The adult Sunday school class at the church we attend has been going through a series by Chip Ingram entitled Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues. We have looked at what the Bible says about truth, abortion, the environment, sex, homosexuality and the past two weeks we have covered The Church and Politics. Although it wasn’t intentional on behalf of the teacher, it is interesting, and great timing, that we should be covering The Church and Politics just before the November elections (tomorrow). Many folks think there are two subjects that are off limits for discussion: religion and politics. Granted they can create some very heated conversations, often without much light, but as believers, we happen to have a dual citizenship, so we have a responsibility to both the kingdom of heaven’s work here on earth and also to the government under which we live. Balancing those two out is what is difficult.
Since we are so prone to the swinging of the pendulum, we tend to either become separatists who believe that the church should have nothing to do with the political realm, or we become activists who feel the church should be highly involved in helping to influence the governmental system. As Chip Ingram discovered when he was a young pastor, the issue of the church and politics is possibly the greatest polarizing issue in the church, with some folks on each end of the spectrum of separatism versus activism and the majority somewhere in between. As he struggled with how to navigate through this maze of the Church and politics, he came up with four biblical absolutes as a framework to help us think clearly about the role of the Church in politics. Here they are:
- There are two kingdoms in conflict: an eternal heavenly, spiritual kingdom and an earthly, temporal, secular kingdom. a. Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (Jn. 18:36). b. Jesus is building a kingdom which is in conflict with earthly, physical kingdoms.
- Every believer has dual citizenship and thus dual responsibilities. a. The Pharisees and Herodians, trying to trap Jesus into siding either with the Jews or the Romans, asked Him if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (Mk. 12:13-15). If he said “Yes,” then He would be siding with the Romans. If He said “No,” then He would be siding with the Jews. Either way, they had him in a trap. But, Jesus answer, which amazed them, was “…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God, the things that are God’s” (Mk. 12:17). b. As believers, not only are we citizens of an earthly kingdom, but “…our citizenship is (also) in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Phil. 3:20). So we have a responsibility to support our government (even though it may be evil—like the Roman government) and to support the Kingdom of God.
- Human governments are ordained by God to restrain evil (Ro. 13:1-7). a. As Paul said, “…There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God…” and “…it is a minister of God to you for good…” (Keep in mind that the Roman government was very ungodly and corrupt!) b. The government is God’s servant to restrain evil, but cannot produce righteousness.
- The church is ordained by God to make disciples. a. In His commission to the disciples, Jesus said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…baptizing…teaching…” (Mt. 28:18-20). b. The role of the church is to produce additional followers of Christ, training them to disciple others. c. When Christians live like Christians they will have an impact on their family, the church, the community, the culture, and the government, and thus the nation (Think about Joseph and Daniel). The early church was powerful because it focused on Jesus’ command to disciple others and thus to change one life at a time through the Gospel, something that the government cannot do and wasn’t intended to do.
So, how do we apply these basic biblical principles in our daily living with respect to the church and politics? Here are the ways Chip Ingram suggests:
- Let the Church be the Church—to exalt Christ. a. Through prayer: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and for all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:1-4). We love to complain about those in office. How often do we pray for them? Pretty convicting, huh! b. Through preaching and teaching the truth of God’s Word, helping others to develop a biblical world view on subjects like the home, marriage, work, sexuality, etc. “I solemnly charge you…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction” (II Tim. 4:1,2). c. Model the truth, righteousness, justice…be the salt and light you are intended to be in a dark and decaying world so that when others see your good works, they will “glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:13-16).
- Don’t expect the government to achieve what only the church can accomplish. a. We may be thinking, “Oh, if only tomorrow’s election turns out the way I want it..” not realizing we are subconsciously believing our government can produce righteousness–it cannot! It’s job is to restrain evil. b. At some point in our history both major political parties have been in control—so where has that taken us spiritually as a nation? c. A particular political system is not the answer to the human heart—only God has that answer.
- Don’t expect the church to accomplish what only individual believers can achieve. a. We (individually) have a responsibility to both our government and nation and to our Heavenly Father and His kingdom of righteousness. We should not demand that our local assembly of believers corporately promote our passion. But we had better be doing so individually by living a Christ-like life and getting involved wherever possible to have an influence for Him, whether it is writing letters to our representatives, attending city council meetings, running for school board or governor or president! God’s program to build His kingdom is one of penetration, of infiltration. We are salt, but if we stay in the salt shaker, we have no influence on the earthly kingdom. b. One thing you need to for sure do, and that is to vote tomorrow (If you haven’t already by absentee ballot). It is not only our right as a citizen of this great nation, but it is our responsibility. Of the 60 million registered voters in the U.S. who claim to be evangelical Christians, only 20 million voted in the last presidential election. That’s really a sad commentary on our responsibility as Christians. And when you vote, be a “kingdom voter” who votes, not based on political parties, but on biblical principles and what candidate most closely shares those values. The majority of Americans vote based on who can best keep the economy going, meaning they vote very selfishly considering who can help me be the most comfortable and have the most stuff. Also a tragic commentary on our nation.
“The future of America will ultimately rest, not on politicians, but on the fervency of God’s people in sharing their faith as credible witnesses to the Christ who saved them. Unless the culture changes, America will not change, and that change is brought about one life, on family, and one community at a time” (Erwin Lutzer, Pastor of Moody Church, in his book When a Nation Forgets God).