention to their acts of caring service not because they expertly fed the hungry, gave drink to those who thirsted, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, or visited the sick, lonely, and imprisoned. He mentions it because that’s what people who belong to the Good Shepherd are given to do. I wonder: did Jesus mention these acts of caring service because He knew how it would benefit “the least of these”…or because He knew how profoundly His own sheep would profit from living out this connection He designed them to have with one another? Our text today doesn't tell us. As people belonging to the Kingdom and prepared for service within/alongside the political parties of our nation’s earthly realm, why not live each day as if it were our job to find out?