Summary: Promoting a Positive Christian Voice in Politics and Government
" When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn."- Proverbs 29:2
“The Church must take right ground in regards to politics . . . God will bless or curse the nation according to the [political] course Christians take.” -Charles Finney
From the moment the first settlers came to America, and dedicated the land to "the glory of God, and the Propagation of the Christian Faith (1)," the Christian church has played a central role in shaping the governmental structure of our nation. In this election year, we felt it would be timely to look at what God’s Word says about civil government, and how Christians are to relate to secular authority. The Bible says more about this issue than you may realize.
Sadly, Christians who are involved in the political process are often derided as being some sort of fringe group, the "radical Christian right." However, our critics often overlook the fact that Christians have been on the cutting edge of some of the greatest reforms in history, including the development of many hospitals, charities, and the founding of some of our greatest colleges and universities. From the abolition of slavery, to the civil rights reforms of the 1960s, Christians have been on the front lines of making the world a better place for all (2).
Much is said about the "separation of Church and State." While an in depth discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this study (3), there are a number of Scriptural principles that should be examined. While it is true that the Bible teaches that spiritual government (Church) and political government (State) are two separate institutions, they are to function in ways that are complimentary to each other. For example: In ancient Israel, Moses was the political leader (Exodus 18:15-16), while his brother Aaron served in the Priesthood as the spiritual leader (Exodus 28-29) A similar relationship is seen between King Josiah and Hilkiah the Priest (2 Kings 22.) Another example would be Nehemiah the Governor (Nehemiah 7:1-7,) and Ezra the Scribe (Nehemiah 8:1-8.) Above all, the highest law is God’s Law, and He expects all human governments to be subject to it (Psalm 2:10-12; Isaiah 8:20.) (4)
Please understand, we are not "preaching politics." Ultimately, genuine change comes through changed hearts, which only occurs as people respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, we do still live in a fallen, sinful world, and as we will see, God has ordained the system of civil government to protect the innocent, and to maintain proper order. The Christian life carries a prophetic voice that calls us to shine light into dark places. Jesus’ call for His people to be salt and light to a dying world covers every aspect of life (Matthew 5:13-14,) including how we vote and relate to our government. Christians are to be peaceful, law abiding citizens, (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-15.) We are to pray for and honor our government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3,) faithfully pay our taxes (Matthew 22:21,) and to work for the highest good of all people (Proverbs 3:27; Galatians 6:10.) This includes working to promote Godly principles in politics and government (Proverbs 29:2.)
The above-mentioned Scripture, Romans 13:1-7, is a key text in understanding what the Scriptures say about the relation of civil and spiritual authority. In this passage, we see that civil government is ordained by God to punish evil, and preserve the peace in a society. It even goes as far as to call government servants ministers of God! (Obviously, they don’t always live up to it, but that is God’s ideal nonetheless.) In light of this, the Bible calls us to obey all civil laws, unless these laws are in direct violation to the laws and commandments of God (see Acts 4:19.)
There are a number of people in the Bible that God specifically called to work for change in the political and governmental arena. This includes men and women such as Joseph (Genesis 41:39-41), Deborah (Judges 5:1-7), Gideon (Judges 6:11-14), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-19), David (1 Samuel 16:1-13), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1-11), and Daniel (Daniel 1:4-6; 18-21)(5). In our day and age, there are a number of avenues through which we can work for change in civil authority. One important avenue we should avail ourselves of is Election Day; the God given privilege of voting is something we should never take for granted. Keep in mind that following Jesus transcends blind loyalty to political parties, and to a degree, there is room among Christians for some honest difference of opinion in regard to politics. Nevertheless, there are some Biblical principles that God requires us all to follow when it comes to the stands we take.
These Biblically mandated issues include: