Thabiti and Mike: What Would Jesus Preach?

On March 1 Christianity today published, How 11 Pastors Preach Politics (Or Don’t). I was interested in two responses.

Mike Higgins, Lead Pastor at South City Church (PCA), in St. Louis answered:

Never expressly preached about politics. As a black pastor in a predominantly white, conservative denomination, there is no good way to do that.

I wonder if that was intended as a tongue in cheek comment. But, if it is meant literally:

(1) If Mr. Higgins has not “preached” on politics, he certainly has written about (to his congregation) and practiced politics, even going to the point of getting himself arrested.

(2) If Mr. Higgins does not preach politics, his daughter Michelle, Director of Worship and Outreach at her father’s church, surely preaches politics, as she infamously did at Urbana last December.

(3) Mr. Higgins says there is no good way for a black pastor a predominantly white conservative denomination to preach politics from the pulpit. This implies that his reasons for refraining from preaching politics are practical, and that is hard to understand. It does not fit with his otherwise outspoken political rhetoric and practice.

Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor at Anacostia Baptist Church in Washington D.C., answered:
Since we launched Anacostia River Church last April, there’s hardly been a month wherein I haven’t preached “something political.” I don’t think it can be avoided if
you’re committed to expositional preaching of the sort that makes contact with contemporary life. The gospels, for example, are explosive in their political import. Preaching “something political” is necessary if we are to live under Christ’s lordship in every area of life. Not doing so means Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and other secular news outlets disciple us instead. I fear that’s been the case far too long and to disastrous effect for the church and the country.

I have a few questions for Mr. Anyabwile:

(1) You say “the Gospels are explosive in their political import.” I assume this means that you find in the Gospels much material that suggests application having to do with political issues. But I have this question: Could you give a few examples, not saying with political import, but of our Lord directly addressing political issues of his day? About which political issues of his day did he preach? I am wondering about things our Lord said in his preaching and teaching that give us concrete illustrations of preaching politics and how do do it.

(2) You say that you are “committed to the kind of expositional preaching that makes contact with contemporary life”, that preaching politics is necessary “if we are to live under Christ’s Lordship in every area of life,”
and that the alternative is between (a) preaching politics as an aspect of discipling Christians, or (b) letting the secular media do the work of  discipling Christians. So let me put a few questions along the lines of, “What would Jesus preach?”:

a) What would Jesus preach about Black lives matter?

b) What would Jesus preach about the economic system in the United States?

c) What would Jesus preach about Wall Street?

d) What would Jesus preach about healthcare? Would he want to repeal, maintain, or expand the ACA?

e) What would Jesus preach about the upcoming national election? Would he preach that one party serves the interests of righteousness and justice better than the other?

f) What would Jesus preach about Islamist terrorists? the godly U.S. response?

e) What would Jesus preach about voter registration, voter ID, etc.?

g) What would Jesus preach about military readiness, the military budget, and the use of military power?

h) What would Jesus preach about foreign aid?

i) What programs to aid the poor would Jesus endorse in his preaching?

j) What would Jesus preach about immigration? Would he preach in support of a wall? of barring Muslim refugees? Would he preach in favor of deporting, granting citizenship, or granting permanent residence to illegal immigrants?

k) What would Jesus preach about gun control?

l) What would Jesus preach about the vacancy on the Supreme Court?

There are few to get started. Now, I would ask that you avoid generalities such as, “Jesus favors life,” or,“Jesus cares about the poor.” Application is concrete and specific. So, for instance would Jesus say, “The government should protect human life by banning the sale and possession of assault weapons,” or, “Voter ID laws are an assault on the full human personhood and rights of minorities who are made in the image of God” or, “U.S. society is permeated by institutional racism, which must be uprooted if here is to be Biblical justice”?

(3) You say that preaching on politics is required for the discipling of God’s people and for God’s people’s living under Christ’s lordship. This kind of world-and-life-view understanding is associated mostly with neo-Calvinism (whether or not that is the self-conscious understanding of its proponents and disciples) and in the U.S. it goes in a generally rightward direction.

For instance, someone preaching from our Lord’s telling his disciples on the night he was betrayed to buy a sword is Jesus’s direction to believers to arm themselves. Another man preaching on the parable of the workers who all received the same pay regardless of when they entered the field, might say that our Lord teaches us that employee pay is entirely at the discretion of the employer. Or someone preaching on the 8th commandment might say that socialism or taxation for the purpose welfare programs are stealing. Or someone preaching on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah might say the United States has a duty to build a strong national defense. Another might preach that, since the Bible gives us personal freedom and demands of us personal responsibility, it violates the Bible for the government to have any role in provision of healthcare.

So how do you explain the different directions in which people go preaching on politics from the Bible?

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