In ancient Athens, citizens of the state would gather in large amphitheaters to decide community matters through oral debate and a decibel voting system. This early method of democracy was very simple. Individuals on either side of a position would present their case and the rationale for their view. Voting would take place via mob yelling. The loudest group won.
In churches today, leaders wrestle with how involved they are to get in our political system. Some advocate it without reservation and others shy away from it all together. Here are a few thoughts that ought to frame every Christian’s perspective of their involvement of politics
1. Eternity and Responsibliity.
We must recognize that in the flawed world we live in, all governments will have flaws of one kind or another. That is a result of sin in our world and in ourselves. We do believe that we are also on a journey to an eternal state where God will be in charge and will set everything right. God’s righteous rule is coming.
Does that negate our responsibility to do our part to make things better now and to do our best with what we are given? The answer is clearly “no”. Jesus was clear to his disciples in several places the principle that “to whom much is given, much is required”(Luke 12:48) We are responsible for what we have power to change. We have no one to blame for the outcome of things but ourselves.
2. One way to influence government is through evangelism
Want to change the way that people vote? See people come to Jesus and discipled in his way. You can’t legislate morality or force people to desire something that is not in them. We can’t believe that political action is the only type of community transformation work that we get involved in. We must remember that governments change when the population changes.
3. We are the government.
The culture of the Bible is completely different to the one we find ourselves in in the Western world. When Paul wrote “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life…” the concept of democracy had not yet taken root. The Roman Empire had not fully adopted the democratic notions of ancient Greece. But today, we are experiencing the results of the worldwide transition from the feudal to a modern democratic system. In the last five hundred years we have embraced a kingless society. We elect a representative to make decisions for us based on the parameters that we give them. In a democracy there is no king. The people rule.
In our society we have been given the responsibliity to let our voice be heard and to influence our representatives to be our voicepiece. If we abdicate responsiblity we have no one to blame but ourselves.
4. The separation of church and state is not a scriptural notion.
There is nowhere in the Bible, especially the New Testament, where God instructs his people not to be concerned with the welfare of the nation. In fact one could argue from the old testament that God’s law to Moses was a reflection of the importance that he places on a just society.
The prophets who arose in the Old Testament confronted not only the people, but government authority. Most of the prophets of the Old Testament were political in nature. Daniel is a great example of one who took his belief in God to work in government. Our society frowns on this just as they did in Babylonian days. We don’t need to be ashamed of what we believe.
We have bought into the lie that the government should be secular and separate from any church influence. This is in part because we believe the church is a corporation. The truth is if we want to get a scriptural view of the Biblical church you must remove the Board of Directors, logo, building, website, activities and simply see the people. Actually the very word church in Greek – ekklessia is a term that refers to citizens called out for the process of making decisions. Should the corporation get involved in politics – no. Should the people, yes?
5. If not us, then who?
In the early 1800s a French political philosopher named Alexis de Tocqueville came to the United States in search of more information about how democracy had found success in the American life. His conclusion was very remarkable. In his book Democracy in America He suggests that the success of the democratic system was directly related to the prevalence of Christianity in society.
I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.
Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.
America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
We must get involved in having our voice and our opinions heard in society. We must not stand at the sidelines because we want to be liked. We must respectfully share the good news of Jesus Christ and apologetically engage our world with love and grace. We must also be active in evangelism, knowing that the advancement of the reign of God in the earth occurs as individuals submit their lives to Him.