I'm not suggesting that pastors shouldn't talk about politics. I think that the Bible has an enormous amount to say about the way that our society would be best run. Though I don't expect the non-Christian world to listen to it with any great level of credulity. Nor am I suggesting that pastors shouldn't be politic in the way that they lead churches, in the sense that they should be wise, prudent, sensible and judicious. I'm simply saying that having watched Jeremy Paxman interview Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn I don't think that I can lead a political party. Which anyone who knows me will be very glad about!
The reason is that both of the party leaders have to sell policies that they don't believe in. Whether that's Theresa May on Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn on keeping the monarchy and nuclear weapons. Now in one way it is admirable that they are willing to bow to the will of the people or the party. That they sit happily under the authority of the democratic process. But in another way you long that they would have impassioned principles that they wouldn't swerve from. Isn't that why people found Corbyn such a breath of political fresh air? He was willing to say what he genuinely believed, however bonkers or blatantly unworkable it was!
But as Pastor you can't bow to the will of the people. You have to play your life out to an audience of one. As the apostle Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 4:
"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
Paul says he doesn't even trust his own judgement of himself! But he has to live his life in the light of the God who knows not just everything we do, but also why we do it. A pastor who seeks the popular vote will never remain faithful to the word of God, because in the end people are pleased when they get their own sinful way.
This presents me with a problem. That I have to practice what I preach and preach what the Bible says. There can be no separation between the pastor's private life and their public life (unlike politicians). If he is unfaithful and selfish at home then he will be unfaithful and selfish in church ministry. Pastors have to be men of complete integrity.
This is the job description Paul gives to the young leader Titus:
"Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." (Titus 1:7-9)
I am very glad that my life is not put under the media spotlight in the way that May's or Corbyn's have been. I know that if you trawled through my past you would find more than enough evidence to suggest that I was inappropriate material for church leadership. I know that if you saw all of my present you might question the judgement of the elders of the church in which I serve.
Which is why I am very glad that the "trustworthy message", that Paul says that I must hold firmly to, is the gospel of grace. It is about a God who gave his Son so that guilty people like me can be forgiven and cleansed and even used by Him for His honour and glory.
Now I am off to say sorry to my son for swearing at him...