These are the two words that seem to cause the most conflict in the earth today. On this Independence Day (for Americans) I thought I would share on these two subjects.
Here in the U.S. the Presidential political season is beginning to warm up. Republicans, Democrats and everyone else are unveiling their, “How I would do it better” proposals to voters across the nation. Rhetoric, clichés and grandiose promises fill the airwaves, the internet and every other form of media. Some choose to lead with messages of change for a brighter future while others choose to lead with fear of a dismal future. All sides seem to make valid points at some point in their speech and all sides also seem to say things that cause your eyebrows to rise in disbelief. There are many issues that candidates and parties choose to champion or oppose; some of them with clear biblical guidelines and others coming in the form of preferred style and form of government.
Is there a candidate, cause or set of issues that we as followers of Christ should be behind? Should our faith in Christ be the key influencer of our selections in the ballot box? Can we separate moral, social, financial and political agendas to justify our selection and support? Is there guidance from scripture concerning our participation in the civil arena?
Let’s try to break this down into a few different sections and then pull it all together at the end. I want to look at the moral side of politics; i.e., the issues that will appear on the ballot and the key moral issues that candidates pledge their support or opposition for. I want to look at taxes, governmental size and style. I also want to look at our obligation as Christians to be involved in the affairs of our society. As always, I will use scripture to illustrate the points that I make.
Before we move any further I think it is important to say that the God of the Bible is not a member of a political party. The God of the Bible does not have an earthly nationality. The God of the Bible’s rule supersedes the governments of our nations (Psalm 24:1). As followers of Christ we have been called from every nation on earth (Revelation 5:9). We are the church; the Ecclesia – and our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
Our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to establish the Kingdom of God here on the earth through the preaching of the Gospel. We are not call to build a nation but a nation within the nations. Our movement is not a movement of people in the political arena but a movement of people towards God.
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
The Bible predicts that Christ will establish a theocratic government at His second advent (Revelation 19). The New Testament does not speak of a Christian nation or a Christian government prior to this event. The governmental systems of our nations can never establish the church nor can they further the cause of Christ. As believers we cannot look to elected officials or propositions on a ballot to bring men and women to belief in Christ. Conversely the governments of our nations have the ability to create freedom to preach the gospel without persecution or prosecution or they have the ability to impede or outlaw the free exercise of our faith. It is to this goal that we as followers of Christ must work civilly and prayerfully to either maintain or secure; to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ may be freely preached in our nation.
Moral & Social Issues
Morality is a term that is often overused or misused in public discourse today. There is no end of debate on what is right and wrong or even if there is a right or wrong. There are causes for and against multiple issues that scripture provides clear direction on. It is these types of scenarios that we as followers of Christ must find ourselves agreeing with the Word of God when we stand in the ballot box to cast our votes.
One of the most relevant scriptures on this subject is found in Second John:
If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work. (2 John 10-11)
As followers of Christ we cannot support candidates, propositions or policies that violate the truth of God’s word and declare that which the Bible teaches to be sin to be OK.
There are no political candidates who represent a complete biblical worldview and far too often we are forced to elect the lesser of two evils. It is in these times that we must still stand for what is righteous, what is good and what is true. There will never be a political savior in your nation who will solve all of the problems you face and there will never be a government that is pure. We have been redeemed from this world’s system for a reason and we must remain conscious that even though we live in this world we are no longer of this world. (John 15:19). We must preach, pray, live and work to further the message of Christ at every level of society but must also remain cognizant of the fact that the system of the world is opposed to what we are doing. We cannot change the system; we preach Christ so that people’s hearts can be changed.
The Christian Right
Hot button issues in many nations are items like Abortion, Homosexual Marriage and Doctor Assisted Suicide. The curriculums of elementary schools, secondary schools and universities are also frequent battlegrounds for Christians in politics. There is also great debate over social welfare programs, immigration, healthcare and taxation. Each of these issues affects the lives of people; regardless of their faith. They are important for our culture, our economies as well as the fabric and future of our societies.
As a Bible believing follower of the Lord Jesus Christ I cannot support any can political party, candidate or proposition that disagrees with God and His Word. As an American I believe that our political and social landscape has significantly deteriorated to the point where our nation will no longer be able to maintain its status of prosperity and leadership in the affairs of the world unless there are significant changes. There are far too many men and women who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ in our nation to expect that the policies of our nation will be righteous and congruent with biblical teaching.
This does not mean that we should abandon hope but it does mean that the need for a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in our nations has never been greater. Political change will not provide the necessary catalyst for changing the heart of a nation. A true revival of divine origin is required to change the heart of our nations. It is only then that we will elect a representative who can change our governments to reflect the demands of its people.
The message of Christ should be the first thing that comes to the minds of unbelievers when they hear the term Christian. Politicians, preachers and lobbyist have turned the first thoughts of many into biblical stances on Abortion, Homosexuality and other Moral/Social issues when speaking of Christianity. This has done our cause a great disservice. Arguing political, moral and social stances without the cross turns our faith into a political doctrine. As followers of Christ our first priority is to share the message of Jesus. As people receive Christ and grow in their faith the Holy Spirit renews their mind, their worldview changes and consequently so does their political, social and moral stances. We cannot reverse the equation. We must love God and love people.
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
If we are going to be the Christian Right – our right place is foremost one of repentance and prayer for our nations. If we ever expect any true change to come to our nations, the change must first come in our hearts. Revival in our nations will begin when the church “gets right”. We cannot expect the world to embrace the doctrines of life and righteousness unless the church is living in the fruit of the Spirit and moving in the power of the Spirit. Cultural and political change of divine origin begins at the house of God.
You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:13-15)
These verses were spoken to believers. It is our mandate to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The message of Christ follows the life of those who follow Christ. It is the life we live and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives that creates authentic hunger and thirst for the message of the cross. Why are we different? Where does the love, joy, peace, etc. come from in our lives? What is the source of integrity? What motivates our compassion?
Obligations of Believers
There are two primary passages of scripture that provide guidance and direction for followers of Christ in relationship to their government in the New Testament.
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Obey the Law
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. (Romans 13:1-7)
This is a challenging subject to write about from a completely biblical perspective and I am sure this is a challenging subject to read about from a completely biblical perspective. Each of us has political beliefs and opinions and there is a high probability that we agree on some things and disagree on others. As followers of Christ we must work diligently to maintain focus on the core of who we are. Our identity in Christ is the most important aspect of our lives and if it is not then we are truly not followers of Christ.
Our faith influences every aspect of our lives, including our political views and stances. The relationship between faith and politics can be looked at in a similar way to the relationship between faith and good works. Good works are not performed in an effort to earn or attain salvation; good works are the result of a regenerated heart that has already received the free gift of God’s salvation. Upholding biblical political views is not the pulpit from which the message of the gospel is to be preached. Those who have received the message of the gospel naturally hold biblical political views as a result of the change that Christ has made in their hearts.
So, here are the bullet points for this message:
- Stand for what is right; regardless of the opinions of men
- Focus on sharing the gospel and converting men and women to Christ instead of propagating a political doctrine
- Pray for your leaders and the direction of your nation
- Participate in government (i.e., voting)and obey the laws
- Live the Christian life and fulfill the great commission
The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). Until that time our calling remains the same:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)