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A Guide to Political Engagement

by Stephen Davey

Should Christians vote? 

Yes, absolutely. We have the great privilege to live in a free society, and we should enjoy the benefits of that society by being good citizens. In fact, as good stewards of what God has given us, it is our responsibility to engage with our society, and that certainly includes voting. I look to the example of the apostle Paul, who exercised his right as a Roman citizen to avoid a beating from the governmental authority, and later used his citizenship to appeal his case directly to Caesar. But Paul never made it his life’s mission to stop prisoners from beatings or protect his rights as a Roman citizen. That’s an important distinction. Using the benefits of a free society, while keeping our focus on the Great Commission, is entirely different from working to preserve our freedom and rights and setting our gospel mission aside. 

When we exercise our right to vote, we should do so responsibly. Take the time to research candidates, figuring out where they stand on critical issues. Voter guides, internet sources and other public records can be useful tools. Ultimately, remember that regardless of who you vote for or who wins an election, that God has appointed every civil leader to perform His will regarding the direction of a city, state, nation and world. The hearts of our leaders are in the hand of God, and God is ultimately sovereign over every decision they make. 

What do you think about Christians running for office and engaging in the political arena? 

My prayer is that Christians will glorify God in every profession and field of service, but that they do so with the right perspective. If your talents and abilities and passion gravitate you toward the political realm, then do so to shine as a gospel representative in the world where God has assigned you. 

Daniel will be an excellent example to follow. You may remember how Daniel was taken out of Israel and ended up serving under various kings of Babylon and Assyria. He was so honest, wise, and valuable to these kings, that even when a previous king died, the next king kept Daniel in his service. Daniel served in politics for his entire life — shining as a light for the glory of God in the midst of a dark nation. In fact, Daniel’s light shone so brightly in Babylon that two of the kings he served placed their faith in God as a result. 

In any profession, including politics, the call of Christ is to glorify Him in everything we do, and to use every platform we have to advance His mission and His kingdom. Christians are the salt and light of the world. A politician with a reputation for holy living, biblical thinking, sound judgement, and honor for Christ will be both rare and valuable in the political realm of our local and national world. 

My challenge to a believer with a political interest would be this: like Daniel, don’t let a Babylonian culture change your character. Don’t let the pressure of politics press you into the mold of an ungodly world. Don’t forget the reason you’ve been assigned to your post—to advance the kingdom of Heaven and the testimony of our Creator God to an unbelieving world. You are a citizen of Heaven, as well as a citizen of earth. Those who place a higher priority on their heavenly citizenship provide the greatest benefit to their earthly environment. 

Should we speak out on offensive issues in our culture? 

We certainly should. How many times in the gospels do we see Jesus, our perfect example during His time on earth, speak out in the temple or among the crowds against the offensive teachings and sinful actions accepted in His world? 

Jesus Christ was righteously angry at the offensive use of the temple, when the religious leaders allowed the most sacred real estate to become nothing more than a glorified yard sale. 

But rather than just take offense with the sin of our world, we need to make sure that our comments emanate from a biblical context. In other words, rather than simply declare what grieves us about our culture, we need to share why it grieves us — because sin is dishonorable to God . . . because sin is slander against the glory of God. And ultimately, because sin is the result of separation from God. When we see sin in the world, rather than simply express anger, we should be saddened at the consequences that come from life without Christ. With this perspective, sinners won’t become our enemies, but remain our mission field. 

We have never been called to simply curse the darkness. We are called to shine the light in the midst of darkness . . . and the darker the culture, the brighter our light will shine. 

How do you shepherd a large flock that may not all agree with each other, or you, about certain political issues? 

Our unity is not determined by our political affiliation, but by our spiritual relationship in Christ. Our doctrinal beliefs are what unify us, not the voting booth. Frankly, I’ve never had to tell my congregation which candidate they should vote for because they know where we stand with the scriptures. Typically, political candidates are fairly obvious where they stand on issues and it doesn’t take much detective work to identify their agenda. But at my church, our agenda is the literal interpretation of the scriptures, not a political one. And using the scripture as their guide point, I know my congregation can think critically about political issues and candidates. 

Should Christians identify themselves with political labels, like "conservative" or "liberal"? 

I don’t like labels in the political world any more than in the Christian community. Labels typically carry more baggage than one can afford to lift. At the same time, it’s obvious that a Bible-believing Christian is going to be more conservative than atheists and evolutionists. But wearing a label on your sleeve can be as distracting as a scratchy label on the back of your shirt. 

How can brothers and sisters in Christ be unified as one body when they disagree on major political issues? 

Sometimes unity isn’t possible. A church might not be able to remain unified if it means sacrificing doctrinal purity. I personally can’t imagine a church remaining unified if it is divided on critical issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, gender identity or euthanasia. Those issues may be political hot spots, but they also derive from an understanding of biblical exposition. The scriptures speak to such things as gender, marriage, and when life begins, for a pastor to avoid these issues means that he must avoid certain scriptures. A. W. Tozer used to say that many pastors avoid teaching verse-by-verse simply because they want to stay out of trouble. I, for one, believe this kind of trouble is worth it — we must deliver unvarnished biblical truth to our world, no matter how counter-cultural it might prove to be. 

But there are some issues where the Bible may not clearly speak, issues like border security, police reform or healthcare. When differences like those arise among believers, the key is to remember what is most important. Jesus is the common ground for believers and understanding the areas where His word does speak clearly will help us find common ground as well. And that shared ground, and our shared mission, will elevate our unity above small differences about particular policies or politicians. 

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