“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (ESV)
To state that this is an interesting and deeply divisive political moments is, well a Captain Obvious statement. This series of blog posts has had as its goal to challenge those who are disciples of Jesus to think deeply about their political engagement. Followers of Jesus are citizens of a different Kingdom, and have bowed their knees to Christ as their Lord or King. What this means is that the values, mindset, character, and passions expounded in Scriptures should shape our interaction with the world. One possible conclusion that could be drawn would be that the best way to deal with the politics in the earthly kingdoms is to withdraw, to not be involved. If we are to be separate from the world maybe the best way to do that is to get out of the political realm altogether. This is really not what I am arguing for, nor do I believe it represents the posture for the people of God as prescribed in the Scriptures. In fact, uninvolvement is a denial of the cultural mandate given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount calling the church to be salt and light. And it has been tried with failure. The primary posture of the church in the 1950’s into the 60’s was to avoid political involvement and keep silent about political issues. A good example is the issue of abortion. From the onset of this issue the Catholic Church was engaged and pro-life. Yet, in large part, evangelicals considered it a political issue, so they did not address it from their pulpits and did not advocate for life in the culture. The lack of a voice in the 60’s coupled with a revolution in the culture led to a changing public opinion and political landscape. This was a significant factor that led to the the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1972. It was no until abortion was legalized that most Christians decided to engage the issue.
I believe the best posture for Kingdom people is to engage the present kingdoms as best as we can with the values of Christ’s Kingdom. In referring to the church as salt and light, Jesus gives us clear direction about the nature of our influence. We function as change agents that preserve that which is decaying and adding flavor to a tasteless world. We function as luminaries shining the light of the glory of Christ in a dark world revealing the darkness and showing the path to Christ and His Kingdom. But Jesus also gives two warnings. Tasteless salt that has been absorbed and lost its flavor is useless. This happens when we lose our distinctiveness in the public square as we have the same allegiances and values as the world. Hidden light is just as bad, as it leaves the world in the dark. This happens when we withdraw and fail to represent Christ in the world. My goal for this post is to share some ways I believe Christians can and should be involved in the political process. We do so representing Christ’s Kingdom and standing for the values He gives us. Furthermore, in doing these we can become salt and light to our world.
Vote – Yep, I said it. I do believe we should vote. To be honest, it is hard to find a chapter and verse for this one because the idea of voting in governmental issues is as foreign to the Bible as the North Pole. In governmental issues the Bible speaks to kings and subjects. Kings are to rule, subjects are to follow, obey, and hold accountable. But the American experiment in representative democracy puts you and I in this interesting position where we are both kings and subject. In a real way, rather than one crown, the American idea is that the authority in government rests with the people. In a way, you and I actually wear 1/328 millionth of a crown. What the Bible is clear about is that all governments are ordained by God, meaning that our freedoms and liberties are part of His design plan. The right to vote, I believe, is a trust that has been given to us by our Creator, a trust not owned by us but given to us. When we go to the polls a week from Tuesday we are participating in our clearest opportunity to live as faithful stewards of that trust. Some may disagree with this (this is totally a open-handed issue), but for me, to fail to vote when given this opportunity is sin because it would be failure in the stewardship of the trust that God has given me as an American citizen. Whom you vote for is up to you, hopefully arrived at via a combination of information gathering about issues and candidates, deep prayer, and developing a Christian worldview through Scripture. I know Christians who are voting in many different ways and arrived at their conclusion for myriads of reasons. I spoke to one friend last week whose grid is that he tends to vote out of love for neighbor, choosing the candidate that would allow his neighbors the greatest opportunity for thriving. Others might choose to vote based on a few clear issues, or the character of the candidate. Educate yourself, wrestle with these issues for yourself (and with your family). Engage in discussion and loving debate. Then, on November 3 make time, get to the polls and cast your vote. When you have done that, go home and rest in God’s sovereignty trusting the outcome to Him.
Consider being a leader – This is not for everyone, but some people should consider the possibility that God’s call is for leadership in the public square. We need Christian school board members, local politicians, and even national leaders who feel the call to represent Christ in government. We need Christians who will lead the way in certain causes and issues, fighting in the government for righteousness and justice. We have multiple examples in the Scriptures of people who served kings and leaders while honoring God and promoting His glory. Joseph served Pharoah and God used him to rescue both the nation and his own family. Daniel spent 70 years faithfully serving a line of Babylonian and Persian rulers faithfully while also staying completely faithful to His God. His influence of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius was significant and led to greater prospering for God’s people. Nehemiah served the Persian ruler faithfully arriving in an incredibly trusted position. To be a cup bearer for a king at that time is actually a cabinet type position whose responsibility is to defend the king from assassination attempts. Because of his character he had influence before the king which led directly to his being sent to Jerusalem with the authority and funding from Persia to build the walls around the city. God orchestrated the events of Esther’s life that ended up with this Jewish young woman serving as queen. Her marriage to the king gave her influence which she used to foil a plot to exterminate the Jews. History has many examples of believers whose governmental service was seasoned with salt and filled with light resulting in cultural change and Gospel advance. William Wilberforce served England as a member of Parliament. His Christian convictions led him to fight for the end of the African slave trade and the abolition of slavery. His efforts began around 1789 and he fought for this issue for close to 20 consecutive years before Parliament voted to end the slave trade in England. His faithful service was vital for the end of slavery in England and one of the primary reasons the abolition of slavery came in a much smoother and more civil way than it ended here. We must see service in our government as a noble cause, and encourage people to do so with integrity.
Advocacy – One of the major criticisms I hear about Christians as voters is that we will vote about an issue but we are otherwise uninvolved in the lives of people around those issues. There is truth to this, and untruth. it may be true that some will let one or two issues deeply influence their vote yet will not involve themselves in representing Kingdom values concerning the issue itself. And I would agree that if an issue is so weighty to you that it pushes you to vote a certain way but it is not weighty enough to push you to open your calendar and checkbook to that issue, then our message has dissonance. On the other hand, there are all kinds of examples of Christians deeply involving themselves in the issues that shape our politics and world. Believers in Jesus are engaged in issues of life, justice, and poverty care. Christians are often on the front line of defending religious liberty for all and for giving compassion to marginalized peoples. I have argued that voting is important, and we should do it. But I also believe strongly that the Gospel will compel us to love neighbor and be involved in the world. I’ve said this many times here at Genesis. Every cry of injustice ought to get our ear. When someone claims injustice is happening we should listen, hear the cry, mourn with those who mourn, and have the compassion of Christ toward them. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with all the claims or the solutions. But we should hear the voice and enter into their pain. Beyond this, though, at least one cry of injustice and brokenness should get our hands and feet. In other words, we should seek to find clear ways to represent the values of the Kingdom in the world by working as advocates for a cause that matters deeply. When we invest our lives in issues of life, race, poverty, immigration, religious freedom, and a myriad of other issues, engaging them as agents of Christ’s Kingdom, our loving influence in the political realm may have the greatest impact.
Prophetic voice and witness – The Biblical stance on many political issues is one of ambivalence. As a hunter and gun owner, I do appreciate the Second Amendment, but it would be fairly difficult to form a Biblical argument defending the right to bear arms. Now don’t mishear me, I’m not saying it is not important. But I am saying that Christians may come to very different convictions on this and many other issues. On the other hand, there are other issues which may be political, but they are also Kingdom issues with much clearer words from Divine revelation as to what we should believe, feel, and do. The value and sanctity of human life created in the image of God from womb to tomb, well, that is an issue with incredible Biblical clarity. Our voice should be clear in standing for the unborn, for the aged, and for black and brown skinned people when they are marginalized. The gift of gender and sacredness of marriage is also a very clear Biblical issue. The Bible also speaks consistently and clearly about poverty care and welcoming the foreigner. Of course, political solutions addressing these issues are varied and can be debated. Yet, where Scripture speaks to the issue we should be equally as clear. The prophets in the Old Testament had the role of representing God to kings, religious leaders, and the people. They spoke with equal clarity to wicked kings deeply entrenched in sin and idolatry and godly kings who sought to lead the nation toward righteousness. The prophetic voice charted the way to blessing and revealed God’s beautiful purposes for the world. In the New Testament, that prophetic voice has been passed on to the church as the people of God. We no longer need a mystical word from the Lord to reveal what He has to say, we have His inerrant and sufficient Word found in the pages of Scripture. It is our joyful responsibility to speak the truth of God clearly in our world.
I have often heard the mantra that we should avoid speaking about or into certain issues because they are “political issues”. I’ve heard that when preachers addressed abortion, and I’ve heard it expressed when the church interacts with the issue of racial justice. While both (and a lot of other issues) do have political implications, they are issues of justice and righteousness as well. The prophetic witness of the church is an important aspect of our political engagement. We must speak clearly in our pulpits, neighborhoods, and public squares declaring the truths God has revealed toward the issues of our day. But our voice and witness will only be prophetic if it is truly aimed in all directions. It is the false prophets in the Old Testament who get comfortably close to the king, enjoying their position of power while refusing to honestly point out the sin and idolatry in his rule. If our prophetic voice is loud and clear toward one group or party, while almost silent toward the other, it might be a sign that we are acting more like the false prophets in the Old Testament than the true. Furthermore, we are commanded that we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and give answers to objectors with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). This means that the content of our words may have a bite, but the way which we give them must reflect the gracious love of Jesus.
Well, that is enough for this post. There are so many other ways we can represent Christ, being agents of salt and light in our political world. May God use us to give flavor and illuminate our culture with the light of the Gospel.