SÃO JOSÉ DOS CAMPOS, Brazil (BNC) — Brazil elected a new president Oct. 28, in a runoff election that gave power to Jair Bolsonaro, a former Army captain who has cast himself in a light similar to Trump. But he’s been in national politics since 1991. During the campaign, Bolsonaro was stabbed by a socialist during a political rally. He was sidelined for a good part of the campaign, but used social media effectively.
Voters turned out the Worker’s Party, which had been in power since the election of 2002. Former President Lula is in prison, and his chosen successor, Dilma, was impeached, for corruption.
The country appears to be calm since Sunday. But leading up to the voting that day, discussions were fierce and emotions ran high.
Brazil’s delicate political moment serves as an example of instability in many countries that causes people to feel anxiety and fear. In many cases, such rocky times may provide a greater opening for the proclamation of Christ.
How can saints take advantage of them?
First, don’t get political. Refrain from political discourse and activity. It is not the role of Christians to promote parties, platforms, or candidates. As soon as saints get into politics, they almost certainly alienate a significant number of people who will not likely listen to the gospel message as a result. If our mission is to reach everyone with the gospel, we must lay aside those things that will hinder this task. It is not our job to save society, but souls. There is no authority in Scripture for the church’s involvement in political matters.
Second, show respect. It is Christians’ responsibility to honor those in authority. “Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king” 1 Pet 2.7. Writing to people who lived in the shadow of the Roman seat of power, Paul dealt at some length with the submission that God’s people owe to governing authorities, Rom 13.1-7. Such attitudes will distinguish Christians from the heat of political conflict.
Third, offer prayer. In 1 Tim 2.1-4, Paul connects intercession for those in authority to God’s desire for all to be saved.
First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
In Philippians, Paul was grateful that his imprisonment had led to people being saved who otherwise would not have heard the Word of God. At the same time, when God’s people are free to live and move about, they have greater possibilities for evangelism.
Instead of campaigns with signs and bumper stickers, then, prayer campaigns belong to the church’s area of concern. Their prayers will be more effective than phone banks and doorknocking for votes.
Fourth, proclaim Christ as the source of peace. This seems to be a given, but it’s not. Christians must avoid getting drawn into political fights. Who has ever been won over by arguments on Facebook? God’s people must have the single-mindedness of Christ, who did not allow himself to be sidetracked by temptations or swept up into popular fervor.
Christ must be proclaimed from person to person as Lord and Savior, as the only way to God, as the sacrifice for sin, as the greatest example of joyous life in the Spirit. We must flesh out his coming in the flesh. We must show every evidence of his divine nature. We must insist on his humility in service and death. We must put the Cross and the resurrection front and center. We must discuss “righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment” to people who need to be justified, whose lives spiral helplessly into flames, and who are ill-prepared to meet God on the last day, Acts 24.25.
To people who challenged Jesus’ sufficiency in all things for people seeking God, Paul stated simply, “Christ is all and in all” Col 3.11.
Fifth, present the church as that unique society on earth where justice and love predominate. No nation is Christian, and none can ever be. The church is both God’s agent in mission and ought to be a great draw to those who live in societies torn apart by racism, inequality, injustice, and violence. Christians who demean preaching about the church to those outside of Christ have totally missed the boat here.
As a part of teaching about the church, serious effort must be made to distinguish it from the denominations who are little more than sectarian bands of bickering theologians and arrogant authorities. People are tired of religion. They must be presented with the viable, attractive reality of the church as God’s family. Human opinions divide; the inspired Scriptures unite, when theories and theologies are laid aside.
Where to from here? Let us restore the mission of the church. Let us repent of involvement in worldly affairs, 2 Tim 2.4. Let us take advantage of moments of political instability and uncertainty, when people feel anxiety and concern for the future. Let us proclaim the one hope of eternal life and point everyone to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who will return to claim those who are his and will carry them into permanent peace and joy.
What other suggestions do you have to help others in times of sharp political conflict and difficult times?
Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three married children and six grandchildren. He sometimes writes “7 Points.” http://randal.us