Should Christians Ignore Politics in Favor of Pursuing Justice?

They have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore, justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom– Isaiah 59:8b-9 ESV

We live in strange and increasingly complex times. 

Because this is true, it is sometimes difficult to know for certain what exactly is the right thing to do in a given situation. It is even harder to separate the essential from the inconsequential. 

Take the issues of justice and politics for example. 

Christians are called to steward every blessing given by God prudently and wisely. Being able to vote for a leader is a gift not everyone is given.  In the grand scheme of history, the whole concept of voting for leaders is a relatively new idea and it is still unheard of in some places.  Christians living in a democracy or a representative republic steward their vote well when they research issues and candidates and vote with a biblical perspective in mind. Period. Nothing more is required. 

That being said. 

We would do well to remember there is no sphere of life or society where Christians are not called be a stabilizing and preserving influence (Matthew 5:13). Therefore, it is a good and healthy thing when Christians enter the political realm with the goal in mind of acting as salt and light in our world. Nonetheless, it is critical Christian politicians work to maintain their Christian testimony and do everything possible to avoid the corruption and evil that is so ubiquitous in modern politics. This is no easy task. The bottom-line on politics and Christianity is clear: Christians should be the best citizens and they should seek to steward their civic responsibilities well. However, whether or not a Christian chooses to run for elected office or goes all-in for certain candidates is a matter of personal choice and Christian liberty.

Matters of justice are a different story altogether. 

Christians are called to love justice (Micah 6:8), proclaim justice (Matthew 12:18), and be doers of justice (Hebrews 11:33). Furthermore, Christians are called to love and care for the weak and hurting in all circumstances. This means finding situations where injustice has taken root and then working to make those situations just and right from God’s perspective. There is no “out” for Christians when it comes to matters of justice. 

This is where things can get a bit tricky. 

In order to be doers of authentic justice, we have to understand the mind of Christ (1st Corinthians 2:16) well enough to know what real justice and righteousness “looks like” from Jesus’ perspective. Loving real justice means we have to learn how to separate our emotional reactions and the unredeemed belief systems of our culture from biblical truth.  Being obedient in this arena also means we have to understand that issues of justice and politics sometimes become intertwined. 

Take these three real-life situations as examples. 

It was announced Monday that parents who question and/or criticize their local school boards for curriculum decisions or protest mask mandates and other covid policies will be investigated by the Department of Justice as “domestic terrorists”. Regardless of whether or not the parents in question have committed acts of violence or threatened anyone with violence.   

Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Scheler is the only member of the U.S military being charged with any sort of crime after the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan that left twelve service members dead and at least a hundred Americans stranded in Afghanistan. His crime: making a series of videos criticizing the United States government for the way the withdrawal was conducted.

Prosecutors in Chicago have declined to charge gang members who were arrested in a gunfight that killed one person and left two others wounded because the men involved were all “mutual combatants”. 

Many Christians actively avoid weighing in on these and other issues because they deem these subjects to be “political” in nature.  In reality they are all clearly issues of justice, not politics:

Parents are commanded by God to be stewards of and guardians of their children. It is clearly an act of injustice for a parent to be considered a terrorist for doing what God has commanded them to do.  

It is not fair (just) for one person to be charged with a crime in the Afghanistan withdrawal. Especially when that person’s only crime appears to be complaining (albeit against military policy) about the way the withdrawal was handled. 

Refusing to charge gang members for killing people on a public street puts everyone in the area in danger.  It could be argued that the governments one job is to protect citizens from evil people (1st Peter 2:13-15). Consequently, the policy of only charging people who are not “mutual combatants” places bystanders and those who live in the neighborhood in danger and is therefore an unjust policy. 

I understand the reluctance Christians have of getting involved in politics. Politics are messy. The power structures in politics are unscrupulous and even good people can be corrupted by those structures. Furthermore, no one in the history of forever has ever had their heart changed by the political process and it is all-too easy for politics to take a place in our hearts that only God should have. 

That said. 

Christians have to learn to separate issues of politics from issues of justice. When we fail to do that we encourage injustice to flourish.