Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV)
I have three full-time online learners in my house this fall and I am a remote worker. Even before the pandemic, I depended on web calls to accomplish my work. These days there’s usually at least four devices connected to our Wifi and often several are doing video meetings. Our internet service provider just wasn’t cutting it, so I recently upgraded.
To switch one device over I needed to find an ethernet cable, so I found the junk box in the office closet where we keep all manner of cords and cables—extension cords, phone chargers, aux cables, old headphones, etc. It was a hot mess. It was hard to tell where one cable started and the next one ended.
And what do you think happened when I tried to pull just one out?
Everything came out.
I found this a perfect illustration for why Paul tells Timothy that “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits.” Paul is reminding Timothy there are many good, permissible things to enjoy in life, but they mustn’t become interwoven with our core being and mission. Far and away, our primary identity and calling are with Jesus and his mission.
So what are these civilian pursuits? They could be anything Jesus permits, but doesn’t command. Marriage, education, career, Texas barbecue, college football, music, and … politics.
Politics is a great temptation for college ministry leaders. We are spokespeople for truth in a marketplace of ideas. Campuses are exciting in part because they teem with young people trying out worldviews. Professors attempt to define the world’s problems and advance solutions. These environments are often where the battles for free thought and free speech are most pronounced.
When we aren’t careful, we falsely equate political persuasion with discipleship. We must see that our political involvement doesn’t become political entanglement. When that happens, it’s just like the junk box of cables. Students find it hard to see where our biblical convictions end and political preferences begin. In our weaker moments, we may lose our Christian witness just because someone pulls on a political idea.
…there are many good, permissible things to enjoy in life, but they mustn’t become interwoven with our core being and mission.
Three Hints You’re Entangled with Politics
How do you know if you’re entangled with politics?
There’s no hard and fast test for this kind of thing, but I think there are three hints that you’re entangled with politics—compromised worship, compromised witness, and compromised gospel.
Do you reach for news or social media first thing in the morning? Do you fill passing moments considering or making political arguments? Do your social circles know you as the one most eager to talk politics? In other words, are you more devoted to politics than to Jesus?
Someone entangled with politics is being discipled by news outlets and political commentators. They meditate on public policy, not Scripture. They are quick with an argument rather than loving encouragement.
As college ministry leaders, we need to satisfy our souls in the gospel and set an example for our students in giving our worship to Jesus alone.
Someone entangled with politics is being discipled by news outlets and political commentators.
Those entangled with politics often lose their gospel witness through unwholesome speech. It could be by calling their political adversaries names (like Marxist or fascist) or simply by questioning the intelligence of the other party. This kind of behavior does not adorn the gospel, but creates barriers to sharing it effectively.
Those entangled with politics often lose their gospel witness through false witness. Social media is rife with Christians sharing false political news just because it supports their camp or demonizes their opponents. This undermines the Christian’s credibility when they try to speak to even weightier matters.
Our calling is to make disciples on campus … not Democrats, Republicans, or even good Americans. Political entanglement neuters our ability to fulfill the Great Commission where God has called us.
Those entangled with politics often lose their gospel witness through false witness.
“No true Christian could vote for _______.”
I’m so ashamed that I’ve made that kind of statement before. It’s the most dangerous evidence that I was entangled in politics. When I made such a statement, I added requirements to the gospel. What must one do to be saved? Believe in Jesus and vote correctly.
If your aim is to please the one who enlisted you, do not add an issue, a party, or a candidate to his finished work. Remember that there are plenty of people in the kingdom who have never voted. There will be people in heaven whose political convictions sicken you. There will be Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and more. There will be Marxists and fascists. There will be all manner of people who call on Jesus and are cleansed of all unrighteousness. And you will be there too.
College students need to see that there is truth and love that transcends the muck of cable news and Facebook feeds. You have the opportunity to show them something better than merely winning an election.