Does Christian involvement in politics do nothing for the Kingdom?
Some Christians hold that our public presence as Christians should not display even a hint of politics. Here is their concern: that we’ll replace the work of the cross with a works righteousness. But the goal of Christians being involved in the political sphere is not to build civic righteousness to commend a nation before God on the basis of their works. It’s to ensure a just society.
This introduces one of three serious problems with this view.
1. Laws are not primarily meant to change hearts but to change behavior, and it does that very well.
According to 1 Peter 2:14, government is for “the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” Romans 13:3–4 “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.”
Proverbs has 14 references to justice, including:
- Prov. 20:8 “A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes.”
- Prov. 21:15 “The execution of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.”
- Prov. 29:4 “The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it.”
Are we to be silent while others supply all the content of what is evil, leading to punishment, and what is right, leading to praise? What keeps them from doing just the opposite—the praise of evildoers and the punishment of those who do right? If the church does not stand in the gap, who does?
2. The term political is vague.
More and more things are falling under this broad rubric. With this policy in place, all one has to do to silence the voice of the church is to call any particular issue political. They’ve co-opted all the moral issues by calling them political.
- Stewardship of the environment
- Care of the poor
- Sex (including sexual education, birth control, sexual harassment, pornography—including child porn—and so-called alternate sexual lifestyles like homosexuality, lesbianism, man-boy love and incest)
- Divorce and child support
- Reproductive technologies
- Education of our children
- All morality in the public square
In the past it would have included the abolition of slavery in the 19th century and the civil rights movement in the 20th. The church is still being blamed for its silence during those times. Its silence in the face of injustice didn’t communicate purity, but approval of slavery and racial prejudice.
When we are pushed out of these areas, what is there left to talk about? Modes of baptism, eternal security, sovereignty and free will, transubstantiation vs. real presence—that kind of thing.
We will be allowed to have our parochial discussions behind the closed doors of our churches, but we can speak of nothing that—in the minds of those we’re trying to reach—has to do with the real world. Is it no wonder that our faith is called irrelevant?
Are we to believe that it is in keeping with the commands of Scripture to be silent as children of God on anything that doesn’t directly have to do with the eternal salvation of souls? Is it God’s desire that we abandon everything on this side of the grave as profane and utterly lost?
3. A properly constructed set of laws can change the heart.
How? A sound moral code—one that’s consonant with “the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness” (Rom. 2:15), the internal capacity for moral development that God has given each person—tutors us on the notion of right and wrong.
Do you practice this in the moral education of your children? How do we train children?
When you undertake the moral training of your children, do you satisfy yourself with just merely telling them about the love and forgiveness of God so that their hearts might be changed, or do you “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” as the proverb instructs? (Prov. 22:6)
Would we not consider it unconscionable to neglect a child’s moral instruction in that way? Certainly we’d never accept as justification for negligence in this area the excuse, “My rules can never change a child’s rebellious heart; only the Gospel can do that.”
Don’t we give them rules to obey? Don’t we threaten punishment for a violation of the rules? Don’t we then expect that through a judicious application of these moral rules the children will develop the moral virtues they are merely acting out now because they’re commanded to?
How is it that we believe in the transforming power of moral instruction in the family, but then admit that it’s powerless to even inform the moral consciousness of a country, which is merely a large collection of families? It’s made up of the very same people.
We cannot abandon our Christian responsibility to provide moral instruction in this nation to those who have no moral foundation to instruct from.