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Christian Political Involvement: Striking the Balance Without Falling into the Ditch

March 24th, 2016 5 comments

balance

Martin Luther once likened fallen human nature to a drunkard trying to ride a horse. He mounts the horse only to fall off on the right side. He mounts from the right side only to land on the left. You get the picture.

I’m afraid the same analogy could be made for Christians trying to successfully ride the cultural engagement horse through yet another election cycle. I find my fellow believers falling off the horse from both directions. Let me explain.

On one side of the horse we have those who, like a pastor friend of mine, argue for staying out of politics altogether. He recently made the argument that “the Christian conservative political movement is a distraction to the Church.” He suggests Christians need to return to prayer and focus on developing greater intimacy with Christ. He admonished us to avoid “getting caught up in the frenzy” and to direct our focus to prayer.

On the other side of the horse are those who really do place their faith in electing the right people to office. If we have Christian leaders in our nation’s highest places of government, order and sanity can be restored to America and we will live happily ever after.

May I suggest that those who hold both of these positions will find themselves falling headlong into the same ditch!

First of all, Christians must be reminded that they have a sacred duty to choose those who will govern us. Government is not a wicked, self-serving, carnal pursuit simply to be left to those who have an aversion to prayer meetings. Government is an institution created by God and it exists for His glory and for the good of the people. As Americans, we have the incredible privilege of choosing those who will lead us. For government to fulfill its God-ordained purpose, Christians must be involved in selecting good men and women to serve. This means some of us will actually embrace the sacred call to public service and others will roll up their sleeves and do whatever is necessary to get our brothers and sisters elected. This is not a distraction. To the contrary, this is both a sacred duty and a civic obligation. The Scriptures proclaim, “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.” (Proverbs 29:2) Our sacred duty before God is to make sure we elect righteous people. This demands our cultural engagement as people of faith.

We must strenuously avoid the false dualism and compartmentalization so prevalent in the Church today. The good news is comprehensive in nature – Jesus is Lord of all. Pastors from an earlier time clearly understood this. It was a regular practice for pastors to preach election sermons to train their congregations in godly civil involvement. Here’s an excerpt from one such sermon by Pastor Chandler Robbins in 1791:

“Nothing will so surely, so rapidly bring on the dissolution of society, and the loss of the liberties of a people, as a want of virtue and integrity in their rulers.”

Pastor Chandler understood the tremendous loss of liberty that occurs when ungodly people are placed into positions of authority. Government was instituted by God to restrain evil and to punish wickedness. When the wicked rule, evil is celebrated and the righteous suffer. We must not take a pietistic retreat into our prayer closets while our nation our nation is in such desperate need of our courageous leadership. Yes pray, and then get off your knees and put you hand to the plow. Offer yourself as the answer to your prayers.

Finally, we must avoid the other equally devastating extreme of engaging in an activism that is both Christ-less and prayer-less. A change of political parties or a new face in the White House will not magically solve the magnitude of problems we are currently facing as Americans. Government was never designed to do so. In our desire for reformation, we must never make a golden calf of civil government. Biblical civil government has an important, yet very narrow role to play. As believers, we understand the heart of the problem is spiritual – we have turned our back on God. We need revival in the church and spiritual awakening in our nation. This is why our weapons must be spiritual in nature, and reveals why prayer must forever remain our weapon of choice.

Our cultural engagement must start in our closets of prayer. This is fundamental. Prayer is an act which visibly demonstrates our deep dependence upon the Lord. Prayer seeks God’s heart and God’s power. But prayer alone is always incomplete. Biblical prayer is always accompanied by faith-filled action. Perhaps we need to heed the wise council of those, like St. Augustine, who have successfully navigated the art of cultural horseback riding. His advice remains timeless:

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended upon you.”

When the Church does her job in leading men to Christ and teaching them to obey the Lord in all things, it will most necessarily be reflected in the quality of choices we have during our election season. Bad choices at the ballot box are a sure sign the Church is still trying to get out of the ditch.