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A higher commitment

by Ronald J. Sider

Pursuing peace:We value all human life and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and nonviolent resolution of conflict.

Politics is dangerous. It certainly tempts us to all kinds of wrong things: to dishonesty, to corruption, to sacrificing our principles for immediate gain. For the Brethren in Christ Church, there’s an enormous risk that our increasing political engagement will lead to a fundamental sell-out, a slow (or even rapid) abandonment of our central beliefs—perhaps especially our historic peace commitment. For hundreds of years, members of the Brethren in Christ Church have held to the belief that killing is not the way to resolve disputes in our world. As we become more engaged in politics, will we continue to hold to this and other distinct core values? Or will we exchange these beliefs for the sake of short-term political success?

At the center of Christian faith is the belief that the carpenter from Nazareth, the author of the Sermon on the Mount, is in fact true God as well as true man. The Scriptures say that He is now King of Kings and Lord of Lords—that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him. That means that He must be Lord of every part of our lives—not just Lord of our family lives or our sexual lives, but also Lord of our economics, Lord of our wallet, and Lord of our politics. Of course, accepting Christ as the Lord of our politics raises a number of practical questions, the central and most important of which is this: How would Jesus want me to vote?

If we’re going to be Christians in politics, Jesus must be Lord—not instant effectiveness, not what the world thinks is right. Such a decision requires a firm declaration: I will only be engaged in politics in ways that let me be faithful to what I believe Jesus taught His followers to do and say. For the Brethren in Christ, such a declaration must include an allegiance to the core values of the denomination, including our peace position. If we truly value all human life and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and nonviolent resolution of conflict, our commitment to the state cannot and must not overshadow our higher commitment to Christ.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2008 issue of In Part magazine.
Ronald J. Sider

Dr. Ronald J. Sider is professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy and director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary (Wynnewood, Pa.) and President of Evangelicals for Social Action. Author of some of the most influential books and articles written about faith in the U.S., Ron holds dual membership in the BIC Church and Mennonite Church USA. He lives with his wife, Arbutus, in Philadelphia.

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