Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare- Jeremiah 29:7 ESV
There are a growing number of Christians who are very much opposed to believers taking an active role in politics. Accusations of “Christian Nationalism” from the media and political left as well as stories about “Christian politicians” who have behaved in less then Christian ways have made many good, God-fearing people gun shy of political involvement of any kind.
Almost no one has an issue with Christians voting.
However, some believe Christians supporting a particular party or candidate, running for an office or vocally supporting and/or sponsoring legislation is counter-productive to the growth of Christianity. The concern comes from a good place. It’s simply a fact that Christianity has already become linked to a particular party in the minds of a lot of non-Christian people. As a result, politics have muddied religion and become a handy excuse for some to dismiss the claims of Jesus out of hand. This sad state of affairs will have eternal consequences.
Nobody wants that.
But, maybe, just maybe, it’s not the involvement of Christians that’s the problem. Maybe, it’s how Christians have chosen to be involved that’s the problem. Maybe God is calling Christians to be involved in politics, just in a wiser, more biblical and more life-giving way than in the past. When Christians bow out of any aspect of the culture, for any reason (even a good reason) that aspect of the culture loses the very thing (Christian influence) that could make it good and healthy (Matthew 5:14-16). For that reason, Christians who live in a democracy should do everything to make the democracy they live in as healthy as possible. This might mean running for the school board or city council or some other office. It might mean choosing to support a particular candidate or piece of legislation that brings about a better and more just world.
Just because we should do something it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about HOW we do it (Colossians 4:5). In that vein I have a couple of cautions for Christians thinking about getting more involved in the world of politics. If these cautions are heeded, it will make Christians a force for good in the world. They will also go a long way in preventing Christianity from being negatively connected to politics in the minds of non-Christians.
In order to steward political involvement well we must:
Understand the limitations of politics-
Politics can do a lot. Politics can promote justice, encourage the common good and foster wise behavior in the lives of citizens. Politics can even save lives. However, there are some critically important things politics cannot do. Politics can’t stimulate spiritual conviction and politics don’t have the power to change a human heart. Politics will never lead anyone to Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can do those things. For that reason, Christians must not give conservative political change the same status as preaching the gospel or promoting Christianity. It’s critical we understand that without the spiritual change that comes with preaching the gospel any political change we get will be subject to the whims of the next political administration and therefore be very short-lived.
Understand the corrupting nature of political influence-
Politics are ultimately all about power and power is the most corrupting force on earth (Ecclesiastes 7:7). Even the most devout Christians are in no way exempt from the corrupting power of politics. Christians who go into politics have to understand there will be huge temptations to compromise their principals for the sake of just a little more power and a little more influence with those who have the money and/or the power. This means Christians who go into politics need to be open to accountability and Christians who support political candidates need to be ready to move on from any candidate who professes Christ as Lord but who’s actions prove they love power more than God.
Commit to being the influencer not the influenced-
Charles Dudley Warner once said politics make strange bedfellows. What he meant was that sometimes people with little in common will come together purely for the sake of shared political interests. This has never been truer in conservative political circles than it is today. The right-wing now includes the anything-goes libertarians, those who buy into some unacceptable viewpoints regarding race along with conservative believers in Jesus. This group dynamic makes it critical Christians involved in politics be very careful about what and who they support.
Know biblical principles and understand what the Bible teaches-
In order for a Christian to be spiritually useful, we have to know what the Bible says and understand the principles underlying the commands given in the Bible. It’s also critical we are able to make a case for why those principles make good policy for everyone. For example, the Bible says nothing specifically for or against recreational drug use. However, the Bible does have a lot to say about being wise, sober-minded and thinking clearly about life (1st Peter 5:8, 1stThessalonians 5:5-6, 1st Timothy 3:2-4, Ephesians 5:18). These commands make it highly unlikely God would advocate recreational drug use. Furthermore, a sober population is a healthy population. The bottom-line is a good Christian politician knows how to take God’s word and apply to life without broadcasting to whole world that’s what they’re doing (Matthew 10:16)
If we are going to influence the world of politics it is critical we remember whose we are and what we are supposed to be all about. As believers in Jesus we are not our free-agents (1st Corinthians 6:19-20). We belong to Jesus and our mission is to glorify Jesus and in the process we are to make disciples where ever we go (Matthew 28:18-20).