How should Christians engage with politics and government? Should they ever meet and all? Is church-state separation a moral imperative? This page will examine the Biblical evidence.
I · The Myth of Neutrality
Some Christians claim that the Christian faith is not a political force. We are to be a light to the world, as Christ himself said. In fact, forcing Christianity into politics only causes more division, which is the exact opposite of our mission; to unite those of all backgrounds under the name of the Lord.
These above claims are fatally flawed for many reasons. Some truths of the gospel message are political by nature, such as marriage being between a man and a woman, so we are forced into politics eventually. Even the resurrection and universal kingship of Christ was a declaration of political war on its’ own, as the Roman imperial cult deemed the emperor as a god in his own right.
But most significantly, the primary assumption of the above statements is that we are to be as unifying as possible. This is a half-truth; the other ignored half cripples the total unity-argument presented above, and it comes from Jesus himself:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.Matt. 10:34 – 36
Christ himself anticipated that the truth of his message would divide relationships as fundamental as families. He never once made the call to water down the message, or that certain societal spheres like politics are off limits. Very plainly, he says we are to spread his message, and that this message would turn people against one another.
II · The Christian Duty of Apologetics
The Apostle Peter laid out the duty of Christians to ready a defence for their faith in his first letter:
But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.1 Peter 3:15-16
This passage is the primary quote used in the call to apologetics, or defending the faith. Indeed, apologetics comes from the Greek ἀπολογία (apologia – speech in defence), which is used in this passage.
Additionally, we are commanded to speak the truth to others in love (Eph. 4:15), and to spread the Gospel to all nations (Matt. 28: 18 – 20). This requires us to be well versed in the elements of our faith and other worldviews, as many people require solid reasoning to be convinced, not just moving anecdotes.
Areas where the faith needs defending include elements like Jesus’ moral teachings, the resurrection, and the existence of God.
But other Biblical concepts that need a defence include the sacred bond of marriage between a man and woman and the life of the unborn; both of which are hotly contested and considered political issues today. If we are to give a defence of our faith and spread the truth to others, we must address these controversial issues. And doing so will be a political act by definition.
III · The Source of Government Authority
Government is a ministry of God, without whom it would have no authority. Therefore, it must govern according to God’s will as revealed in the holy scriptures; to the Prophets, the Apostles, and other writers.CY Brief Values Statement
The source of this truth is Paul’s foundational letter to the Roman church. The first 7 verses of chapter 13 state the following:
Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.Romans 13:1 – 7
Statements like “for there is no authority except from God” and “for government is God’s servant for your good” establish the government as a God-ordained institution. Logically, a government must therefore work in harmony with God’s will (“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.”)
How does this tie into Christianity and politics? Simple; if government is a God-given institution, and it therefore must follow his will, who is willing to make it so? Muslims? Buddhists? Atheists? If the Christian faith is true, it is us Christians who know the will of God. And given the reliance of governments on God’s authority, we Christians must therefore strive to keep them aligned with his will.
IV · In Sum
Christians are not to be passive observers on political issues that affect the faith, as the call to apologetics is universal. Government is an institution which derives its’ authority entirely from God. A good government is therefore one which follows his will, and for it to do so, well versed Christians must either acquire a political office or become an influence on culture.
Therefore, politics is a critical sphere for Christians to engage with.
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