Turn on the news right now and more than likely some story related to politics will be trending.
As we move closer to any election season, the airwaves become clogged with politic advertisements. Often, even before one presidential election is over, media is speculating who the next candidates will be four years down the road. It seems that politics are as much a part of the American landscape as apple pie and mom.
Even more pervasive are the various viewpoints expressed by Americans regarding their political feelings. If people aren’t verbally informing us what they think, they are posting it on their social media accounts, bumper stickers or t-shirts. Sadly, many conversations dealing with politics become quite hostile, leaving behind both friendships and civility. A question arises from this, “Just what relationship should a disciple of Christ have with politics”, because even the Bible seems to present differing ideas on the subject.
Some Biblical Political Figures
Starting in Genesis, the Bible presents the first in long line of God’s people who were deeply involved in political structures.
As prime minister, Joseph helped guide Egypt, the superpower of its time, out of the peril of a terrible drought.
When Israel asked for a king, God allowed them to have their first, Saul.
David and Solomon soon followed before Israel was split into northern and southern kingdoms, which both went on to have their share of both godly and ungodly kings. There were also the host of those who helped govern the affairs of these two nations.
Daniel and Mordecai, along with many others taken captive to Babylon, spent a lifetime in political service to both the Babylonians and Medo-Persians in a host of governmental capacities.
And in the New Testament, the popular Jewish cry was a very anti-Roman one, even if Paul would later send greetings to those who were a part of Caesar’s household.
While it is tempting to look at all these examples and say Christians are permitted to be utterly consumed with the political process, the Bible offers a differing view.
Yes, Paul clearly points out in Romans 13, how everyone is subject to the government, especially in the realm of taxes. Jesus, also responding about the lawfulness of taxes, delineates between paying Caesar and God what rightfully belongs to whom. But, in both instances the caveat is given, namely government is obeyed because God sets up and tears down governments, while at the same time, what is important to God is loyalty to Him.
Citizens of A Better Kingdom
The Bible is clear, you and I are children of the King whose sovereignty extends over all the universe, not just one planet or nation. Paul declares, twice, how Christians are ambassadors, not of earthly kingdoms, but rather of a heavenly one.
In Ephesians 6:20, it is this ambassadorship which led to his being in chains, while in 2 Corinthians 5:20, we are all to be ambassadors carrying the message of reconciliation from our Father’s realm to this world.
The ultimate expression of this idea comes when Jesus is before Pilate. Asked if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus’ response was,
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
Clearly understood, our battle is not for the preservation of this fallen world because it is fleeting, and our citizenship isn’t here but above. So, if we are not truly citizens here, but ambassadors of heaven, what part are we as Christians to play in the political affairs of this world?
The most important place to start answering the question is found in a forgotten Christian asset—prayer. This is not always remembered, especially if one’s favored candidate is not in office.
Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 point towards the duty you and I share in praying, earnestly, for all who are in authority,
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.
Notice in verse 2, it is so we can have lives lived in peace and safety of a society guided by heavenly principles. Before anyone begins to complain about the situation, ask, when and how did I pray for that person, issue or situation. Did I ask for God’s wisdom and protection regarding the matter at hand? I can’t even begin to imagine the strain the burdens of leadership can place on individuals, and their families, in trying to govern not just a handful of people, but whole nations, whose decisions create ripples in time. I can only say that Esther and the Jews certainly did, and their lives were literally on the line when they prayed for Esther’s meeting with Xerxes (Esther 4:16).
Besides praying for leaders, are you and I praying and studying for God’s light on the matters?
It may seem harsh, but “Many Sabbath keepers are not right before God in their political views,” and in fairness, I must include myself here too, for I know in times past I’ve not seen certain issues or candidates for how God saw them. Ellen White cautions that the major problem with strong political views held contrary to God’s is the lack of unity it creates among fellow Christians. She says the “Lord would have His people bury political questions. On these themes silence is eloquence.” Several pages later, she cautions Adventists, to “not take part in political strife.”
So, Are We Just To Do Nothing? No.
First, I’ve already mentioned our need for prayer, not just for people and issues, but for our own wisdom.
Next, we are highly blessed to live in a country where we have the right to vote our consciences. A friend of mine, who was from a country which was not so generous in voting rights, when asking for more information about candidates and issues, was told he did not need those, the only real choice was to merely vote, Yes.
So as Adventists living in the United States, there is a freedom to vote as God has directed your conscience, remembering there is no need to enter into conflict with fellow members about your choices for candidates or issues.
After that, in making choices based on educated convictions, to remember at times, it is not a party line which is best to follow, but rather a line following the issues’ morality and influence of God’s principles instead.
Finally remembering, even today, there are those whom God has called to serve as His ambassadors from positions of political influence. These individuals — like Joseph, Esther or Daniel — seek to provide a voice of God’s guidance in the affairs of people, for “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Wherever you decide to stand on the spectrum of political involvement, remember Christ first in all things. He is the true King, and as disciples, you are ambassadors for His kingdom.
Michael Stough II, is Pastor at the Springfield SDA Church, and coordinator of Disciple Ohio.