A Christian's Politics|
There is a sense among many Christians that we are not supposed to talk about perceived political issues when we are together. (For clarity, let’s define politics here as the art and science of citizenship and government.) Somehow it seems to some of us that it is inappropriate or even wrong to discuss any political issues with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Likewise, some Christians consider it wrong for anything thought to be political to be addressed from the pulpit. These self-imposed limitations sometimes hinder the church from expressing needful truth concerning matters that are moral, spiritual, and Biblical in nature.
This was not always the case. From the beginning of the United States and for more than 150 years, Christians, preachers, and churches spoke freely about any issue that had moral and spiritual implications. They were protected by the religious clauses of the Constitution’s First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”). Technically, we are still protected by those clauses, but things have happened to restrict our liberty.
Several factors have combined to create the current perception concerning Christians and politics. One factor is the false notion of "separation of church and state” that became prevalent after 1947 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Everson v. Board of Education. The Court took the phrase "separation of church and state” from a private letter written by Thomas Jefferson and misused it to reinterpret the First Amendment religious clauses. The effect has been that many Christians believe that the church ought not to have any concern for what the government does. Another factor is the requirement for churches to register with the government as tax-exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. This requirement came about in 1954 when Senator Lyndon B. Johnson amended the tax code to prevent churches from affecting political campaigns. Prior to this, churches had never been taxable because they were protected by the religious "free exercise” clause of the First Amendment. The effect of this requirement has been that churches and preachers now avoid speaking out on anything perceived to be a political issue for fear of losing that tax-exempt status. A major influence in all of this has been humanism, which has convinced us Christians to become ashamed of our faith and hide it from the world. The effect is that we live two separate lives – a secular life and a religious life – and we confine politics to our secular life.
Certainly, it is not the business of the church to administer civil government, but it is the church’s business to stand for the truth. Indeed, the church is described as "the pillar and support of the truth” (1Tim. 3:15), and the truth for which the church stands is not limited by politics. We cannot cease to stand for the truth just because moral and spiritual issues are brought into the political arena. It is still the church’s responsibility to expose sins such as abortion and homosexuality even though they are hot-button political issues (Eph. 5:11-12). Likewise, it is the church’s responsibility to teach the truth about such issues as marriage, family, and child-rearing even when it is politically incorrect to do so.
As we make a stand for truth, let’s consider a few principles of Scripture that give us a godly basis for forming sound political opinions. First of all, the order of authority in any government begins with Almighty God, and our first allegiance is always with Him – "God reigns over the nations” (Ps. 47:8; see also 2Chron. 20:6). Under His authority, God has intended for governments to be for the good of all people (Rom. 13:1-7; 1Pet. 2:13-17). Government is established to be "a minister of God to you for good” (Rom. 13:4), but if government becomes a minister of evil, then it fails in its God-given purpose and becomes illegitimate by the higher law of God. Such a corrupt government will not stand for long (Ps. 9:17), but while it continues, Christians who are subject to it must deal with its evil ways with shrewdness and innocence (Matt. 10:16). The most fundamental principle for all politics is given in Proverbs 14:34 – "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Our beliefs concerning politics or anything else should always be founded upon the righteousness of God (Matt. 6:33). His righteousness will endure forever, but governments consist only of mere men who cannot save us (Ps. 9:20; 33:16-17; 146:3).
Therefore, let us not fail in our duty to stand for the truth even if we have to speak of politics. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), but God has placed us in this world as salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). When politics brings corruption and darkness into the hearts of men, it is our responsibility as ministers of Christ to be a preserving force through the light of the gospel. We cannot allow the world to exclude us from spiritual battles by labeling the issues as political. Christ’s kingdom needs to be represented in the world, for all people need to know that God’s kingdom "will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44).
Stacey E. Durham
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