Should Christians Be Engaged in Politics?
Should Christians vote? And should they be engaged in civic politics? Jeremy Howard tackles this question in his latest blog.
This past Tuesday in America was a day to make your voice heard and try to inject your values into the civic discourse. What has been a topic in the church for thousands of years (even prior to modern democracies) is whether or not a Christian should be involved in any way with the state. Should a Christian vote or be involved in civic affairs? Are we supposed to be wayfaring strangers completely divorced from all civil matters?
To answer this with a definitive no or yes would be disingenuous and would not do justice to a very important issue. We are in the world, but not of the world, but does that mean we cannot be part of the world on some level while not fully part of it? Can we honor God as active members of civic discourse? If so, does it ever become sin to pursue politics whether as a candidate or as a voting member of the public? How can we know if we are living sacred lives in a secular world or merely being conformed to it?
The sacred and the secular skate along a razor’s edge. So often what becomes sin might come down to timing and circumstance (i.e. sex within marriage), moderation (i.e. food and drink), and intent of the heart (i.e. lust). Some would make much of the fact that we are no longer under the law of the Old Testament and forget that what Christ taught was so much more. Intent is 10/10ths of the law. Often what we hold in our hearts will condemn us before our actions can.
I think that finding the line between right and wrong is somewhat like the astigmatism in my eye. I can see okay, but at a certain distance from the page, the lines get less clear and seem to jump around a bit, requiring more focus and effort with imperfect results. When I put my readers on, all that movement settles into stark focus, the result of the correct lens.On matters that are not directly called out in Scripture as sin or wrongdoing, we have to look at the intent and end goal of our actions through the “readers” of the written Word that God has left us.
In the political arena, that may mean asking some difficult questions. Are we seeking this office for ourselves or our candidate for the glory of God, or are we secretly hoping that life will be more comfortable for us as Christians if a certain candidate is in office?
We don’t vote to establish a Christian political "kingdom" on earth. We are not to be sycophants in a political system as a means to bring “Christ to the world” as a political agenda. Christ doesn’t need that sort of gubernatorial or presidential packaging to be palatable to a world that really wants less salt.
The great paradox of legislating Christian values, to me, has always been its apparent incongruity with apocryphal and empirical data of its effect on the church. If persecution builds the church (and we know it does), should we be trying to create a world where persecution disappears?
This is not to say Christians should be hoping for pain and suffering. I am certainly not wishing that on myself, but it does beg the question of motives in our involvement. Are we looking for “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” or are we just hoping for more comfort and less adversity?
If you are opposed to being involved in your local, state, and national elections and decisions, please do not take this as justification for doing so. If you are someone who thinks that the only way to evangelize is through legislation, please don’t take this as justification for doing so. I hope you take these thoughts and examine your motives for involvement or lack thereof.
Is your lack of involvement a mask for fears of stepping out into the public arena and standing for Biblical values? I believe that civic involvement by Christians can be a tremendous opportunity for Christians to showcase Christ’s love for a fallen world and be engaged in the community around them, but Christ’s love has to be the motivation for being involved or all our work is in vain.