Est. May 2008

11 October, 2012

On Christians And Politics

There’s a debate (and it’s been a long-running one) on how involved Christians ought to be when it comes to politics; the gamut runs from ‘no involvement’ to ‘as involved as humanly possible’.  Most often, people on both sides of the debate turn to Scripture to back their claims (since we really don’t have anywhere to go with this kind of discussion), specifically Acts 5:29, Romans 13:1-7, and 1 Peter 2:13-17.

Here’s my opinion.

We modern Christians live under a rather unique political climate which allows us at least two advantages which Peter, Paul, and Luke did not have: we are able to vote for our local and national governmental representatives, and we are able to become local and national representatives ourselves.  In the time of Luke, Peter, and Paul, the national government they lived under was a dictatorial empire run by an Emperor whose word was law – there was no voting for Emperor, and unless you were part of the political system there was no opportunity to rise from obscurity to become a local or national leader (with a few exceptions). 

Some might say that our current political sphere is still dominated by the rich, powerful, and well-connected, but it wasn’t always thus.

So I’m led to wonder if our writers could have imagined such a political world.

When you look at the above-linked passages, you’ll note that nothing is mentioned regarding involving oneself in politics: both men speak of obeying the rulers over them, paying taxes, and honoring the king.  Both men specifically say that, since God ordained human governments and privileged them with ‘the sword’, they did His direct work in meting out punishment for lawbreakers; therefore, disobedience to governing authorities was disobedience to God.

Yet Peter (in his epistle and in the Acts passage) emphasizes that God is to be honored before kings; whether Peter intended it or not, this reminds us that only God perfectly administers His law, and that men are fallible and will often sidestep God’s rules for their own.

Our voting privilege (and I call it a privilege rather than a right simply because history is replete with examples of how the ‘right’ to vote has been taken from the people, and ‘rights’ cannot be taken away, only ‘privileges’ can) gives us a unique opportunity to choose godly men and women to rule over us; how we decide the ‘godliness’ of a political candidate must be based on an understanding of the Bible and how the actions of the candidates reflect those standards.  We also must be aware that, since no man (or woman) perfectly adheres to God’s rules, any and all candidates will have flaws – at that point their actions must be ‘weighed in the balance’ to determine a certain ‘minimum-godliness’ that’s acceptable to us.

Our second privilege is that of being able to insert ourselves into the political sphere by running for office – Luke, Peter, and Paul had no such opportunity, and neither did their contemporaries.  I think (and it’s a thought, nothing more) that had the apostles and Luke lived in a political climate like ours, perhaps they would have encouraged believers to enter into the fray – I believe this simply because they call to Christians to be a force of change for the godly in society, and by involving yourself in politics you are not disobeying God’s appointed rulers, you are part of them, working His will through lawmaking.

And this is the point: as other Christians have worked within and without the government systems of the world to be ‘salt and light’ in society, so, too, should Christian politicians work as ‘salt and light’ within the system – not by ‘forcing’ your beliefs on anyone through laws, but by tempering laws offered by basing them on biblical truths (be ‘shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves’).

This is why, when the question of whether Christians should involve themselves in politics, my answer is always ‘absolutely’.

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