The Christian and Politics

May 31, 2016

Is it worthwhile for Christians to be involved or informed about politics?
To what degree should a Christian be involved?
Will political involvement distract us from evangelism and discipleship?

I have heard it said that a good way to destroy a relationship is to discuss religion or politics. Well, at great risk, I am about to do both in this series on The Christian and Politics. I will think out loud on some biblical motivations for involvement in the process. Of course, growing up as an American, my thinking and application will be slanted towards Christian life in the Western world, but I believe the biblical principles are universal, spanning all peoples in all times.

First, I want to point out that any participation in the political machinery by the Christian should be seen as an opportunity to glorify God, and to be His image-bearer. That means that the Christian should make decisions on candidates, laws, ideas, and issues in a way that reflect God’s good moral character, His justice, His love of order, and His desire for the fruition of mankind. The first obligation of the Christian is to the King of heaven, and His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33). This means that every election provides an opportunity to speak God’s truth to issues, candidates, and legislation. It is not primarily about winning, as that would be more about pragmatism than discipleship. It is about thinking biblically, voting ethically, and, in faith, leaving the results to God in heaven.

Two Cliffs – Two ways to fall

There are two cliffs over which the Christian citizen can fall to their metaphorical political death. One cliff is to say that involvement in politics is unnecessary for the Christian. The journey to this cliff begins with the idea that Christians aren’t called to be involved in politics, and if we just focus on growing our church, doing evangelism, and working hard in discipleship and missions (all of which we should do) then everyone will be better off. If we just “be the church” then we won’t have to get involved in the mess of politics. This idea results in a sort of political isolationism or pacifism that ultimately proves to be unloving to our neighbors

The other cliff is to say that politics is essential for making the country a better place, or for making our country a “Christian country.” This can result in an extreme reliance on well-intended campaigns and movements that aim to fight the ravages of sin with laws, programs and mandates, but without effect upon the hearts and minds, thereby never resolving the underlying issues. The sad result is a way of political action that places too little trust in the Gospel, and too much reliance in human government. This too, is ultimately unloving as it seeks to meet temporal needs devoid of the Gospel, the power of God that meets a person’s eternal need.

These are two extremes between which I have personally vacillated.I have been overwhelmed by the political environment of our country, and there are times when I have ignored it. I hope to find a middle ground, a solid ground on which to stand; the ground where I am informed both biblically and culturally, and where I place my trust firmly in God’s sovereignty as I affirm my responsibility as a citizen.

More Solid Ground – Betwixt the cliffs

This is where I must be transparent, my thinking here is what I believe to be true to the Bible. My foundation is fixed, not arbitrary. Also, my spiritual heritage being Baptist, I have been shaped by men of history, like John Leland, to believe that freedom of religion, for all citizens, is an inherent right. So, the Christian seeks to influence by his life, his speech, his participation in politics (even political office), and his intellect to seek the betterment of temporal society, all the while knowing that the most important gift to his fellow citizens, and to the world is to be dependent on the Gospel that saves.

Thankfully, God has shown us that He works through his people in positions of political influence. Throughout the Bible we see God at work in the persons of Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Ezra and Nehemiah in Jerusalem. You see God at work in the New Testament as well as John the Baptist fearlessly challenged the culture of the religious leaders and the government leaders alike. He rebuked the Pharisees, and called sin sin in his rebuke of Herod. Paul’s ongoing Gospel witness to Felix and His desire to speak to Caesar the things of salvation are other examples of the Christian being used to speak truth to power. Scripture even is so kind as to give us ordinary citizens instruction and guidance in passages like Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-14, and 1 Timothy 2:1-7.

Government is a God-ordained institution. It serves a purpose in God’s design. Like any other human institution, because of human depravity, any government can, and will, be corrupted and self-serving to some degree. For this reason, I believe Christians must be involved, being salt and light to a decaying world. Therefore, in stormy political times I believe informed and convictional political involvement is a tremendous opportunity for Christ’s people to walk in trust and obedience. I hope you will return and hear me out as I seek to live, think, and vote as an image-bearer of God.

As always I’d love to hear your feedback, insight and comments. Please keep it civil and let’s show the world that people can agree or disagree with grace and class. 

Ken Nichols

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