***DISCLAIMER*** My aim is simply to ask good questions, look at Scripture, and think on the real-time implications for the Christian as we enter an election season. It's helpful for me to think on and pray through. I pray it will be valuable for you as well, no matter who you vote for.
I remember being in a meeting once, in which the point was brought up, "You cannot be a Christian and vote democrat." The fierce rebuttal? "How you can be a Christian and vote republican!!???" So that's how that meeting went.
What I walked away from was not a better understanding of parties, or even issues. The democrat was pro-life. He (mostly) supported the Second Amendment. I thought I had been lied to my whole life!!! I didn't know such a democrat existed! I could've sworn those were the ONLY issues! (FYI, big ones, no doubt...)
But what I did walk away from in that meeting was a wider understanding of culture and tradition. And the increasing political division within a democracy meant to protect and serve its citizens, especially when many are "professing" Christians. How did the gap get so wide? Brothers and sisters, "our wrestle is not against flesh and blood..."
Our duty to God is comprehensive and there’s not an area of life that we can separate from His influence. As a Christian we simply can’t be “so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.”
In a society where religion is increasingly private, and faith is OK as long as it’s not shared, many would seek to keep God out of their politics.
Abraham Kuyper famously said, “God wants his truth proclaimed everywhere.” That is a HUGE statement. God can take care of His own power. It is not our job to get in petty squabbles (or all-out war) over minor freedoms. That becomes a fight over power. God's power took the form of weakness. God's greatest display of glory and power was His Son, breathing a final breath, hanging lifeless on a cross.
But we are agents of truth. We do speak out for justice. But justice without any means of grace is merely vengeance in disguise.
So, what is the relationship with God and politics? How do we flesh that out by looking at the Bible?
We could obviously stretch back further to the book of Genesis in the detail of Creation itself and the mandate for Adam to work to cultivate what God had already given and ordained for flourishing. But for sake of time, and reading interest, let’s start with something tangible. Or rather, SOMEONE.
Let’s begin with Jesus.
People had high anticipations for a Messiah. One who would overthrow the government and political oppressors. Jews had a history of slavery, oppression, and exile in Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and by the time Jesus came on to the scene, the Roman Empire. This all sounds very ‘political’ doesn’t it?
Word started getting around that Jesus could be THE ONE to get them out of their situation. But the story escalates as Jesus begins making claims that He is the Son of God. This doesn’t look good. The stakes are high. The political implications of this anticipated Messiah making a claim like this is more complicated and messy than was originally thought. Is He ‘blaspheming?’
We move forward in the Gospel narratives and Jesus is handed over to authorities, given an unfair trial, and nailed to a cross. The dream appears to have died. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.
Now, let’s pause. Before accusations of heresy are made, the Resurrection is central to our faith. We will look at this in weeks to come. But I want you to feel some tension before moving too fast.
The anticipation of a Messiah had political weight behind it. If committed Jews didn’t compartmentalize God and politics, as Americans often do today, then the religious claim of Jesus as God in the flesh, is also a political claim. This claim, alongside other things Jesus was doing, got Jesus killed.
The arrest, the trial, the execution surrounding Jesus was about politics, and as good and right as politics can be, it was also about power. Even the aftermath of the events surrounding Jesus became political.
God ordains government and government leaders. To say He decides who is elected into office with no help from citizens may be too far an excuse in personal responsibility. But God’s Word, God’s Kingdom, God’s authority transcends all human authority and power. To think God used the system He created to put His Son on the cross to bring about redemption is an incredible thought.
As detailed in the last post, I believe it’s God’s will that His people engage in the welfare of the society, fleshed out in politics. God never tells us how to vote or who to vote for. But it becomes a slippery slope when we "use" God for political gain and votes when we have no authentic reason to honor Him in any other way.
I praise God that many of our founding fathers were professing Christians. But anytime government embraces a specific religion, they are one step closer to controlling it.
When Jesus was questioned by Pharisees about the Kingdom of God in Luke 17, he replied by asserting that the kingdom they hoped in was not the kingdom of God. This gives us a clue in our own pursuits. There are two ends of the Christian political pendulum when it comes to engaging in our modern systems of government.
Some Christians look to the power available within politics to solve all of our problems, while others default to inaction, simply saying, “God is on the throne.” Neither of these ideas align with the approach Jesus showed us through his life and the message of the kingdom that he taught.
The church is not in one box and politics in another. Followers of Jesus should influence positively, everything they touch, wherever they go. Our foundation is a different kind of hope in a different Kingdom containing subversive power.
“The gospel cannot be merely a private transaction. God didn’t break through history, through time and space, to come and suffer on the cross just so you can come to him and say, ‘Oh, I accept Jesus and now I can live happily ever after.’ That’s not why he came. … Jesus came as a radical to turn the world upside down. When we believe it is just about Jesus and yourself, we miss the whole point. Christianity is a way of seeing all of life and reality through God’s eyes” (Colson, “The Gospel”).
We get to partner with God in the creation of that kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. By the the power of the Holy Spirit—we are participants in moving it forward in the time between the already and not yet.
Political debate seems unavoidable, especially on social media, where everyone has an option, often bringing heat but not light. What do we do with people, especially people of faith, who disagree with us? Opinions are good and right and human! But trust me. You will be tempted to quarrel at times. So season your speech with grace and reason.
People of faith sharing different views is nothing new. Scott Sauls writes, “It may surprise us now, but there was political diversity among Jesus’s disciples. Included in the 12 are Simon, a zealot, and Matthew, a tax collector. Interestingly, Matthew the tax collector emphasizes this difference more than any of the other Gospel writers (Matt. 10:3–4). This is significant because zealots worked against the government, while tax collectors worked for the government. You might say Simon was a right-wing ‘small government’ guy who thought the state should keep out of people’s business, and Matthew was a left-wing ‘big government’ guy who made a career out of collecting taxes for the state. Despite their opposing politics, Matthew and Simon were friends, and Matthew wants us to know this. Matthew’s emphasis on a tax collector and a zealot living in community together suggests a different loyalty for Christians. Our loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom must always exceed our loyalty to an earthly agenda, whether political or otherwise.”
The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands” (Tim Keller, “How Do Christians Fit into the Two-Party System? They Don’t,” September 29, 2018)
In the words of Tony Evans, "Jesus didn’t come to ride on the backs of donkeys nor elephants. He didn’t come to take sides. He came to take over. And as his representatives, we represent the kingdom of God.
As we vote our conscience to seek the welfare of our city and nation, we do so with this in mind.