As a teacher of the Word of God it is no doubt that you have begun to establish certain beliefs and convictions based upon the Word of God. It is also certain that your biblical beliefs and convictions will guide you in your personal stands and decisions on political issues. As a Sunday School teacher, it is also imperative that we create an atmosphere in the classroom in which people of all political persuasions can hear the gospel and be reached and discipled for Christ. Finding good balance can be difficult, but absolutely necessary, especially during seasons of political emphasis. I hope the following will help us walk this difficult tightrope.
First, we should distinguish between political and moral issues. It is easy to fall into a trap these days. The politician refuses to take a clear stand on an issue because it is considered a “personal moral issue,” while church leaders are afraid to make statements because the issue is considered “political” in nature. Clearly there is a difference between abortion, for example, and how much is spent on public radio. Every issue is not a deep moral issue. Even well-respected Bible heroes had differing opinions at times and we need to allow for that in our discussions as well.
God has worked through various forms of government for millennia and He has not specified which American political party is His favorite. The Bible is clear, however, on the value of human life, on honesty, corruption, homo-sexuality, adultery, compassion for widows, etc. As Bible teachers, we cannot shirk our responsibility to teach what the Bible says about such things, including demonstrating proper respect for those in positions of government authority.
Second, as we teach on sensitive issues, it is important to do so in love and humility. I’m not suggesting the “political correctness” of today’s media needs to be applied to the Sunday School class, but it is important to realize that someone in your class may be dealing with the pain and guilt of a past abortion. Someone in your class may have a close relative that has chosen an immoral lifestyle. It simply is an act of kindness to avoid slang terms that are needlessly offensive when teaching God’s truth on a potentially painful topic.
It is also important that our church is not seen as endorsing a certain candidate for office. The mission of the church is to reach and disciple people for Christ, not to promote a political ideology. We will speak truth regardless of the consequences, but it is important to know that there are laws in place that threaten our tax-exempt status if we practice political endorsements. We can provide comparisons on the issues, but we cannot endorse the candidate. Throughout Bible times, believers learned to deal with various forms and practices of government without compromising the message, and we need to do the same today.
For me the biggest issue is evangelism. As we teach the group God has entrusted to us, we want everyone in attendance to know that we are there to learn God’s Word and deepen our relationship with Him. It is certain that some will want to talk politics at times, but it really isn’t that difficult to get the class back on track when the people hear a gentle reminder of what we are really there to do. We want everyone to know our Lord Jesus Christ regardless of their political preferences and we as teachers are responsible to “keep the main thing, the main thing!”
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.