“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales,” Paul warns, “rather, train yourselves to be godly”(1 Timothy 4:7). The purpose of this post is to apply Paul’s admonition to politics, which I believe is susceptible to mythologies and tales discordant with godliness.
Politics is not evil; it is ordained by God, and politicians, in some sense, are rightly called God’s servants. But there is one element in politics which is hazardous. Politics is always attended by mythology, and often, these mythologies are discordant to the most holy faith.
Let us define “myth.” Paul uses this word in four places. Embracing myths, in Paul’s view, is opposed to being “sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). Myths are contrary to “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness”(1 Timothy 6:3). These myths, St. Paul writes, “promote controversial speculations” (1 Timothy 1:4). And they lead us away from truth (2 Timothy 4:4). Though some would restrict myth to ancient superstitions, it seems that Paul’s warning is capable of a broader application. If something is contrary to the sound words of Jesus Christ, then it is a myth. Let us not think, therefore, that myths are only contained in Homer or Virgil. Instead, let us carefully evaluate every message, testing it by the teaching of Christ, and lablening every contrary message to be a myth.
It was for good reason Paul wrote against myths. We are susceptible to quarrelling, to bickering, and to suspicious thoughts. It was fitting, therefore, that Paul, in each pastoral letter, would remind his young co-workers of a baneful human weakness, namely the invention of myths. The human mind, as Calvin wrote, is a factory of idols, and this truth is also applicable to myths, as is evidenced in Paul’s warnings. Because our minds are easily swayed, we are always endangered by myths, which cloud our minds from “the sound words of Jesus Christ.”
All nations are vulnerable to myths. Most nations and cultures, throughout history, have fancied themselves better than the rest. Believing themselves superior to their neighbors, ancient nations invented for themselves special destines, on the basis of which they enslaved and oppressed each other. In short, ancient societies were organized around mythologies. And contemporary nations, even so-called secular nations, have not shaken off the failings of humanity. These nations are equally vexed with mythologies, proving that ancient and modern people, though professing different philosophies, are still attended by the same human nature. Let us only examine the anthems, history books, and newspapers of contemporary nations, and we will quickly find that the earth, in all its corners, is divided by competing myths, each of which privileges one set of people and denigrates another. Finally, democratic nations, with their internal rivalries, are often constituted by opposing mythologies. Although of the same nation, these people are divided by political parties, and they have interpreted their nation’s events in light of their mythologies. And these mythologies, at their core, are contrary to the sound words of Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, the Liturgy trains us to renounce the world’s myths, and to embrace the story of God’s beloved Son. In this way, the Liturgy instructs us in godliness, doing so by fortifying us in the “sound words of Jesus Christ.” In the Liturgy, God’s people remember their true identity. We belong to God, who has appointed his Son to be our King and Savior. For there is no greater contrast to our hearts, which are enflamed through politics, than to behold “the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple”(Psalm 27:4). The sloganeering of the news, most often, is opposed to the wholesome gospel. The aspirations of political parties, almost always, distract us from our “eternal comfort and good hope”(2 Thessalonians 2:16). And nationalistic spirits, in whatever culture they inhere, often threaten our unity in Christ, who has “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”(Ephesians 2:14).Ye the opposite is true in the Liturgy. The Lord Jesus, through his word and sacrament, teaches us to reverence him alone, and to call him our God and king. Though our hearts are filled with many divisions, Christ is our continual physician. He draws us, in the power of his Spirit, away from our many doubts, into his heavenly hospital, where he administers our healing balm. Though this world, fallen as it is, pulls us in many pieces, the Lord Jesus, through the Liturgy, reassembles our rubble.
Though we are bound to disagree politically, let us dissolve our ties with political myths. Instead, let us continually fortify our identities as Christ’s disciples, training ourselves in godliness, and clinging only to the sound words of Jesus Christ. There is no surer remedy for us, prideful and stubborn as we are, than to kneel in the church of God, and to enthrone Christ in our hearts. Let us, therefore, participate in the Liturgy often. Let us confess our sins often. Let us be reconciled with our brethren often. Let us forgive our accusers often. In short, let us have no other wisdom, no other hope, and no other aspiration, than to follow Christ wherever he leads. O how happy is the person, who on the bed of death, holds the good testimony, namely a life consecrated to Christ’s words, a life controlled by the Spirit’s majesty, and a life innocent of this world’s guile. On the contrary, how miserable is person who has squandered their passion, wasting their vigor in dubious rivalries and quarrels, rather than in obeying the sound words of Jesus Christ.
Restated: Christ’s disciples often disagree, especially on politics. Only let us be careful, lest our lives become controlled by godless myths, rather than the sound words of Jesus Christ. Instead, let us congregte under the banner of our Lord, participating in his Liturgy, so that we might remember our true identity: we belong to him.