Whenever election season comes around, the question of Christian involvement in politics is raised. During this time it’s common to hear, especially among Christians, suggestions that “politics is not for me”, “I am not interested in politics “, “politics is a dirty game”, “politicians are liars”.
These remarks are very dismissive and normally imply that political engagement is inherently defiled, occupying an arena unfit for those who are serious about the Christian life and spreading the good news of the gospel.
This could be a tempting posture to adopt for those to whom promises were made by politicians that were never fulfilled or those who felt used in an election campaign and were forgotten shortly thereafter. However, it is not a Scriptural position a Christian can or should take in response to such negativity.
No one or any organization is perfect. The Bible is replete with examples of Christians who were involved at the level of political governance in their nation – Joseph (Genesis 41:37-46); King David (2 Samuel, chapters 2 & 5); and Daniel (Daniel 2:46-49). They served at a high level of civil government in their nation exerting influence to bring about the purpose of God in the land. Also, Esther rose to prominence beside the king and lent her voice to ensure a particular decision was made (Esther Chapter 7).
According to Romans Chapter 13, all authority is set up or allowed by God:
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1).
It is also God’s will that all men be saved, so a politician who is an unbeliever can be converted while in his term of office and lead quite a spiritually transformed life. For the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that by grace any sinner can be saved and reconciled to God by faith (Ephesians 2:7-8). The gospel has life transforming power to cause anyone to change (including one serving in political office) and live a godly, righteous life.
We cannot narrow the message of the gospel, it’s very holistic, covering all aspects of human existence, including how a believer can engage in the political process and yet maintain his/her integrity, truthfulness and love for God.
Some people object to Christians being involved in politics saying it is a distraction but that is not true and not in keeping with Scriptural pattern as seen above. Even Jesus in His earthly ministry was involved in the holistic presentation of the gospel because He was feeding the poor, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed and setting at liberty those who were hurting and abused. The Apostle Paul admonished the believers to “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10).
It is my opinion that “doing good to everyone” should include participating in the political process because of the legitimate and significant role of Government. Since politics is an area of governance with significant real life implications for people, Christians should have an understanding and involvement in politics with the intent to “doing good to everyone” and also according to Galatians 6:9 “Not becoming weary while doing good.” Showing care, compassion, love and reaching out to assist those in need, especially the vulnerable in society, must be the focus.
Furthermore, it is important for believers in Christ to remember that politics could have some negative implications for Christian evangelism, missions, outreach programmes, the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the continuation of Christian education in our schools. In light of that, believers must get involved in the political process by leveraging their rightful authority, wisely advocating for laws and policies that contribute to the further development, security, well-being, freedom and prosperity of all its citizens, especially vulnerable groups such as children, elderly and the differently able.
Christians must never believe that politics is inconsequential to the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Freedom of religion, acquiring a passport, being granted a visa are all very important for pastors, missionaries and other Christian workers seeking to preach, teach and evangelize in some nations and unsavoury political decisions could be a source of hindrance. Hence another reason why Christians should be involved at the political level to help keep these doors open.
Politics is the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights, freedom and the livelihood of people under its jurisdiction. For example, it is said, a photograph taken by NASA from space (at night) of North Korea and South Korea shows that most of North Korea is covered in darkness, while the whole of South Korea is well lighted and full of activity. Most of these negative situations in a nation are caused by bad political decisions, so why shouldn’t Christians be involved in politics to help shape and brighten the life of the nation?
There are nations that need strong political leadership that will implement policies that recognize human rights, and seek laws that protect unborn children, strengthen marriages and families, advocate for the vulnerable in society and provide opportunity for the well-being and prosperity of every citizen. Politics is a means of effecting great change in the life of individuals and Christians should be involved to help put a positive spin in the process.
Alvin Schmidt, in his book How Christianity Changed the World documents Christian influence in government. Some examples include the outlawing of infanticide, child abandonment, ending the practice of human sacrifice among European cultures, banning pedophilia and polygamy, and prohibiting the burning of widows in India. Also William Wilberforce, a committed Christian and English politician, was the force behind the successful efforts to abolish the slave trade in England. It is said that in the United States, two-thirds of abolitionists were Christian pastors. The late Martin Luther King Jr., was a Christian pastor, who was instrumental in leading the civil rights movement against racial segregation and discrimination. Carl F. H. Henry, an American evangelical Christian theologian once said, “Christians should work through civil authority for the advancement of justice and human good, providing critical illumination, personal example and vocational leadership.
Historically Christians have been involved in politics and some were very influential in helping governments to promote good and restrain evil. Jeremiah 29:7 says: “But 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.”
Politics have the potential to affect government, shape society and influence cultural norms. In light of biblical teachings and the inevitability of its effect on our way of life, Christians who have that calling and are led by God should be involved in the political life of the nation.