Should Christians be involved in politics? This question may seem silly on the surface, but it has been and continues to be a subject of debate within the church and in society in general. Many church leaders throughout history have preached separation from the world and its systems. Others have taken the scripture that says we should be separate and to come out from among them to mean we separate ourselves from the affairs of the world and focus on Godly pursuits, leaving the secular world to govern.
Others have surmised that politics is a dirty game, and we could become tarnished by involvement and led into compromise and corruption by becoming intimately involved. These arguments show a lack of understanding of the role of a Christian in the world from a Biblical perspective.
We are taught to be in the world but not of it. This means that you function in the world’s system but don’t subscribe to the pervading philosophy of the world. Jesus himself said to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Is politics a world? If it is, how do we go into it by separating ourselves to the extent that we do not participate in the political process?
The answer to this question is fairly simple but requires an understanding of who a Christian (kingdom citizen) is and what our mandate is. Christians are referred to by the Bible as ambassadors, agents of a spiritual invisible kingdom on earth. We are told to live life in a way that others will see and be drawn to the “light” in us and thus convinced of the veracity of our “kingdom”.
Our job, essentially, is to represent the values and principles of the kingdom of God wherever we exist and in any system that we are a part of or have the opportunity to be a part of. How can we expect righteous government if all of the righteous people refuse to serve in government or the governing process?
The question is not if, it is more so: how? If we understand the meaning of the word politics, it is then easy to understand that we must be involved in politics because politics is the means through which power, policies, resources and laws are implemented. If you are not at the table, you become a victim of the negotiations. If you want Christian values in politics, it will only happen if the people who possess those values and subscribe to them are in a position to exhibit them for others to see.
Not only should we be involved, it is our duty as citizens of our country of residence (Bahamas) and a responsibility to represent our country and kingdom (Heaven – kingdom of God) we have pledged allegiance to. Jesus stated that we should be the light of the world and that the light should not hide. He stated that we should be set on a hill to demonstrate to the world the attributes and benefits of the kingdom. The Bible also reminds us that the nation rejoices when the righteous are in power. How can the righteous be in power or influence policies if they decide to remain separated and hidden?
We may be separated in thinking, behavior and conduct, but we cannot disappear as the world needs righteous influence and input. If we sit on the sidelines and allow policies to be enacted that negatively affect ourselves and our fellow citizens, then we become guilty of negligence and even complicity. The church stayed on the sidelines in Germany and Italy while brutal dictators killed millions. We cannot afford to stay on the sidelines. The church in the United States did not stay on the sidelines of the Civil Rights Movement and led to massive impact that has reverberated across the globe and through generations.
Many of the biblical figures we revere as heroes were actually politicians and not preachers. Moses, Joseph, Daniel, King David and others were a part of the political establishment or headed political establishments. They were in the world of Babylon but not from or of Babylon. They knew how to function in Babylon for the sake of the country, but they did not share much of the Babylonian philosophy. They assisted the king in causing positive change in government although they did not share a similar philosophy and did not succumb to the corruption and devices of the day. They used their position to further a righteous agenda even though they did not have ultimate power in the kingdom. They were in the system but not of the system. They represented the kingdom of God in their positions, carrying out both their civic duties and their duties as representatives of the kingdom of God.
I believe the question then is not if we should be involved but how should we be involved? With the issue of involvement settled, the next question is how should we be involved? Involvement in politics and governance requires great skill and wisdom. Jesus gave an example of these when asked by the Pharisees about paying taxes. He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” Here are what I believe to be the critical components in determining our involvement:
Active involvement of a pastor, priest, or Christian church leader: Is it difficult for a pastor or priest to be actively involved in terms of running for office? In most cases (not all cases), I believe it is not appropriate for a pastor or priest to run for political office, although there may be some exceptions in extreme circumstances. Every church has members who have various party affiliations and public alignment with a party, and I believe it is best for the pastor or priest to take a position on issues of concern based upon a “kingdom” perspective and allow each member to follow their conscience. As leader and under shepherd, the most important thing is to give scripturally based advice when there is a clear scriptural position, regardless of the position of any political party because the pastor or priest’s first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and not local or regional governments.
Active involvement of officers, members and other leaders: Other than the pastor or assistant pastor(s), I believe members should be encouraged to participate in the political process on all levels. This includes running for office on the local, regional and national levels. From the school board to local government to Parliament – believers who have a desire to contribute to good governance should absolutely step forward to serve as others have from the beginning of time. We must be reminded that politics is not just running for office. The definition below highlights how politics affects our lives and why we should be involved to ensure righteous influence is felt, and in a position to affect policies for good.
Definition of politics: Politics (from Greek: politikos, definition “of, for, or relating to citizens”) is the process of making uniformed decisions applying to all members of a group. It also involves the use of power by one person to affect the behavior of another person. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance, organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a usually hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities.
In addition to the involvement noted above, we should all vote even if we feel the candidates are not the best. If we are disappointed with current candidates vying for office, we should either offer ourselves, or back the candidates we feel best represent our views. As an ambassador for the kingdom of God, our job is to represent the policies of our government in any way possible.
Key points on Christians (church) and politics
• Must first understand the definition of politics.
• We are in the world and decisions affect us, so we must have a voice and make a contribution.
• Isolation and leaving decisions to politicians without our input is irresponsible.
• We are expected to act as ambassadors – and ambassadors represent the views and policies of their country, regardless of which country they reside in.
We have established that we should be involved and the key points of how to be involved, so the next step is to determine the most basic level of involvement, which is voting. How do we determine who to vote for? Next week, we will examine how to determine who to vote for.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to email@example.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.