Friday, March 25, 2011

Christianity and Government Involvement

Should Christians be involved in Government?

Should American Christians be involved in political issues and elections? Should Christians vote for their leaders? If they do vote, do they vote in every election that comes around, or do they just vote in the “major elections?” Do they take the time to acquire a sample ballot prior to the election so they can make an informed decision on what they are voting for? Do they make any effort do in-depth research on the candidates, the issues and the questions? Should Christians write to their Senators and Congressmen?

If you ever decide to poll your Christian friends with these questions, you may want to prepare yourself for a shock. A fair number of Christians will tell you that they vote in Presidential elections, but you aren’t likely to find many who vote in every election that comes around. Even more disturbing is the degree of background information that most Christians actually utilize in order to make informed decisions about what they are voting on. Outside of headlines and bullet points acquired in the evening news, most voters have little to no information about the candidates or the issues. Why are many Christians simply not interested in our political process?

Voting is merely the starting point in citizen involvement. Our responsibility isn’t over after the election. Our President, our Governors, our Senators and our Representatives still need to hear from us on a regular basis. Our elected leaders need to know and understand the heart of the electorate. It’s very easy to communicate with our representatives these days. Nevertheless, very few Christians have ever written to their elected leaders.

“We have no business interfering with God’s plan,” say many Christians. “God is in charge of all the rulers and kingdoms of the world. There is nothing we can do about it.” One of the scriptures these Christians are likely to quote is: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Romans 13:1

“As a matter of fact,” they may continue, “We are instructed that instead of being involved in the governmental process, we should just pray for our rulers.” I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
I Timothy 2:1-3

Many Christians defend their silence on political issues by saying, “God did not call the church to influence the culture by promoting legislation. What happens in this world is God’s will. We are to stay out of it. We should only pray that God’s will be done.” They continue to say, “The Bible does not specifically instruct us to be involved in government, therefore, we should not voice our opinions to our representatives. Instead of trying to manipulate the direction of government, we should just pray for our leaders.”

And finally, many Christians say that the Great Commission instructs us that our duty is to win souls, not influence government. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Matthew 28:19.

Are these responses right? Are we to stay out of our country’s political business? Should we forego the opportunity to inform our leaders of our opinions about the direction our country is heading?

Old Testament Examples of Government Involvement
Maybe this would be a good time to spend a little time looking at other scriptures in the Bible. Are there any instances in scripture where God’s followers participated in government?

Joseph was involved in government. Not only was he involved, he actually participated as a government ruler. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.
Genesis 41:39-44

Another example of government involvement is found with Mordecai. And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.
Esther 8:15

For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.
Esther 10:3

This is interesting. If God’s followers are not to be involved in government, why were Joseph and Mordecai involved in government?

“Well, those examples are found in the Old Testament,” some Christians may say. “What about the New Testament? The New Testament sets the stage for Christian activities.” Okay, let’s consider someone in the New Testament. John the Baptist wasn’t afraid to offer his opinion to King Herod. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.
Mark 6:18

“That isn’t a very good example,” some may say. “For one thing, it is only one example out of the whole New Testament. For another thing, John the Baptist lived prior to the Church age. Since the Bible is silent about Christian involvement in government, we should stay out of such affairs.” That may be a fair statement, so let’s explore it a little further.

Models of Government in Jesus’ time
What sort of governmental bodies existed in Bible times? Almost without exception, all governments were of an authoritarian sort. Generally, every country in the known world was ruled by a king, a monarch, a dictator or a pharaoh. In these kinds of governments, one or a handful of people were forcefully in charge of their subjects. If someone were to approach the king and tell him that he was running the country wrong, that person would likely be executed on the spot. In Jesus’ day and in the days of the Apostles, the world’s countries were still controlled by men who ruled by force.

As a consequence, the Bible was silent when it came to instructions regarding Christian involvement in government. “That’s not fair,” some may say. “If God wanted us to be involved in the direction of our country, the Bible would have found some way to give us the proper instructions for such involvement. Besides that, all governments are put in place by God and ordained by God. We have no business interfering in God’s plan.”

Examples of commands in N.T. that we do not follow

Well, let’s look a little closer. With that kind of logic, every modern-day Christian woman should be silent in the Church.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
I Corinthians 14:34-35.

In spite of this scripture, modern Christian women are far from silent in the Church. This seems to be a direct command, yet it is not obeyed in modern churches. Why? Perhaps it is because the position of women in Bible times was far different than the position of women in modern times. Times have changed and circumstances are different.

Then, there is the issue with slavery. Slavery was commonplace in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. There was nothing wrong with a Christian being a slave owner. Actually, it was quite normal. Consequently, there were rules that a Christian slave owner was obliged to adhere to. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Colossians 4:1

We Twenty-First Century Christians would never think of owning a slave just because the Apostle Paul thought it was just fine to own one.

U. S. government is a Republic that is based on Democracy not Dictatorship
The Bible says that governments were put in place by God. It stands to reason therefore, that the United States government was put in place by God. The Bible also says that we are to obey the government. According to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, our government is, “…of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution says, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The “of the people and by the people” in Lincoln’s Address, and the “We the people” in the U.S. Constitution implies that all of the country’s citizens are by default, involved in the direction our country takes. As citizens of this great nation, we are obliged to have a voice in our government’s affairs. This nation that was “…ordained of God” (Romans 13:1) was established to be ruled by the will of its citizens…not by the will of its leaders.

How often have we heard ministers remind us that we should thank God every day that we live in a free country where we can say what we want, do what we want, read what we want and go where we want to go without fear of punishment from the government? How often have Christians expressed thankfulness that we can freely read our Bibles while at the same time, citizens of other countries are at risk of being jailed if they are caught with a Bible in their possession?

These freedoms did not come about by accident. Christian men formed this nation of freedoms. Ever since this nation was formed, voters have been electing people to office who have continued to keep our freedoms in place. In addition to voting people in office, a certain number of concerned citizens have reminded our leaders of the people’s will. This is done by communicating with the leaders, either personally, by phone, or by mail.

Should Modern-Day Christians be involved in politics?
Many Christians are quick to point out that our mission is to simply “let our light shine” before all of the unbelievers in the world, yet far too many Christians are not only apathetic when it comes to politics, they actually refuse to let their light shine when it comes to making their voices heard regarding the direction that our country is heading.

There are two forces at work in this world, one evil and one righteous. Jesus said, He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathered not with me scattereth abroad. Matthew 12:30. By voting and communicating with our leaders, our nation goes in the direction its citizens instruct it to go. If Christians don’t vote, and if Christians don’t communicate with our leaders, this nation will go the way of other nations of the world, which is away from God and God’s principles.

Our country was established on Judeo-Christian principles. However, that moral consensus has given way to many morally corrupt and hedonistic principles. This happened only with the tacit approval of the Christian majority. How did the Christian majority approve such a change? They approved this change by their apathy. Instead of voicing their opposition to such changes, only a vast silence has been heard. The silence of many Christians has also been evident at the polls. Sadly, less than half of self-described Christians voted in federal elections in the last fifty years. Too many voices within the Christian community are encouraging fellow Christians to keep silent, especially when it comes to civic and cultural concerns.

The preservation of our freedom and morality depends on our citizens placing principled men in office. If we fail in this obligation, our government will soon be corrupted, and laws will be made that are not for the public good. Corrupt or incompetent men will end up being appointed to be judges, and the rights of our citizens will be violated or outright disregarded.

Americans are blessed with the freedom to organize, campaign, vote and write to their Senators and Congressmen. If they allow apathy to cause them to ignore that freedom, they may find themselves someday being held accountable for that apathy.

It seems to reason that if Christians neglect their civil duty, they should not expect deliverance from the national consequences to follow. On the other hand, when Christians do the opposite and diligently fulfill not just their duty toward God, but also their civic duty to their government, they set the stage for His blessings on their land. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” Proverbs 29:2 and Righteousness exalts a nation. Proverbs 14:34.

Some Christians say that rather than voting and being otherwise involved in government, we should obey I Timothy 2:1, 2 which says that we should just pray for rulers. Continuing, they say that by being involved in the government, we might be working against God's power to choose rulers according to His will.

Think on this for a moment. God instructs us in Matthew 6:11 to pray for our daily bread. Does this mean we should just sit back and let God do it all, or should we try to find a job and let God use us as the means to answer the prayer? Should we avoid looking for a job because we might take a job other than the one God in His providence wanted us to take?

In III John 2, we are instructed to pray for good health. Some people mistakenly believe that going to a doctor shows a lack of faith in God's power to answer prayer. Yet Christians know that the doctor may be the very means God uses to answer the prayer!

By default, all Americans are participants in political involvement. By participating, we have the opportunity of voting for our elected officials and for ensuring that we have proper and decent laws and traditions. If we truly believe our government was divinely ordained and instituted by God, this freedom and opportunity should not only be enjoyed, it should be exercised.

Christians who vote but are at the same time against writing to their Congressmen and Senators could be confused. These Christians mistakenly say that voting is one thing, but writing to their leaders is meddling in God’s plan. What then, is voting? Casting a vote can also be defined as meddling in God’s plan. The very act of voting is the same as voicing one’s opinions.

Christians should not be passive spectators in society's culture. While our primary task may the Great Commission, we are to engage our culture at all levels, advancing moral principles and seeking to restrain evil.