By Alison Theis
Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” Though Gandhi wasn’t a Christian, his words strike deeply into the Christian faith. If Christians are to point the world back to God, then something about the world must change. The gospel is applicable to all areas of life, including the ways Christians should integrate themselves in politics. It’s through politics that Christians can point the world to God’s glory by protecting the way the government works to impede evil and advocate for good, Christian involvement in everyday society, by understanding that politics is an unavoidable topic, by following biblical mandate, and by loving their fellow neighbors.
What’s the point of a government? Perhaps it is to control society. Or maybe it is to set the supreme laws of the land. What if the point of the government is to mandate what’s good and evil? That begs the question: how are good and evil defined? Good and evil can’t be defined without pointing straight to the Bible. Good is mandated by God as living in a Christ-like manner, whereas evil is the absence of good. The Bible also explains the foundation of a moral mindset for a functioning society. In Exodus 20:1-17, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. When looking at the Ten Commandments, it becomes very easy to see how these rules helped frame federal ideals in societies throughout history. Without the Bible or the Christian influence in political views, how would a functional and successful government know to establish and protect good while prohibiting evil to run its destructive course? Therefore, laws are set in place to draw the line between good and evil.
As a functioning part of society, Christians pursue different walks of life within their relationship with God. A big protest about Christian involvement in politics is that anything aside from preaching the gospel is a distraction from the Church’s mission. This, however, limits the understanding of what Matthew 28:19-20 charges us to do (going and making disciples). The gospel’s applicable to all walks of life, from famer to actor to doctor to scientist and even to President of the United States. Nobody’s above God. The message of the gospel is that all sinners can be saved by grace and reconciliation (Ephesians 2:7-8). If this is true, then it’s impossible to restrict the instructions of Matthew 28:19-20 to the four walls of the physical church building. The church isn’t a building: the church is the body of the Christian people. In order to minister at all the world, every part of society must be introduced to examples of God. Christianity has a tremendous influence in the way the rest of the world views God. When tragedy strikes, the world always looks to see how the church will react. As ambassadors of Christ, Christians should react to a situation in the same manner as Christ would. If Christians react in a godly manner, they set the example of what should be done and how it should be done. This is how the world will see the characteristics of God.
Christians and nonbelievers are both heavily dispersed into society. We all eat, sleep, work, and pay taxes. Taxes are set by the government that has a political agenda. Just like everyone else, Christians also should pay taxes. Ergo, Christians are a part of the basic form of government whether they realize it or not. As inhabitants of earth, Christians are a part of man’s city (Philippians 3:20). Paul’s appeal of his Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37 and 22:25) epitomizes how being integrated in the earthly society helps further the reach of the godly society. In the American perspective, being an active member in both societies adds a special significance to the first words in the preamble to the Constitution: “We the people.” In the US, national sovereignty is delegated to the people. President James Madison once said, “Consent of the people [is the] pure original foundation of all legitimate authority.” In other words, politics are unavoidable for American citizens. Politics have real-world consequences for Christian evangelism. Therefore, Christians must participate in politics by using their authority to advocate for laws and policies that further God’s kingdom on earth.
If nothing else, Christians should be involved in politics so that they understand how God works and speaks to us through an earthly government (Romans 13:1-7). Though Christians may not agree with or like whoever is at the head of our government, we still need to respect the office they hold, and we need to ask God to help them govern the land according to his will (1 Timothy 2:1-2 and Psalm 33:12). This does not mean that Christians should turn a blind eye to injustice. Rather we should pray that the world pursues Christs just as intently as the body of the church does (Jeremiah 29:7). God’s ways are not our ways (Proverbs 3:5). As humans, we may not always understand why things happen, but in the end, we must always be ready for the chance to show how God works in and through his faithful servants (Titus 3:1). Life on earth isn’t meant to be easy, which is why it’s so vital to have a relationship with God and to see his counsel. At last when Christians are called home to the kingdom of God, our true reward awaits us in Heaven (Revelation 17:24).
Let’s not forget that Jesus was also man. He knew the law and followed it accordingly. When Jesus is questioned about the law, he explains that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Jesus then explains more about who “your neighbor” is through the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Through this example, Jesus makes the point that no matter race, background, job, or social standing, we owe a debt of love to anyone and everyone. In a more modern sense, politics is one of the most vital areas where Christians can show love to their neighbors. How can Christians claim to care about the wellbeing of the world without participating in the position where basic rights and freedoms are governed? Caring for the fellow man is important to Christ just as it should be to his ambassadors (Matthew 25:40). A healthy government and healthy laws are not trivial issues when it comes to the success of the freedom of a society. Politics are a method of accomplishing substantial change and therefore ought to involve Christians who love their neighbors.
The big picture about Christian involvement in politics is not to shove God down people’s throats. It is to protect and establish good while dismissing evil. It is through integration in everyday society that Christians show examples of who Christ is. By knowing and understanding that politics are unavoidable, Christians can help make intelligent decisions about the way the laws of earth should function and how we react to what is happening within the world. Following the biblical mandate to obey and respect the people that God chooses to place in seats of power, we pray for them and ask for God to influence their leadership. By loving our fellow neighbors, Christians can set the example of why certain laws should be allowed for the good of the people. Politics affect the way a government shapes a society. However, the Bible also has its own influence on culture. For the government and the Bible to both effectively influence culture towards God, Christians must not only care about politics but also be involved in it.