As the United States has entered into another presidential election cycle, there will be numerous debates and even more numerous polls about how the candidates rank with potential voters. The last 35-40 years in the U.S. has seen the rise of a voting bloc known as “Evangelical Christians,” that has played crucial roles in elections. Many leaders of the Evangelical Christian movement have been prominent televangelists, pastors, and other leaders who have spoken out against such issues as abortion, same sex marriage, and reclaiming America’s Christian heritage. The purpose of this post is not to debate political issues, but will examine a Christian’s civic duty in a political culture hostile to Christianity.
An Understanding of Authority
Everyone is under some kind of authority. Of course, for Christians, God is our ultimate authority. As a child, you were under the authority of your parents and teachers. If you have a job, you are under the authority of your supervisor. As citizens of the respective countries we live in, we are under the laws that govern our nations. To rebel against any kind of authority can bring serious short-term and long-term consequences. The Bible makes it very clear that all authority comes from God and serves His purposes.
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men- as free, yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17, NKJV).
The Apostle Paul goes even further to explain the importance of submitting to authority.
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’s sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.” (Romans 13:1-6, NKJV).
Jesus was asked about whether or not people should pay taxes to Rome. Jesus’ response was: “’Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have? They answered and said, Caesar’s. And He said to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Luke 20:24-25, NKJV).
At this point you may be asking, “Well, yes, I understand, but what if my government is corrupt and promotes evil?” Consider the context in which the New Testament was written. All of the books in the New Testament were written approximately mid-to-late First Century, the time of the Roman Empire. Rome, according to secular history, was morally corrupt and its citizens and emperors engaged of lifestyles of hedonism and decadence. Where Christians ran afoul with the Roman government was in their refusal to worship the emperor as God because we serve the one and only God. If a government forces you to personally renounce your faith in Christ and pledge allegiance to an idol or leader, then yes, stand up and declare the word, just as Peter and John did when they were brought before the Council and forbidden from preaching in Jesus’s name (see Acts 4:1-31).
History is in God’s hands
God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), so we will never fully understand His purposes, which includes who is appointed or elected to political office. As Christians, we must remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty and that He is directing the events of history and the affairs of man. Though you may disagree with a political leader or a ruling of a court, remember God has appointed these leaders for His higher purposes.
“Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.’”(Daniel 2:20-21, NKJV).
“But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:7, NKJV).
“He leads counselors away plundered, and makes fools of the judges. He loosens the bonds of kings, and binds their waist with a belt. He leads princes away plundered, and overthrows the mighty…He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them.” (Job 12:17-19, 23, NKJV).
Christians must stop fighting the culture wars
As we are living in the End Times, the Bible reminds us that society will grow more and more evil and corrupt (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). The Church and Christians will face persecution in this world as Jesus taught because we are not of the world. Our home and citizenship is in heaven and we are pilgrims and nomads passing through this life. Jesus stated that we are sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Our purpose as Christians is to declare the Word of God and to make disciples. If we are to declare the Word, we must not engage in senseless debates with the culture, which only brings further division, but we must proclaim Christ.
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourself to be godly.” (1 Timothy 4:7, NIV).
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:23-26, NIV).
We must live our lives as an example of Christ. Jesus faced opposition from both the Roman government and the religious leaders of His day, yet on the cross forgave His enemies and died for them the same as He died for you and me. The Church must not take sides in a political debate, but we must show the love of Christ. We must pray for our political leaders and for all of those in our lives who do not know Christ. The sins of the world are no different than our sins. We must not speak judgment and condemnation atop from our self-righteous perches, but we must step down and walk beside those who do not know Christ to show them the way of salvation.