Word from the Center: Friday, December 14, 2018
Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s topic/issue….
If Politics Can’t Solve Our Problems, then What Will?
It’s Advent! And those who engage the culture from a Two-Kingdom perspective are fully aware that human efforts, whether political, economic, philosophic, or even religious, are incapable of bringing the fulfillment in life that humans crave and even strive for. Senator Ben Sasse wrote a persuasive opinion article last month in the Wall Street Journal that described the issue in even more stark terms. It was entitled, “Politics Can’t Solve Our Political Problems.” (See the full article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/politics-cant-solve-our-political-problems-1539364986.) But, here’s the problem for many today: if politics can’t even solve political problems, then how can it solve the deeps divisions and problems that exist between the people groups of our culture, or people in personal relationships that matter? If politics, even faithfully practiced, is thus incapable, then what is?
Unfortunately, the first reaction to our human “incapacity” is to deny that it exists. Just do a google search on the responses to Sasse’s article. Such a search will find many critics. Some actually accuse him of being lax in his work, uncaring for those who struggle. They assert that “if he would just put his political power to work,” all the problems of poverty, crime, insecurity, and humanity’s lack of fulfilment would just go away. Such views are unfortunate. They protest too much. Even amidst the technological, economic, and social changes of the last 100 years, one can see human depravity and brokenness throughout.
So, for those of us who are confident that Sasse is “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) about our human, political limitations, what prevents us from being pessimistically negative about these same issues? Simply this: God is at work in this world to preserve and to save! That’s the Advent message which still matters today. That’s a message that has public-cultural ramifications, as well as personal-spiritual ones. The Bible proclaims that God is at work in the world to preserve and to save. But those works are radically different. One is temporal and limited (Left-hand Kingdom rule); the other is eternal and limitless (Right-hand Kingdom rule). The first happens as God works through the vocations of even sinful people to preserve culture, to keep the peace, to keep things relatively civil and just. The second happens as He works through the perfect work of His Son, the Christmas child, to save each person in this world as a gift.
Sasse reminds us that our work, whether in politics, business, or other forms of public service, is important, but it can’t deal with the ultimate heart and soul issues that still plague us at the end of the day. He calls us to something more. His answer, “The good news is it’s fixable, but it requires friendship, it requires more attention to place and family and shared vocation and work and neighborhood and worshiping communities.”
A Two-Kingdom focus says more. It would value his list, but it would emphasize the last phrase of his answer as the most important of all. In fact, the ultimate solutions is not even the actions of the “worshipping communities,” but the actions of the One who is to be worshipped. God’s preserving work and God’s gracious saving work in the world help us look honestly at the work we can do. They also enable us to rejoice in the work that only God can do to heal the deep brokenness in every human heart. That perspective can go a long way in dealing with the issues that are before us today like never before.
 Two-Kingdom cultural engagement emphasizes that God is at work in the world these two different ways: First, through the vocations of all people, believers and non, to preserve this sinful world; second, through the person and work of His Son, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ to save the world and to proclaim that forgiveness, life, and salvation as a unique gift of faith to all who believe. God at work in two distinct ways, to preserve and to save! Believers are to seek to follow His lead then in both arenas of God’s rule.