Religion and Politics..

I wrote an article this week for one of the online Christian magazines where I provide a monthly column. It was about religion and politics and whether Christians should be involved in political matters or not.

There are many attacks on Christians from the media. Last night there was a media story on “60 Minutes” about one of the churches here in Australia who were putting up candidates in the state election to be held next weekend. The way the story was presented was as though this church was attempting through stealth to infiltrate the government to gain sufficient power to then sway legislation to a deeply conservative right wing position.

The upshot of the interview was the mixing of politics and religion in the most negative way. It attempted to paint all Christians in this negative light and was basically a hate session against Christianity.

It is to be expected. This is not the first time and it won’t be the last. We are told in scripture:

12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)

So, to expect anything other than persecution and hate from the people of this world is to fool ourselves. It has been proven that Christians are the most persecuted people in the world. Indeed, this persecution was highlighted in an Easter message by Prince Charles (before he became king) several years ago and it is interesting to read his words.

But coming back to religion and politics. Should Christians be involved in politics? The scriptures give us this guidance.

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4)

As the first verse here says, it is God who appoints the governments of this world. They are His servants and are selected by Him to do His will. And that even includes the governments we as Christians would call “bad.” You can see that God sometimes puts people in power to do “bad” things to serve His higher purpose. Consider when Pharaoh was in power in Egypt.

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. (Romans 9:15-18)

God raised up Pharaoh to be king over Egypt at the time when the Israelites were there. This Pharaoh enslaved the people of Israel and forced them to manual labour and would not let them go.

Thus we see an evil ruler raised up by God, but for the purpose of showing God’s will and God’s power in the way that the people were released from their slavery. And there are analogies in that for what happened in the New Testament too, but that’s a story for another time.

So, if there is a government in power, whether you or I think they are a bad government, we must remember to abide by what they say because they are the instruments of God for His greater purposes. There are exceptions when those governments infringe on our rights to worship God freely when we should stand against them, but even the worst governments are there because God put them there.

If we consider times in the Bible when people opposed the legislation of the governments, it was only when the legislation was trying to force people to reject their belief in God. The main examples that come to mind are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. All of these men refused to fall down to false idols, as directed by some evil legislation brought into effect by enemies. They were to be summarily executed but God intervened to save their lives because they were faithful, and instead their enemies suffered and these men were honoured.

But apart from those instances where the legislation opposed their faith, they were fully compliant with the kings and governments of the day, and in fact they became rulers of lands and provinces because the kings knew they could be trusted.

One other thing we should consider regarding whether Christians ought to get involved in politics are the words of Paul to Timothy.

3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

We are soldiers in Christ. We are fighting a spiritual war, not one that involves flesh and blood. We are part of a spiritual army that is fighting against the spiritual forces of darkness that control the people of this world. We are seeking a king and a government that has Jesus Christ at the head. What happens in this world is insignificant in comparison to that.

As soldiers in the army of Christ, we ought not get involved in worldly affairs. And politics in all of it’s forms is a matter of this world.

The form of this world is passing away. The functions and rulers of this world will be washed away when the true King of kings returns to take His rightful place as ruler of all things. And we know that when Jesus returns, every knee shall bow to Him. (See Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10)

So, let us not focus on the issues of this world. Let us not be distracted by the things governments are doing, and instead let us focus on the things that lead to salvation so that we can be part of God’s eternal kingdom.

One final scripture I would add to this that I think will help understanding of what is really important.

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; 42 one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and absorbed His teachings. It was His teachings that would lead her to life.

On the other hand Martha was distracted and busying herself with trying to serve the people in her home. She was frustrated and judged her sister harshly.

Who was the good soldier in this situation? Was it Martha who was racing around serving or was it Mary who sat and listened?

In the church today many would think it is important to be out serving as Martha was. And many would think that chasing political aspirations or protesting bad legislation is a righteous thing to do.

But we see Jesus say that it was Mary who sat and listened to the Lord, learning the truth and the pathways to salvation, who had chosen the better portion. She was not distracted but was able to focus on what was truly necessary. She was focused on what was permanent and lasting. Whereas Martha was distracted and focused on what was temporary and would fade. Let’s face it, if she was preparing food and drink to satisfy the hunger and thirst of those who were there, it would only be temporary. The next day they would all be hungry and thirsty again. And if she had sat and listened as Mary did, when Jesus had finished speaking many could have pitched in to help prepare a meal and Martha would not have missed what was important.

So, the bottom line? As a Christian don’t get involved in the politics of this world. They are blind to the truth and what they are doing will eventually be swept away anyway. Focus instead on the words and teachings of Jesus that lead to life and help as many people as you can to see the truth of His kingdom until He returns. Be a Mary and not a Martha.

Taken from