On September 3, 2020, Newsweek published an article which claimed that more than 10,000 Christians are asking Franklin Graham, the son of the famous Evangelist Billy Graham, to step down as Charity’s CEO. The reason? He went to the Republican National Convention and prayed for President Donald Trump. The Samaritan’s Purse was quick to explain that “Franklin Graham does not tell people who to vote for, but he does encourage everyone to pray and to vote. If the Democratic National Convention had asked him to pray, he would have prayed at the DNC as well. The most important thing any of us can do for our nation is to pray for our leaders, regardless of their political affiliation.” In the article, some believers even narrated the wrongdoings of a certain politician even though those pointing fingers may also be guilty of such, though not on a grand scale. Indeed, praying for a “sinful” politician in our day and time is not popular. Surely, one will earn tremendous criticism and judgment even among those who call themselves Christians.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own; I do not speak for any other person, group or organization. Before commenting please read the entire article.]
This kind of reaction is evident and automatic in every politically-divided nation. It is unfortunate that this kind of tension produces division and condemnation, even between and among believers.
Besides, for believers, since when has it been an option or a choice whether to pray for another or not?
Is it wrong to be associated with certain political individuals for the purpose of reaching out to him/her? When has prayer become optional? Do Christians need to distance themselves from being seen with prominent politicians to avoid tainting the church with politics? I understand that we, as believers, were justified by God but can we say we are not sinning at all, while accusing and condemning each other?
During the time of Jesus Christ, religious authorities never associate themselves with known sinners. There was a time when the scribes and Pharisees brought an adulteress to Jesus and the words of Jesus stunned the crowd who was ready to stone to death the poor, frightened soul — “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Are we more righteous than the others?
On another occasion, Jesus became the talk of town and a hot topic when he was seen associating with one notorious head of the tax administration in the city. Jesus was condemned, not by the religious authorities but by the self-righteous people. But we know from the Bible that Jesus was not afraid to be with undesirable people nor to be seen with them. In fact, Jesus openly met with the ill-reputed government official. Despite the condemning words of other people “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Luke 19:7), Jesus was not bothered.
Many Christians today tend to be so legalistic and self-righteous that they are very careful to associate themselves with the “Zacchaeuses” of their generation. They forget that being with the “Zacchaeuses” at times is also one way of opening the gospel of Jesus Christ to them, and consequently praying for them and witnessing to them. Many Christians are very mindful of the subjective and critical opinion of the people around them rather than what the Lord will say because of their compassion. Tradition tells us that Zacchaeus eventually became the first bishop of Caesarea. If Jesus listened to his critics then Caesarea will surely not be influenced by this former sinner who became a saint.
In preparation for the 1953 Crusade in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Billy Graham personally took down the ropes segregating his black audience from the white people. He said, “Look, we’re all equal before God, we’re all one together and every man has his right for the rights that we enjoy and want.” He pretty much understood the cost of this action for there were numerous white pastors and believers who will react with what he did, but he did not care. Graham “took a lead in the stand way back in those early days when it wasn’t popular” (Billy Graham On Racism).
There were two extreme practices that the Christian Church had committed in the past that harmed the cause of Christ. The first one was the Church involving itself in too much politics that it lorded it over kings and presidents between the 4th and 5th century. The second is the opposite where the Church neglected its influence by not allowing members to participate in any government affair, becoming pacifists like the Amish and Mennonite churches. I pray that we avoid such extremes.
Yes, bad company corrupts good character. But that is if we will be influenced by people, not influencing them with the gospel (see 1 Cor. 15:33). After all, we are called to be the salt and the light of the world.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:13-14