What is the Christian’s role in politics?
The world system and its principles are opposed to God (John 14:17; 15:18, 19; 1 John 2:16). We have been taken out of it (John 17:6, 16). We are called to be distinct from it (2 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 12:2). The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ stands between it and us (Galatians 6:14). Although some of these passages refer to the religious world, we are assured that “the prince of this world” (John 12:32; 14:30; 16:11) controls every aspect of the world (1 John 5:19); therefore, the principles apply broadly.
“In the days of His flesh,” what was the Lord’s role in the political world? He was aware of its injustices (Luke 13:1-3) and of the “undesirables” in authority (Matthew 22:16-21). The political Jews tried to draw Him into that, but He used both occasions for a spiritual message. The truth of salvation which He preached eventually changed social problems, like slavery, but that was not His focus. We are not reading too much into His words, “I pray not for the world” (John 17:9), to recognize that those taken out of the world system by salvation are His present concern and not the world system itself.
He was crucified through bribery, political intrigue, political weakness, expediency, and laws opposing God’s truth. Even then His servants did not resist (John 18:36). This was based on a principle: His kingdom was not from this world. And neither is ours. “Our conversation (citizenship, politics, enfranchisement, voting rights) is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
In the first century of Christianity, the few wealthy believers who could participate in politics never received any encouragement to do so or to raise funds so others could. The pervasion of democracy now makes such involvement available to all. The present, prominent involvement of believers in politics, as much as we appreciate their confession of faith, does not change scriptural principles.
Should a Christian voluntarily vote?
This has probably never been more relevant than now. Evangelical leaders are insisting that Christians vote. They purport to teach this from the Bible. This is different from assembly teaching in the past, so respect and wisdom ask, “What has changed?”
Two suggestions may help us regain our perspective. First, the history of democracy in North America has roots in Christian principles, thus the designation, “Christian countries.” A “mixed multitude” formed without a clear gospel has produced a constituency that makes the political world appear friendly to God. Pluralism and humanism, however, now threaten this “Christian government.” Evangelicals see a “good world” becoming corrupted. More biblically, the world is removing its mask. Christian principles had weight in the past because of the gospel’s spiritual impact on society, not because the world had changed. Being “the salt of the earth” does not require Christian involvement in the world. The Christian preserves the culture by the truth he represents and presents. The world needs the gospel that grants life, rather than laws that guide living.
Second, evangelicalism’s present emphasis on political involvement appears to result from a shift of understanding and emphasis regarding future events. A growing part of evangelicalism no longer understands that the Lord’s coming precedes the tribulation and the millennium. This places a greater emphasis on improving the present world. It also blurs the distinction between God’s dealings in the past with an earthly people Israel and in the present with a heavenly people. The citation of Old Testament passages to support political involvement witnesses to this. Even evangelicals who believe in a pre-tribulation Rapture have been unduly influenced by those with wrong views of future events. Added to this is the danger that prosperity has historically made Christians more at home in this world. Rather than looking for the imminent coming of Christ, we become increasingly involved in the world.
The past teaching that Christians should not voluntarily vote is based on sound biblical principles. Christians are separate from a world system which is opposed to God and is not redeemable apart from the coming of Christ. Christians are not directed to improve the world, but to proclaim the gospel that condemns it and offers salvation from it.
Should Christian’s take a fatalistic view of political elections?
Godly living includes subjection to governmental authority (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1) and prayer for the salvation of rulers and all men (1 Timothy 2:1-4). The Lord Himself was interested in the affairs of the political world (Luke 13:1-3, 32; 19:12-14), but the only specific involvement is His teaching that His disciples pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth” (Matthew 6:10). We are therefore concerned about God’s will being carried out in governments, including in elections. To this end we pray.
To be fair, though, the argument that Christians shouldn’t vote because they might be opposing God’s will in an election is weak. By the same logic, a Christian could hardly dress himself for fear of violating God’s will on a given day that he wear black shoes instead of brown shoes. We seek to know God’s will, pray for it, and do it. If it were right for Christians to vote, they should seek to ascertain God’s will for an election, pray for it, and vote accordingly. The weak link in that statement is not the difficulty in ascertaining God’s will, but the premise. Christians shouldn’t voluntarily vote.