“Should a Christian have anything to do with politics?”
Let’s start with one of my favorite verses.
Deuteronomy 25:11 “If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the secrets, 12 then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her.”
When we look at politics from an Old Testament point of view (to which some are already ruling out saying, “we’re a New Testament People!” To which others would say, “No, we are a people of The WHOLE BOOK”) we have to understand that when God gave Moses the LAW, it wasn’t for a new religion, it was to rule a Nation. That’s what Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are all about.
You may disagree with the policies of Leviticus, but nevertheless, these were the laws that God gave to the people of Israel, laws about treating each other fairly (using honest scales), compensating someone who falls off of your roof, or how to deal with a situation when two men are fighting, and the wife of one man intervenes by grabbing the other guy by the junk!
WHY??!!! Why would you need to write a law about that? Believe it or not, I totally stumped my Jewish tour guide in Israel over Deut. 25:11. It was funny watching him scramble for an answer…then he just sat down. I had a good chuckle on that one.
Apparently this was a practice where the woman would grab a man’s testicles attempting to crush them, thus preventing further offspring, cutting off his bloodline, future, sons, etc. Remember, this is the ancient world and a man’s wealth was his children who could run the farm or flock.
We could go into why the Old Testament laws were so rigid and tough for days. Why God made these specific laws, laws that even President Obama has jeered at. Laws that every atheist brings up over and over. Without proper historical context of the societies around the ancient world, their society, purpose of the laws, etc., one will never be able to wrap their mind around Leviticus.
The point is, God gave Moses the laws to rule His nation, and we have to decide whether we believe that God knows what he’s doing. Or do we know better? I will say this: strict judgments are a HUGE deterrent for people breaking laws. I got one-too-many speeding tickets that were EXPENSIVE, and that has been a major deterrent to me speeding!
So that’s the Old Testament. What about the New Testament?
One could make an argument that Jesus avoided politics and they have a point there. If we just look at the red letters of the Bible (we should focus more on just loving people and giving ourselves to the Gospel rather than these crazy Facebook fights) that does have a pleasant sound to it.
Let’s see where Jesus landed on politics in his day.
Mark 12:14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
So Jesus basically sidestepped the whole political discussion to focus on the Gospel. There are all kinds of layers behind the phrase “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” but that is for another day. The basic idea here is that he stayed focused on the Gospel.
BUT, the difference in the Old Testament and the New Testament is most of the Old Testament they were ruling their own government (until the Babylonians took over). In the whole New Testament Jews and Christians were under Roman Captivity. They no longer ruled their nation—Babylon did, then Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. Unless you were a Roman Citizen, you didn’t have a right to voice your opinion or be involved with politics in any way. Simon the Zealot was deeply involved in politics. He was a part of the zealots, a political party that wanted to overthrow the Roman government. But not Jesus…Jesus was not a Zealot.
So in a sense, it was a non-issue for Jesus to even talk about politics because He wasn’t there to make an earthly kingdom—not yet anyway. In His first Advent (first coming) He was setting up a spiritual kingdom.
So Jesus didn’t get involved with politics—He had ONE PURPOSE—to spread the Gospel. It could be argued that we are to do the same…
So how did we get here? To this political climate? Liberal Christians and Conservative Christians at each other’s throats?
Let’s continue the story and look at early Church history to understand how we got to this political climate today. We see that in the 1st Century, Christians were seen as a threat to Rome because they refused to bow to Caesar as God, and they wouldn’t fight in wars—because they didn’t believe in war.
Because of this, they were imprisoned for not fighting in Rome’s wars, and sometimes killed, being called “atheists” because they didn’t believe in the Roman pantheon. Early Christians completely AVOIDED politics altogether. They kept their heads down, and like Jesus, focused on the Gospel while under the occupation of Rome.
So when did Christians get so involved with politics?
We see this start early in the 4th Century A.D. when Constantine becomes the emperor of Rome. After so much bloodshed by the Romans toward the Christians, finally an emperor stopped all the martyrdom and created the Edict of Milan in 312 A.D. making it legal to be a Christian. Up until this time, Christianity was made from the blue collar people. It was seen as a “poor man’s religion.” After this, however, the Emperor was then a Christian sympathizer. Now it’s okay to be a Christian, and perhaps even popular.
He’s wasn’t a Christian (he was still the high priest of Rome, which was pagan) but he was nice to Christians, and later, on his deathbed, became one. Christians wanted to hold this alliance carefully so no more Christians would be martyred. It was a very weird time for the Body of Christ.
Centuries later we see Popes becoming political figures, riding out into war, controlling whole kingdoms. The Pope eventually became called the Holy Roman Emperor, to which England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and other European countries all paid homage.
He held the power to turn the other countries on your country (if you were a king) so that he basically became THE WORLD POWER of that day. If you ticked off the pope, he could refuse your whole country communion, the people would revolt against the king of that country, so the king of that country had to keep the bridge open to the pope. The pope, without even having an army, had the political power to control all of Europe.
So in the times of the Reformation (500 years ago) the government and Religion were basically the same thing. In a country like Germany, where the Calvinists ruled, you would be killed if you were a Lutheran. And in England, where the Catholics ruled, if you were Calvinist, you’d be killed.
The church of England separated from the Catholic church because King Henry the VIII wanted a different wife (as seen in the series “The Tudors”). The Pope in Rome wouldn’t let that happen, so he started his own church (now called the Church of England, or the Anglican Church. In the U.S. it’s called the Episcopal Church).
The Anglican church and government were so tied together in England that they determined how everyone was going to worship. They would fine you if you missed church on Sunday. The government had stepped into religion over the centuries, so that now, there was no real freedom of religion (the ability to worship God how you saw fit).
Pilgrims broke off and sailed to Plymouth Rock for freedom of religion, and this became the basic DNA which founded our nation. This idea bled into the idea of “Division of Church and State.”
It is important to understand this history, because the idea was NOT to keep the church out of the State, but to keep the State out of controlling the Church (how it operated, being fined for not attending, etc.) The government had no place telling the Church how to operate.
But now we live in a time where that has switched to the government keeping the church out of just about everything that it can. The bigger the government, the less place the Church has to express itself. We live in a time now where certain people want to push for legislation outlawing certain Biblical texts as “Hate Speech.” This is the government impeding on religion.
“Division of church and state” was designed to protect anyone’s right to practice religion however they wished without government interference (unless it physically harmed someone else.)
Should a Christian be involved with Politics?
If we were in “captivity,” like Babylon, Persia, Greece, or Rome, there would be no point to be involved in politics. But we are a free nation that has provided a way to influence the country as one of it’s members/citizens.
We look at great men of God like William Wilberforce of England who spent his lifetime fighting for, and achieving abolition of slavery in England through his place in parliament.
We see men like Martin Luther King Jr. with his “civil disobedience” that started to change the nature of civil rights, not just in the church, but in politics. He was a lightning rod of controversial issues surrounding Jim Crow laws and segregation. History tells the story of how they took to the streets to fight injustice in a peaceful manner, and this changed the political atmosphere leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
I always ask the question, were there no Christians in Nazi Germany who could have stood up against that corrupt government? Did they believe that Christians had no place in politics? That the Holy Book had no place in politics?
Let’s put it this way. As a Christian, I believe that God knows best. I believe that His Ways (as told to us through the Bible) transform individuals into the way we were designed to be. I am a Christian first.
But I also live in a land called The United States of America, a free nation made of citizens like me…free. Holy Scripture informs my world view. I base my life (what is right, what is wrong, what is just and unjust) on this world view . I vote for representatives who will represent what I find from scripture to be right and wrong (many Christians disagree on what is right and wrong, and there is room for that).
As a citizen, I am a part of the collective responsible for what goes on in my nation. In Genesis, Lot was an “elder in the gate,” meaning that he was a judge so to speak, deciding on matters within Sodom and Gomorrah. He was a gate keeper, and yet he let his city stray far from the ways of God. As citizens of our nation, we are responsible for keeping representatives in office who will be good “gate keepers” and keep our nation from anarchy while at the same time, never forcing someone to follow God.
Should a Christian be involved in Politics? Should we have opinions on how this nation is run? Should we even be passionate about our views?
Yes. It is our duty. And at the same time, politics should never eclipse the most important issue, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. We must disagree agreeably, always with respect and let love be our guiding force.