Whilst interweaving political parties with religion is objectionable at the best of times, similarly, remaining politically ignorant as an individual is equally reprehensible.
There are fine, upstanding churchgoers who think that sullying themselves with political awareness is ungodly or worldly.
However, part of a Christian’s service — love — towards his neighbours involves making a considered, informed decision at the ballot box.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has a useful article for those reluctant to find out more about their elections and candidates: ‘4 Reasons Christians Should Care about Politics’.
Brief excerpts follow, emphases mine (outside of numbered reasons). Please take time to read the article in full.
1. The Christian worldview speaks to all areas of life.
The decisions made by government have a substantial impact on people and the way we interact with them. A Christian worldview should include a political theology that recognizes every area of life must be included in the “good works” of believers, especially politics, an area with significant real-life implications for people.
2. Politics are unavoidable.
Augustine’s City of God offers guidance on this point. Believers are citizens of the “City of God,” but on this side of eternity, we also belong to the “City of Man” and therefore must be good citizens of both cities. There are biblical examples of how membership in the earthly city can be leveraged for furthering the reach of the heavenly. Paul’s appeal to his Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37, 22:25) is a model of this.
3. We need to love our neighbor.
In a very real sense, politics is one of the most important areas in which Christians demonstrate love to neighbor. In fact, how can Christians claim to care about others and not engage the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? Caring for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and lonely is important to Jesus and should be to His followers as well. Jesus said, “As you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Good government and laws are not negligible factors in the prosperity and freedom of a society.
- Government restrains evil and promotes good.
Government derives its authority from God to promote good and restrain evil. This mandate is expressly stated in Romans 13:1-7. Elsewhere, Paul urges that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Paul understood the need for Christian participation in government.
Government plays a role in the work of God’s kingdom on earth. Good government encourages an environment conducive for people living peaceably, whereas bad government fosters unrest and instability. Because of sin, the legitimate institution of government has, at times, been used illegitimately throughout history. However, numerous examples persist of Christians reasserting their influence and redeeming government to promote good and restrain evil.
Political neophytes may begin by asking themselves what immediate issues affect themselves and their families, e.g. jobs, the economy, financial ability to retire, neighbourhood safety, education, public resources.
The next step involves researching political candidates. They don’t necessarily have to be ‘100% Christian’ to serve their district, state or nation well. They need to do the right thing for their fellow citizens.
Most Christians will disagree what this ‘right thing’ is. Those on the left use emotional appeals. Those on the right less so. Those in the centre confuse those on both left and right because their approaches come from both sides: a candidate may advocate a big government policy for one issue and a more conservative one for another.
Let’s think about what we are reading, seeing and hearing. Let’s take time to sift through candidates and issues. Let’s make sure we are studying soundbites in context. To that end, we need to read a variety of news and commentary, not only the resources that fit our personal worldview.
The Southern Baptist article concludes:
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.” Referring to Babylon, the prophet recognized that secular government served a legitimate purpose in God’s plan for Israel. This is still true. Today, good governments promote literacy, advance just laws, provide religious liberty and allow churches to preach and teach. Good government can serve as a conduit for the furthering of the gospel and human flourishing.
Politics is important. It is time believers understood it properly.
Coming soon: political resources for every American