Jesus, Politics and Religion
The questions in this small group guide relate to the sermon from Nov. 1, 2020. If your group has not had a chance to listen to the full sermon related to this discussion guide, they can find it in our sermon library. Rev. Adam Hamilton preached this week’s sermon.
Lord Jesus, many of the people you lived among hated the Roman soldiers who occupied their land. They hated the people who collected taxes to send off to distant Rome. They hated other Jews who held different opinions than they did about how to relate to their occupied nation status. And to them, in those oppressive conditions, you said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.” Teach us, too, how to better act as children of our Father in heaven. Amen.
- Read Matthew 5:43-48. Pastor Adam said, “I hear people say that there should be no connection–that even talking about faith shaping our politics violates the separation of church and state….The separation of church and state [Thomas] Jefferson spoke of was the idea that the government could not establish a state church nor could they prohibit the free exercise of religion. It said nothing about people not bringing their faith to bear in thinking about politics. You must relate your faith to politics. Harold Laswell, one of the best-known political scientists of the twentieth century, provided what has become a classic definition of politics in the title of his book, POLITICS: WHO GETS WHAT, WHEN, HOW. Decisions about who gets what when and how are moral decisions. They involve values, ethics, convictions about the meaning of life and what constitutes right and wrong, good and evil and what it means to be human.” Share, not who you voted (or plan to vote) for, but what underlying convictions you use to make voting decisions. Instead of debating which convictions are most important, see if you can find convictions you share even if you apply them differently.
- Read Matthew 7:1-5. “Don’t judge” did not mean “Don’t have opinions” or “don’t make choices.” (No one in Jesus' day got to vote.) It DID mean “Don’t hold those who reach different conclusions in contempt.” Pastor Adam referred to the ad the two main Utah candidates for governor filmed together, modeling respect and unity regardless of the outcome (You can click here to watch the ad.) If candidates can do that, how can their backers (including you) follow suit, and love even your neighbor who votes differently?
- Read James 4:1-6, 11-12. History says political foes accused Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt (3/4 of Mount Rushmore!) of deceit, ruining freedom, having vile habits and more. Pastor Hamilton wrote, “Does the Lord give us an exemption from practicing the Scriptures when it comes to our political leaders…and others with whom we disagree?....This does not mean we are not to practice discernment. Nor does it mean we should remain silent in the face of wrongdoing. Yet we can make known our disagreements with others while doing so in love and with respect for the other.” * Can you? Why or why not?
- Read Colossians 3:12-14. Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “People who are enslaved to anger and malice may think they are ‘free’ to ‘be themselves’, but they are in bondage.” ** Have you ever said words meant to hurt, and then wondered, “Why did I say that?” What helps you understand your feelings better so you don’t blurt out damaging words? Before you forward that e-mail, or post that tart response on social media, are you willing to ask, “Does this give grace? Does it build up? Can I picture Jesus sending this?” How can you keep your mind and heart open to learn how to better love your neighbors, even those who have infuriating reactions to the election campaign and results?
- Read Ephesians 4:25-32. Pastor Adam said, “We may reach different conclusions about what candidate and which political vision is more closely aligned with our faith. Where we should not have disagreement is how our faith should impact how we practice our politics….Jesus calls us to–not simply loving our neighbor, but even those we perceive as an enemy. This is not a sappy kind of love, but a love that seeks to bless and befriend. The person of another party is not our enemy—they are our fellow American and likely our brother and sister in Christ. How much more must we love, care for and befriend them?....I’m wondering if some of you might help us come up with a campaign that will take our Love Your Neighbor campaign to a new level–-a campaign to befriend those with whom we disagree….This is a very specific invitation. Let’s go out of our way to show kindness this week and the next to those you know hold opposite political views than you. Bless them, encourage them, and if their candidate loses, particularly show tenderness and understanding to them. And perhaps together we as Christians might give a gift to our nation and our world.”
Brainstorm how you, as individuals and as a group, can respond positively to Pastor Adam’s invitation. What are your ideas for an extended “Love Your Neighbor” campaign?
Loving Jesus, help us to speak and live so that words like “peace,” “unity,” “humility” and “love” will be the main qualities others see in us. Amen.
* Hamilton, Adam, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White (p. 22). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
** N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 56).