There is nothing like politics to expose sin. First, politicians who run for office are mercilessly vetted (as they should be, of course). Their opponents and the media search for any dirt they can find, and skeletons are dragged, kicking and screaming, out of closets for the world to see.
Beyond that, candidates boast about themselves and rail against their opponents, competing, it seems, for who can take the lowest ground. Not only is their pride exposed, but also their hypocrisy, as they violate the simple moral principle of “let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and “why do you point out the speck in another’s eye when you have a log hanging out of your eye?” They often seem like rats who point their fingers at other rats and call them rats.
Further, campaigners yield to the temptation to tell voters exactly what they want to hear, lying through their smiling teeth. And those who lose primary elections are expected to fall on their swords and endorse the winner from their party—whom a few weeks prior they had declared unfit for office. Their words sound anything but sincere.
Adding to the sins of the politicians, the “unbiased press” tries to conceal its bias while publishing propaganda for its preferred candidates. Those talking TV heads are often secret surrogates whose job is to actually hide the truth rather than expose it.
But it is not just the fallen nature of politicians and pressmen that, during elections, blooms like stinkweed by the swamp. Voters crawl out from their caves, clubs in hand. Family feuds and Facebook fights break out everywhere.
And like sheep, gullible voters swallow the promises of proven liars, having learned nothing from the former duping the masses received during previous election cycles. Convention delegates worship their man-made messiahs, cheering every platitude, believing their candidate is going to fix everything even when it is obvious that their candidate can’t even fix himself (or herself).
What a mess of sin! It all reminds us how much the world needs Jesus! One day, praise God, “the government will rest upon His shoulders” (Is. 9:6), and His worldwide administration will be characterized by righteousness and perfect justice. He will be worthy to rule, having never sinned, and having died to make all the citizens of His kingdom inwardly and outwardly righteous.
Only then will there be the utopia that everyone dreams of, and only then will a utopia be possible, because the primary preventative will have been removed, which is individual sin. The only people who will be worthy to be citizens of that kingdom will be those who have submitted, from their hearts, to the King of kings and have been transformed by His grace.
There won’t be any elections then, praise God, but only divine appointments. Jesus will exalt the humble, whom He promised would “inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5), and they will rule and reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6). Our positions within His future government will be determined by our faithfulness and fruitfulness now (see Matt. 19:28; 25:21, 23; Luke 19:16-19; 22:29-30).
As we wait for the eternal theocracy, we are stuck with a temporal democracy. So what shall we do in the meantime? As citizens of heaven who are just sojourners here on earth, we are comparable to the exiled people of Judah who found themselves living in pagan Babylon, hoping to soon return to Jerusalem. To them, God said through Jeremiah:
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 have welfare” (Jer. 29:7).
That is a two-fold instruction to (1) seek the welfare of their temporary home in the city of Babylon, and (2) pray on its behalf. And the reason for this instruction is simple: “In its welfare you will have welfare.” Hard to argue against that.
For that same reason, Christian sojourners should similarly be involved in seeking for the welfare of the temporary places where we live, because we’ll enjoy any welfare that is enjoyed by the greater population.
Paul echoed similar words to Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Tim. 2:1-2, emphasis added).
Clearly, Paul affirmed the “in its welfare you will have welfare” concept. In fact, that is the reason to pray for “kings and all who are in authority.”
And although in this particular passage Paul only mentioned prayer as a means of “seeking the welfare of the city,” he certainly had plenty of additional things to say elsewhere. Believers have an obligation to pay taxes (see Rom. 13:6), for example, which is certainly an act of “seeking the welfare of the city,” and one that benefits believers along with everyone else.
And the many kinds of good deeds in which Christians are admonished in the New Testament to enjoin themselves, all demonstrations of their moral character—such as caring for the poor and homeless and so on—certainly contribute to the welfare of the places where they live. Christians have historically always been involved in political, social, and moral issues for the simple reason that Christ lives in them. True Christians are not able to remain passive when they witness injustice, and that is why they’ve campaigned against slavery, child labor and racial discrimination, and for women’s voting rights and so on.
Therefore, the political process, which essentially all revolves around moral issues, is certainly an arena where Christians belong. It is a wonderful arena where everyone is debating moral issues, yet it’s a place full of darkness where we can let our lights shine. As the most moral people on earth, true followers of Jesus (I am not speaking of “church people”) are more qualified than anyone to wade into the moral issues where immoral people are already swimming—and even if they claim we are unfit to join them!
But what if the political waters are polluted filth? That is all the more reason to wade in. Because just as it is true that “in its welfare you will have welfare,” it is true that “in its misery you will have misery.” If not for everyone else, at least for our own sakes we should wade in. The world’s downward moral trend demands it.
Before I offer some specific advice on the best way to wade in, however, please allow me to challenge some ideas that we sometimes hear in Christian circles, such as the idea that government is inherently evil, or that Christians have no business participating in government, either as voters, candidates, or leaders, or that as citizens of God’s kingdom we should have no interest in earthly kingdoms. The biblical arguments that challenge such ideas are manifold.
First, from the beginning, God has established human governments and leaders as a means to restrain unrighteous people (see Rom. 13:1-7). How can something God established to be a blessing be inherently evil or off-limits for Christians, and only be acceptable for participation by unrighteous people? If governments are established by God to restrain unrighteous people, should they be solely run by unrighteous people?
Second, speaking of Jesus, the Bible tells us that one day “there will be no end of the increase of His government or of peace” (Is. 9:6-7). If government is inherently evil, Jesus will one day be aligning Himself with evil.
Third, one day Jesus’ followers will reign with Him over the earth and even judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3). If righteous people (and only righteous people) have a place in Jesus’ future worldwide government, why would it be inappropriate for them to participate now in much smaller governments, especially when the unrighteous aggressively participate, and by so doing, help promote what God hates?
Fourth, God has set up a divine order of government for His Church, of which Christ is the Head and in which under-shepherds represent Him. How could righteous people, who are the only ones qualified to serve in the Church’s government, be unqualified to serve in any other government?
Fifth, God has at times placed His righteous followers in high positions of non-righteous human governments, people like Joseph and Daniel. The political leaders under whom and with whom they served were not exactly paragons of virtue. Are their roles in secular governments examples of divine blunders? Who can say that God would never repeat such divine placements?
Sixth, God has commanded us to participate with human governments by paying our taxes, praying for, and submitting to our leaders (see Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-4). Why would other contemporary forms of participation—ones that were not even options for members of the early church, such as voting or being involved in the political process—be wrong?
Clearly, God expects His people to pay taxes to support even unrighteous governments, yet He does not hold those of us who pay our taxes accountable for the government’s potentially unrighteous use of our taxes. So why would He hold us accountable for other forms of participation with our unrighteous government, especially when our participation is an attempt to curb and stop unrigtheousness? Is it not more likely that He will hold us accountable if we ignore our opportunities to be salt and light?
Seventh, the apostle Paul was a Roman citizen who at times used his citizen’s rights to obtain justice (see Acts 22:25-29; 25:11). He saw himself as a citizen of two kingdoms, one temporal and one eternal, one less important and one more important, but neither to be ignored.
Eighth, governments determine the religious freedoms its citizens enjoy. If we can elect leaders who protect religious freedoms, the gospel can be spread more freely. Why would any true Christian who possesses the God-given right to vote and thus influence public policy regarding religious freedom shun his responsibility and risk hindering the gospel?
Ninth, the world is full of examples of bad and good rulers and the consequent sufferings and blessings they both engender among the citizenry they lead. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2). As people who are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves and whose participation in the political process can help elect leaders who will use their authority for good rather than evil, how can we claim to be obeying the second greatest commandment if we don’t participate in the political process or vote, and by so doing, help elect the worst candidates?
All of this is to say that to be apolitical is to be amoral, and that is exactly how the world views Christians who say, “I don’t vote because I’m a Christian.” They think, “You obviously don’t care about anyone but yourself.” Plus, they think, “And you aren’t very smart, because political outcomes affect everyone, including you and your own family.”
With that behind us, what should followers of Christ be thinking about as they wade into polluted political waters? Three things come to mind:
1.) Above all else, believers should seize the opportunity to convey—to the watching world—their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, a love that expresses itself by obedience to His moral law. As I’ve already stated, the political arena is full of moral issues concerning which followers of Christ have moral points of view that are informed by Scripture. Discussion about moral issues can be a springboard to discussing one’s faith.
And for that reason, Christians should be extremely cautious endorsing any obviously-flawed candidates. Otherwise they risk being viewed as endorsing or overlooking moral deficiencies, and that is not how we want the world to see us.
Rather, it is better if Christians focus on moral issues, which can segue into discussions about the moral character of candidates and where they stand on moral issues. The current presidential race, with its two morally-flawed leading candidates, is a classic opportunity for Christians to engage in conversations on moral issues and the faith from which our moral views spring. But when Christians endorse one candidate or the other without any mention of the moral justification behind their endorsement, they are sure to be seen as being as morally flawed as the candidate whom they endorse. (For that reason, it might be better sometimes to not endorse any candidate!)
For true Christians, every election comes down to moral issues, and this year’s presidential election comes down to which moral issues are the most important. Christians who don’t find themselves struggling over the obvious moral flaws of both of this year’s leading presidential candidates are either ill-informed about the candidates or have very little discernment. We’ve got a pro-abortion Methodist who collected $21.6 million dollars in speaking fees between 2013-2015 and who wants us to believe that no consequent political favors are expected from her, and a thrice-married Presbyterian billionaire casino owner with the diplomacy of a wrecking ball who says that he’s never asked God for forgiveness. How can any moral person endorse either candidate without an explanation of why one is the lesser evil?
2.) Make sure you can defend your position as being morally superior, because everyone on both sides of many issues is claiming the higher moral ground. Pro-abortion candidates, for example, claim to be defending women’s rights. But like so many moral issues that lay claim to “righting wrongs” for certain groups, abortion deprives another group of its rights, namely unborn babies—including, ironically, female babies who will never get the chance to exercise their women’s rights due to being aborted by their mothers.
3.) Be able to make an argument beyond just quoting the Bible, because many will simply stop listening to you if that’s your only basis of reasoning. There are logical reasons for God’s moral code that reveal His love for everyone. You don’t need a Bible to know that murder, theft, dishonesty, and adultery are morally wrong. Everyone knows that they should treat others as they want to be treated. Righteous laws are based on the self-evident principle that “all men are created equal.” On those truths we share common ground with just about everyone.
OK, hopefully I haven’t stepped on another hornets’ nest! As always, thanks for your feedback, positive and negative. I read it all, but don’t always have time to reply. — David