A Few Thoughts Concerning Christians and Politics
Just a word about politics.
I think many Christians have the wrong idea of the proper relationship between faith and politics. Many Christians are against anything political or having to do with our government. The underlying basis of many who take this view is that they see it as a threat. Christians are to have their faith in the Lord, not in a candidate or a political agenda. On the other side many Christians are quick to jump on the political bandwagon (both conservative and liberal) because they see this as the advancement of some of the basic principles of and a public demonstration of their faith. However, I think both views are flawed.
What is the basic purpose of human government? I believe Romans 13 has the answer.
13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
After reading this passage, it seems to me as if the basic purpose of government is protection of its people. Government, appointed and instituted by God himself, is to protect those who are doing right and punish those who are doing wrong. Government rulers are God’s servants/ministers to implement the rule of law and avoid anarchy. In order to accomplish this, governments are to collect taxes in order to have the means of carrying out this God-approved agenda.
This seems to be a consistent theme in Scripture describing government’s basic function. If we rewind a bit and go back to Genesis 9, we will see what some consider the very beginning of human government on earth. Genesis 9:5-6 says, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” Here again we see the basic idea of human beings carrying out a principle of God – do not murder. If a man does wrong, you are to carry out punishment (the sword of Romans 13).
If we fast forward a head a bit, we would turn to I Timothy 2. I Timothy 2:1-4 – “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” We should be praying for kings, those in government authority over us. What should our prayers be concerning this leader, that we can live a peaceful and quiet live, godly and dignified in every way. Why? Because this is pleasing to God who desires people to be saved. In other words, we should be praying that government official allow us the opportunity to live out our faiths without fear so that we can do what the Lord wants us to do. Among those things that God wants us to do evangelize the lost.
So, with these passages in mind, here is what I would suggest as the proper view of Christianity and government. As Christians who are seeking to glorify God in all that we do, we ought to pray that our government officials uphold their God-given responsibilities to uphold what is right and punish the evil doer so as to promote a society where Godliness and evangelism may flourish.
So, the job of government is not merely to advance a godly agenda of moral values and gospel witness, but to provide a society where such activity may exist without fear. If we look to government to bring about revival in America or moral uprightness in our streets, we will be sadly disappointed. That is the job of the church. The government can only deal with the external, only the gospel of Christ can change the internal. Government can attempt to curb man’s depraved activities, but only the Holy Spirit can bring about regeneration of that depraved soul.
On the other hand, those who wish to abandon government altogether and want to be “above it all” are forsaking an institution that is ordained of God led by men appointed to be his ministers amongst us. As long as we have a proper of view of government, I see a Christian wishing to run for office or get involved in the political process as not only legitimate but honorable according to Romans 13. In fact, what does it say if Christians want believers to withdraw from this institution? If government is ordained of God to be servants and ministers of God, why would we want to leave that to the secular world? In fact, because government is ordained of God to be servants and ministers of God I do care about who is elected in our form of government!
What makes our situation in the United States so special is that we all have the opportunity to be involved in our government. Paul could not vote for Caeser, but we can. Although, it is worth noting that Paul did take advantage of his rights as Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29). This was not a God-given right found elsewhere in Scripture, but Paul was making use of a right granted to him by his legal status as a citizen of Rome. While we are citizens of Heaven, we are also citizens of this nation. Just like Paul, there is nothing wrong with using your rights as a citizen to promote your own well-being and protection. In other words, use your right to vote (as well as other rights given by our government) to promote safety and well-being in our nation and communities. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, because government is referred to as servants and ministers of God, Christians more than anyone else should desire to have their voice heard at least through their vote.