My Political Agenda

In the past few months my preaching has been criticized by some for being “too political.”  Others have criticized it for not being political enough.  I really don’t believe my preaching has changed, but the political climate of our country has.  It’s red hot right now; you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.

So, I want to make my political agenda perfectly clear.  I don’t want anyone to have to guess at what I’m “up to” in the pulpit or try to decode the “secret” messages in my sermons.

My political agenda is people.

It begins with the conviction that every person is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and sometimes that conviction is tested.  I went for a jog when I was in DC for a preaching conference a few months ago, and saw a man sleeping in a doorway on 14th Street.  He was turned away from me.  I couldn’t see his face.  But I could see that he had wet himself during the night and the empty bottle beside him suggested he may have been too drunk at the time to know or care.  And yet, there was the image of God lying in that doorway.

It’s not only homeless drunks who bear God’s image: it’s everybody.  It’s wealthy white businessmen reading the Wall Street Journal and poor Hispanic women bringing them coffee.  It’s the man who collects your garbage on Monday morning and the woman walking her freshly groomed poodle in the same alley. It’s the Muslim accountant who works down the hall and the transgender kid waiting for the school bus.  Every one of them is made in God’s image.

If you look for it, you can see it.

My political agenda continues with the conviction that we, as a society, have a responsibility for those people.  That’s what “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” means (Matt. 22:39).  I’m not sure what the most loving thing we could do for that man sleeping in the doorway might be, but I think we need to be asking that question.  I think our politicians need to be asking that question.

In the Gospel of Luke, the preaching of John the Baptist begins with a quote from Isaiah: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low” (Isa. 40:4).  It’s the good news that when God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven there will be a great leveling.  As Mary sings in the Magnificat, “God will pull the high and mighty off their thrones.  He will lift up the low and lowly” (Lk. 1:52).  And when Jesus preaches in that Gospel he doesn’t preach on the Mount, but on the Plain—a level place.

It’s a reminder that every person is made in God’s image.  In God’s eyes no one is more important than anyone else; no one needs to be sitting on a throne while someone else grovels at his feet.

Every person is precious. 

I can’t tell you which political party best represents that view, but as Election Day approaches I can tell you that when politicians talk, I listen.  I listen to hear if they are concerned for all people, or only some people.  I listen to hear if they have any plans for lowering the mountains and raising the valleys of disparity.  I listen to hear if they care about the man sleeping in the doorway on 14th Street.

In this week’s Gospel lesson Jesus says, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45)  Are there any politicians like that in America?  Any who care more about others than about themselves?

Because I’d vote for somebody like that.


–Jim Somerville

17 thoughts on “My Political Agenda

  1. It seems when we have a viewpoint on something (anything) we “hear” what validates that point of view and we also “hear” what we perceive to be critical of our position. And our hearing is not always (seldom?) correct. Keep preaching the gospel and let it fall where it will!

  2. Thanks, DB. I think you are exactly right. We protect our precious opinions as if they were our children. I’m guilty of the same!

  3. That’s great, Jim. Not only do I listen to the concerns and plans of politicians, but I have an expectation that they can/should be accomplished through honesty, transparency, and decency. Take care. Keep up the great work! – Stuart

  4. Thank you , Jim. Both sides of the spectrum try to vilify each other as not caring. I understand your political agenda and I think most people (Christians) do. The difference is HOW to get this done. One side says this is best done using more government, the other side says that less government allows more money to be available and to help people help themselves, the goal is the same and the same passion to complete this goal is on both sides. I myself respect both sides and we need to work together.

  5. Larry: You are probably right that politics is more in the “how” than the “what,” and that both sides go about the “how” in a different way. Let’s not forget the “who” along the way. Thanks for the way you care, and serve, and keep the Kingdom coming in!

  6. Thank you!! I am a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and public school teacher in the Lynchburg area. Yes, I attend Thomas Road. I am so saddened by Christian siblings who seem to feel that one political party must be chosen over another in order to be saved. I know devote believers on all sides of any issue. Our Lord’s heart must be aching to see so much bickering and that Believers are not only participating but often initiating the turmoil.

  7. To answer your last two questions, yes and yes. I have worked for many such women and men in Virginia.

  8. Thank you, Jim, for your insight and your beliefs. I continue to say, “Jim Somerville preaches about love, acceptance and forgiveness”. How wonderful it would be if we could have national, state and local, for that matter, leaders who believe the simple tenants of that “love, acceptance, and forgiveness” that you espouse. My hope is that you will continue to lead us as you have to this point! I don’t see anything you do as creating turmoil, but giving all the chance to speak, which I thought was the reason for a democracy (republic), that we have those freedoms and everyone gets a chance to choose. If love (and equality among all of us) could just reign down from the top, I think we would not have as much disagreement.

  9. Jim: Thank you for expressing so well your Political Agenda.  You eloquently put into wordswhat I am feeling.  You have such a gift, and you bless us.  Many thanks – and love toyour family. Elaine Kirkman

  10. In “all people” we must include unborn babies made in the image of God just like “all” the rest of us.

  11. Blocking the legal appointment to the Supreme Court, tax cuts for the wealthiest and setting up roadblocks for those who are legally able to vote, those are the money changers.

  12. Jim, thank you for your inspiration message of love, caring and acceptance that resonates within my heart. Would that I internalize and operationalize the content of your message each day. Thank you for your love and leadership. John Overton

  13. Jim, I appreciate your sharing these insights with us. I believe that there are women and men in each political party who share your views on the importance of Christian compassion. Yet in the current polarized political climate it is almost impossible to discuss our country or even the world without a challenge to declare oneself either “blue team” or “red team.” I believe that the real and true answers are in the Gospel, the central source for all preaching and manner of living. The Lord’s Word transcends politics. Please keep up your (sometimes arduous) efforts to walk the line between appearing to choose one political “team” over the other. It avoids congregational schism, promotes genuine unity, and stays most true to the Gospel’s messages for us all. I’m proud to be your friend, to have you as my pastor, and to be a member of First Baptist Church. In Christian fellowship, Norman Thomas

  14. Norman: This is a beautiful comment. YOU should be blogging! Thanks for keeping me focused on the gospel and not on politics. I’m proud to be your pastor, and pray that your recovery from your recent motorcycle accident is progressing well.

  15. Well Said! Thanks for articulating what many of us think, better than many of us could have done it!

  16. This was wonderful. Thank you for sharing. I haven’t read all responses, but we do hear what we want to hear….and often times hear what we need to hear… so I agree with db31….preach the Gospel, and let it fall where it may. Blessings!

  17. Thank you for sharing some much needed words of compassion and wisdom. They are critically in short supply, especially from our church leaders throughout America. Love and acceptance will always triumph hatred and bigotry. Your words are very comforting and reflect what Christianity is about.

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