Ask A Pastor
Rev Syd Osenbaugh
The Healing Place (Nashville Assembly of God)
Communication is a powerful force. Some words have the ability to stir deep emotional response. Words can express love, settle disputes, create alliances, and pledge devotion. Sadly, they are also capable of igniting conflict, expressing animosity, bringing about destruction of character, and creating chaos. “Politics” is a word that can evoke all of these emotions, and more. It is often considered a topic best left untouched in polite company. Yet, as responsible citizens of this country, it is not something that should be ignored.
The pastoral role is one in which words are vital. They are the vehicle used to communicate the love of God to the world that so desperately needs Him. The question is raised, how should a pastor’s use of words apply to the political process—or should they? Some believe that a pastor is not legally allowed to speak an opinion on a political candidate. While churches may not enter into active campaigning, and the pastor may not speak from the pulpit or as a representative of the church on such matters, an individual member of the clergy holds the same rights to have their own free expression as does any other citizen.
On the night of my ordination, a charge was given to all the candidates about to receive this honor: Preach the Word! My call, my privilege, and my responsibility as a pastor is the proclamation of God’s love letter to the people He created. It is my task to speak of His love, to tell them that there is salvation in no other name than Jesus, and to encourage them as they walk in that truth. How do politics fit into that picture?
First, let me juxtapose these two concepts: preaching the Word and expressing a political opinion. I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10. Having the right to do something does not necessarily mean it is a beneficial or constructive choice. I am free to express my political preferences, but to what end? Will it benefit those who hear me? Will it be constructive in their lives? The priority is in preaching the Word. I have the right to do that. I have a responsibility to do that. And it will be both beneficial and constructive to those who listen and embrace that teaching. Through that truth, people are guided into a relationship with Jesus Christ. They learn how to live, becoming more like Him every day, and they look forward to a future in Heaven with Him.
The Bible teaches its followers to pray for those in authority, and to obey them as long as their directives are not contrary to God’s commands to us. Regarding politics, the pastor’s focus should be no different than their focus in any other scenario: declare the truth of the Bible, live obediently to the Word of God, and encourage others to become more like Jesus. Pray for wisdom in voting, and then pray for the leaders who hold office.