Voices: In these political times, protect your soul

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Take a deep breath. This is my advice to Christians.

No matter what side you are on politically, we can all agree this has been a crazy last few weeks. Executive orders and protests have dominated the news, and every publication is filled with thinkZac Harrel 175Zac Harrel pieces and analysis of what is happening.

This ultimately is a good thing. As Christians, we need to be informed about what is going on, and we need to stand for truth in the public square. There needs to be wise and biblical analysis about what is going on. We must be involved.

But we should also be careful not to ignore our own spiritual lives. We must be careful that in seeking to gain the political world we don’t lose our souls in the process.

When we are consumed by political news and every breaking news story about the next order or the reaction to it, we run the risk of allowing politics to become our idol. The danger is to allow The New York Times or Fox News or talk radio—rather than God’s word and time spent in silence and prayer—to form our hearts.

TBV stackedHeavenly citizenship

In calling us to remember our heavenly citizenship, Russell Moore said, “We are Americans best when we are not Americans first.” The same idea should be applied to our daily intake of news and political information. We are informed best when we are not informed by the news first. Only out of the overflow of time spent in prayer and with the word of God should we come to the news of the day. Only out of a heart formed by time spent with our Father should we speak, write, tweet or comment.

God’s word reminds us all people are created in the image of God, calls us to compassion toward one another, and reminds us our hope is not in executive orders or in opposing these orders. Silence and prayer allow us to focus our hearts and minds on God and his will, to turn off the noise of the world and hear God’s voice.

Therefore, sometimes, we should step back from politics and the minute-to-minute nature of political coverage. The world will keep spinning if we miss a news cycle or if we don’t weigh in with our thoughts. Take a day off from reading the news. Spend the day in prayer and reading Scripture. Take a walk, see a movie, engage in conversation that has nothing to do with President Trump. Take a month off from social media and Internet click bait. Read a book, invest in your marriage or a new friendship, and find a place to make a tangible difference in your community.

Souls need a break

Our souls need a break from the perpetual outrage.

I am not calling for Christians to pull back completely, and I am not asking for you to be uninformed. We should watch the news. We must subscribe and support publications that are seeking to do good journalistic work. Christians should not separate from the wider culture, and we especially should be involved in politics locally, statewide and nationally as we seek the common good.

But politics must not run our lives. It must not dictate the way we think about and treat others, and it must not leave us in despair.

Take care of your soul first. Your greatest need is to know God, to be known by God. When politics gets in the way of seeking God through prayer, through Bible reading, through relationships with other people, it has become an idol. We are in grave danger of making this political moment an idol that will divide the church.

Jesus tells us, “Seek first the kingdom of God” and teaches us all of the commandments boil down to loving God and loving our neighbor. Do our current intake of news and our current conversations about politics help us love God and our neighbor well? Do they show we are pursuing the kingdom of God above all things?

Maybe we need to take a break. Maybe we need to step back. Maybe we don’t need another think piece about the Trump administration this exact moment. Maybe we need to turn off our phones, log off social media and seek the face of God first.

Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, Texas.

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