Looking to C.S. Lewis for what it means to be a good Christian
(COMMENTARY) In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis outlined the blueprint for a Christian society. He concludes the chapter this way: “Most of us are not really approaching the subject of a Christian society in order to find out what Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party.”
This statement is as true today as it was when Lewis first wrote it 67 years ago. Unfortunately, just as Lewis predicted, many Christians across the political spectrum are not looking to the Bible to determine how they should treat civil authorities. Instead, they are simply searching for biblical evidence to support their preexisting notions. It is essential for American Christians to understand that voting for a political party over another does not make one a “good Christian.” Instead of fixating on voting preferences, Christians, both liberal and conservative, should look to Scripture to discover that God calls them to love one another and to trust in His authority.
Liberal Christians and conservative ones will always be able to find biblical principles to back their party’s position. Liberals argue that Jesus advocates for the marginalized, including women, refugees and LGBTQ population. Conservatives point out that Jesus is saddened by the practices of abortion or same-sex marriage. Some might wish that the Bible included a political endorsement from Jesus, something like, “I am Jesus and I support this message.” Thankfully, no such sponsorship exists.
What does exist is a plethora of verses that only generally relate to the controversial topic of politics for American Christians. I Peter 2:17 reads: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Christians may never be able to agree on which political party to support. They should, however, be able to agree on the fact that they are called to love and honor one another despite the political differences.
What does it mean to carry out these seemingly unachievable commands? Lewis proved to be a source of wisdom for this question as well, writing, “When Christianity tells you to feed the hungry, it does not give you lessons in cookery.” In other words, the Bible does not provide step-by-step instructions on which steps to take in order to qualify as a “good Christian.” The Bible does, however, continually repeat one message: love one another.
The hateful political disagreements and divisiveness of American Christians over the past few years is the opposite of what God intended. We can see that in Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
So, can people still consider themselves “good Christians” if they vote for President Trump? What about if they vote for any of the Democratic candidates? The answer to these questions are fully dependent on the definition of what is a “good Christian.” If it is true that Christians are saved by through faith rather than by their own good works (as it is presented in the book of Ephesians), then supporting a political candidate is irrelevant to one’s status as a Christian.
Christians cannot earn their way into God’s good graces by voting for a certain political party. Christians are freely granted God’s grace purely through their faith. If one believes that the only way to be a “good Christian” is to vote for a specific party, he or she is missing the big picture of Christianity. Jesus did not say: “Love one another as I have loved you… and Make America Great Again!” The Bible does not give specific criteria for which candidates to vote for because, in the grand scheme of things, political parties do not define people. Faith, love, and obedience define people. All Christians can do is love their neighbors and trust that God, not the president of the United States, has ultimate authority.
It is time for American Christians to lay aside their partisan battles and remember that God is outside of politics. He is far more important than politics. Conservatives can be Christians; liberals can be Christians. Once again, Lewis said it best when he wrote: “I may repeat, do as you would be done by’ till I am black in the face, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my neighbor as myself.”
Cara Swain is a recent graduate of The King’s College in New York City