Refusing to Keep Silent
Some Christians view the political process as a no-man's land for the faithful. They see it as a crass enterprise, unfit for anyone who seeks to imitate the character of God. After all, Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). Since Christianity seeks to change the world through the transformation of people's hearts rather than military power (cf. 2 Corinthians 5), what should be the Christian's involvement in politics?
Mixing religion and politics has a long history of abuse. In medieval Europe, rulers
often compelled people to follow the religion to which they themselves belonged. This
became most apparent in the years following the Protestant Reformation. Kings expected their subjects to embrace his religion of choice, whether Roman Catholicism or some variety of Protestantism. Something similar goes on today in Islamic countries, where citizens are expected to be faithful Muslims, while other religious minorities, particularly Christians, can expect persecution.
Through the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught all believers to love their neighbors as themselves (Luke 10:25-37). This can take many different forms, including preaching the gospel, teaching others about Christ, and offering emotional and material support to those in need. But can it also mean to participate in the political process?
Scripture includes examples of believers participating in government. The prophet Daniel served as a high-ranking Babylonian statesman who served as an effective official for the king, to the point that Darius sought a legal loophole to free Daniel once his enemies had sprung their trap (6:12-13). Given his description as one seated “at the king's gate” (Esther 2:19), Mordecai likely served as an official in the Persian Empire. Sergius Paulus continued in office on the island of Cyprus after converting to Christianity (Acts 13:12).
If we look at examples such as North Korea and nations in the Middle East, we can make a positive case for a Christians participation in government. Simple observation reveals that nations can and do inhibit or prevent the spread of the gospel. The case can be made that “loving our neighbor” means not only that we provide them spiritual, emotional, and material aid, but do our best to ensure that those in charge of making policy treat them as they should be treated. Queen Esther did this very thing when attempting to prevent the massacre of the Jewish people (ch.4), as did Daniel when he advised king Nebuchadnezzar to practice righteousness and mercy (Daniel 4:27). God had instructed the prophet Jeremiah earlier to tell those in exile to “Seek the welfare” of the city of Babylon (Jeremiah 29:12).
Paul indicates that the ruling authorities are considered servants of God (Romans 13:1-7). While the context indicates that the Christian should be submissive to the ruling powers, we should also consider the fact that ruling authorities must understand right from wrong. In other words, they should be moral people. How can a person truly be moral if he is ignorant of, or acts in defiance of, the Word of God? Scripture includes several examples of believers such as John the Baptist (Luke 3:19) and Paul (Acts 24:25) who saw to it that the authorities understood morality. In the Old Testament, the prophets Isaiah (chs. 13-23) and Amos (chs. 1-2) rebuked other nations for their sins.
There is one concern of which believers should take note: America culture is becoming increasingly hostile to organized religion in general, and Christianity in particular. Anyone who has not heard the now-commonplace objections that Christianity is violent, abusive to children, and anti-intellectual should read the writings of vocal atheists without delay. Similarly, the ACLU has made it clear that their agenda is complete separation of church from state, although in practice this means a complete exile of the Bible from the public square. Freedom of religion has become freedom from religion.
Through the examples of believers such as Daniel and Esther, we make the case that God wants all of His people to seek the welfare not only of the city in which they live, but of the world. While our commitment is to make a difference in the hearts and lives of those around us, it also seems appropriate that we make use of every avenue through which we can effect change for the glory of God.
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