Public Faith

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Faith has surely been on display in this election cycle. The front-runners for both parties have all been people of demonstrable faith, all articulate about how faith shapes them in the public service. And while we Americans like our leaders to be religious folks, according to Stephen Carter's book The Culture of Disbelief, it also makes us really nervous. As Carter points out, while Americans feel positive about faith, we believe it should function like a kind of hobby in a person's life.

In other words, your faith can add to your life but don't let it rearrange your priorities. As long as your devotion to God is no more than your devotion to golf or baseball or coin collecting, everything is fine. However, if your belief in God guides your decisions, especially your public decisions, then people in our culture tend to view you as unbalanced, fanatical, and slightly ridiculous.

If we are followers of Jesus Christ, then we must allow our commitment to Christ to rearrange our lives—and not just our private, devotional lives, but all of life. Our faith in Christ must show up, not only on Sundays in the pews, but in classrooms and board rooms, in command centers and in day-care centers.

So, let me ask you a question that doesn't often get asked: What do people of faith and public servants have in common? According to 2 Cor. 4:5, if we are people of faith, then, we are all public servants.

Let me offer three suggestions for how people of faith can serve publicly.

1. Think . . . biblically

As a Christian, biblical thinking leads me to a key conviction: The Creator God is busy at work healing all the world, by reestablishing his loving reign and rule through his people. And everything I do as a public servant—whether I am standing in the pulpit or walking down Main Street, sitting in a PTA meeting or chairing a board meeting—is to try to be the answer to Jesus' prayer: Thy kngdom come, Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in heaven.

For me, as a Christian it leads me to ask this question that I learned from a New Testament scholar. At a Laity Lodge retreat, Bishop N.T. Wright asked it this way: What would it look like if God were running the show?

What would it look like if everything I did, every decision I made, every allocation of resources, every judgment call, every family decision, was done as a servant and steward the God?

2. Speak . . . carefully

In the Christian tradition, we believe that words have power. God spoke and the worlds were created. People confess faith, and the direction of their lives is changed. When we speak the truth in love to each other, as St. Paul writes in Ephesians 4, we help each other become who God intends us to be.

As leaders, this means we commit to two things:

• Always seek the truth.
• Always build relationships.

If you can't speak the truth, then build the relationship. If you already have a relationship, then for God's sake, speak the truth.

3. Live . . . consistently.

Finally, people of faith and public officials both evoke cynicism from people. We live in a world where pastors and politicians are less credible than used-car salesmen.

This should challenge us. If we are people of faith who are trying to serve each day from the central conviction that there is a God who is the true King of the world, who wants the world to be healed and the people of the world to experience his loving will, then everything we do should reveal that.

Put bluntly, we must walk our talk. If we are people of faith and if we want to be effective public servants, then our Sunday commitments must have Monday-Saturday results. And we must do so before a watching and increasingly skeptical world.

As people of faith who want to serve the common good of our companies and our communities, we must be consistently committed to being public servants whether we are standing in our sanctuary, tutoring in our schools, partnering with business people or caring for our neighbors. By thinking biblically, speaking carefully, and living consistently, we can also serve faithfully.