North Africa (MNN) — The words “pulpit” and “politics” sound cringey in the same sentence. Mingling the two too closely can lead to disastrous twistings of the Gospel message and take the focus off of Christ.
But is there any capacity in which politics and the pulpit can and should have a relationship?
We talked recently about International Media Ministries’ Heritage Project — an eight-part docu-drama series on North African Christians who had a profound influence in the early Church. One story focuses on Tertullian, a theologian and lawyer in the first and second century in North Africa under Roman rule.
Denise Godwin with IMM explains, “He helped confront society with injustices that were going on in their time period…. He was challenging Roman society, as someone who was trained in the law, to think about…logic and what their laws were actually saying and doing to people that they were claiming were under a republic in Rome.”
Tertullian used his legal training and faith foundation to challenge how Rome treated Christians and other vulnerable people groups. He also challenged fellow believers to stay true to biblical values rather than bend to the whims of a corrupt society.
Faith in politics. Politics in faith. For Tertullian, the mingling of the two meant confronting evil in society, and at the same time, calling Christians to God’s truth above society.
“We chose Tertullian because he was the one who framed out the importance of human life and concepts like the Trinity and not giving in to the pressures that society is putting on Christians at any given time…. God’s truth had to be the foremost thing in people’s lives more than any societal pressure.”
IMM will premiere The Heritage Project soon. Pastors will be one of the first groups they show the series to, and Tertullian’s life could provide interesting discussion for Church leaders today.
“I’m excited to show it to a group [to see] this is exactly what’s going on in our day and age as well,” says Godwin.
“We all know the term about ‘history repeating itself.’ This is one of those cases where you see the same sorts of issues, even though we may define it differently — what persecution is or what society looks like at this time. It’s the same issue that comes around again and again. You need to balance the societal pressure and the norms that someone decides in politics [and] serve God as He has called you to serve.”
Godwin points out the early Church fathers were particularly adept at standing out from and challenging the societies they lived in — which sometimes meant conversations in political and legal spheres, like the ones Tertullian engaged in.
“I think North African fathers of faith really have a good reminder for us that we have a lost legacy. The Church exists today because of this lost legacy of people who stood for truth and [didn’t] buckle under pressure.
“It’s our turn in our times to stand for truth and make sure there’s space for truth in our culture and in our society. We need to know that sometimes persecution does come and God is worthy of us standing firm.”
Standing for truth doesn’t mean forcing non-believers to look like believers. Until people have their hearts convicted by the Holy Spirit, there’s no reason to expect them to live according to God’s Word.
However, all truth is still God’s truth. If Christians aren’t willing to get messy in politics and culture to confront evil where it exists and defend the defenseless, who will?
The loudest acts of faithful courage start with the quietest moments of prayer. Please pray for our culture today to see a spiritual revival. Ask God to use you to graciously and lovingly draw others to His truth.
Godwin also asks for prayer for persecuted believers who are suffering for Jesus’s name.
“We need to be in prayer for the persecuted people and for our fellow Church brothers and sisters around the world who are in situations that can be life-threatening. [Pray] that they can stand firm and they can be strong, no matter what is happening to them.