Politics often bring out the worst in relationships. It seems the ugliest in people show up, making relationships hostile, decisions harsh and attacks abounding. People begin to act like barbarians living in survival; cutting off the heads and betraying those they once had relationship with.
We often criticize how dirty and ruthless politics can be, but quite often our own organizations can be filled with politically driven thinking and actions more than we care to admit. Politics slowly steal the life of any church, organization or community. It creeps into our behaviors and will cause our tribes to lose the original life that once birthed powerful movements.
Two Infecting Agents
Jesus warned of two leavens; two spiritual influences that would infect cultural mindsets in ways that people don’t often realize. All it takes is just a pinch of leaven (like a yeast) to affect the entire batch of dough. A leavening agent releases gas into the dough, causing the bread to expand and rise.
Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Mark 8:15 (NKJV)
A leaven can be a small infectious agent to the whole lump. In practical application, this can be a certain mindset and way of life that can cause a whole community or organization to become influenced by it. Jesus narrowed it down to two key mindsets that will infiltrate any group to become a major force in the mindsets of people.
These two infecting agents we are to keep a discerning eye out for are the Pharisee and Herod mindsets. Both have the ability to take genuine works of God and steal the life and effectiveness out of them.
The leaven of the Pharisees has to do with a religious spirit, a mindset infused with legalism, religious laws and structures that give room for condemnation, guilt and shame. A religious spirit resists any new wine skin for how God is working in a specific generation. It plays out a form of God working, but the real power is absent.
The Leaven of Herod
The infectious agent, called the leaven of Herod is a political spirit. Like the religious spirit, a political culture will eventually steal the genuine life out of the culture. Genuine loving relationships turn into chess matches, where relationships are look at more as pawns in the overall agenda,
Both a religious spirit and political spirit steal the power of honest and authentic relationships. Religion makes rules more important than relationship. Politics makes stances and appearance more important than walking in the power of love. Both overlap, but the political spirit certainly has an operation all its own.
While the religious spirit keeps God in a both, the political spirit is hyper aware of what everyone thinks. The highest priority is the desired image of the organization, more than authentic relational health. Vulnerability is replaced with shiny professionalism and genuine care is replaced with shallow interactions.
Before I Continue, Let Me Mention One Thing
Now please understand, if you are involved directly in governmental politics, you need to know how the monster works, because politics is a culture in itself. There’s a lot of unhealthy schemes and wicked tactics that run governmental actions, so you need to be wise as serpents when going in there. In fact, there are people who are specifically called to the governmental arena who know how to keep their integrity, yet impact the realm of politics in ways that makes a difference in overall governing policies and laws.
Many believers are ineffective in the government mountain because they do not know how to interact in that arena. Politics in government are what they are. What I want to warn us of is allowing politics to become a driving force in our businesses, families and churches especially.
I have watched amazing works of God become diluted, simply form a work of politics entering into the stream. This is because the Kingdom of God and the government of God, especially as it relates to church life, run in a different way than politics.
A Political Spirit’s Manifestation
When a political mindset infiltrates an organization, people become more aware of what everyone thinks, more than what the right thing is to do. When politics invade, decisions and choices are made to play to the people. Systems and structures begin to take priority over genuine relationships. The machine takes over, as people lose sense of authentic connection with God and each other.
The political spirit is always doing a poll of everyone, to make sure they are happy. If they are not happy with us, then we begin to bend to please them, so as not to rock the boat.
Herod’s Life: How a Political Spirit Begins
Herod, who was king of Judah in the time of Christ, is the archetype of the political spirit. Through his life, you can see many of the characteristics of how political thinking and living get spawned into a culture.
Here are some examples of this mindset from Matthew 2.
- It becomes birthed out of insecurity and a feeling of losing control or power. (Matt 2:3) This is what breeds all control issues and control fuels a political system. For by it, leaders attempt to keep their people in line and do things that threaten their own personal insecurity.
- A political spirit leads people to create alliances with a strategy of undoing all those who do not agree. (Matt 2:7) The very nature of politics is that it looks to create alignment with an agenda, no matter what the cost or the collateral damage to people in the process.
- It will cause you to manipulate and use people to fulfill your bottom line goals and ambition. (Matt 2:8)
- When a political spirit is in the culture, the leaders can become hot-heads and easily angered to those who don’t see the vision or who don’t agree with every part. (Matt 2:16) This leads to extreme reactions where people get “whipped” back into conformity, even irrational behavior). This is where cultures can even become abusive.
Characteristics of the Political Spirit?
- Decisions are made based on “what will people think”? Image and popular perception become the highest priority.
- The fear of man or intimidation becomes a driving force in how decisions are made and how people are kept in line.
- When a political spirit is in operation, keeping people happy can often become a major motivation in discussions and decisions.
- Because certain tactics are used to get ahead, comparison and competition can run wild in the camp. Envy and Jealousy run drive people’s discussions and decisions.
- With a political spirit, paranoia becomes a big part of leadership thinking. In the Old Testament, Saul became paranoid and lost his mind trying to control or rid himself of anyone that touched on his insecurity. The driving fear is that someone will that we will lose their power, lose influence or they will look bad to others.
- Choices can often be made for selfish gain or financial gain.
- With a politically influenced structure, it becomes a struggle when other people excel above us. For example, Herod hated having attention brought to Jesus or John the Baptist.
- Political mindsets drive power hunger.
- One of the biggest traps of a political spirit is that it spends so much time hiding moral failures, corruption or sin issues. When the highest concern of an organization is its image, then covering up becomes a commonplace practice, to keep the good front. Herod was morally corrupt. He was lustful and he murdered the innocents, killed his wives and children, and banished others. On his death bed he ordered soldiers to murder hundreds so the day would become a day of great mourning; thankfully the orders were not carried out.
- Control is always in play. Leaders can sometimes treat followers as children, too immature to make decisions for themselves.
- Selfishness and self-centeredness run wild.
Political Spirit in Our Structures
The greatest way a political spirit gets into our organizations is in how the overall structure is formed. Many times, the machine of the overall structure takes over, to the detriment of the original heart of the organization.
This may ruffle some feathers, but sometimes the greatest way political spirits get into churches is with the formation of committees. Oftentimes, groups form that give people a lot of power; people who have little sacrifice involved, little spiritual maturity and no history of God established authority.
These people can rise up and form groups that overthrow the god-given leadership over a church. When the political spirit is present, power groups begin to form. Division occurs, because that is its nature—to form very divided lines amongst the family. People begin to lose the ability to hear what God is doing or saying.
Sometimes healing can begin when we are simply honest that politics or a politically correct mindset has invaded our culture. Repentance is certainly the greatest way we can see change. One of the ways to keep a political spirit out is the development of healthy and honest relationships, ones that take the risk of being honest, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Cultures that are going to make a difference are those that will speak what needs to be said in love, even though it may create an discomfort. Throwing out the political spirit involves addressing the elephant in the room and not giving space for hidden issues to infest any longer.
Political mindsets cause people to be put in leadership for reasons that are man-centered and not by a witness of biblical leadership. True leaders need to lead, but a political spirit will tie the hands of anointed prophets and leaders, being tied by the same spirit that influenced Herod’s wife.
It takes guts to break through a political spirit, but I believe it can be done if we hunger for it enough.
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