Some Reflections on Involvement in Politics


The Apostle Paul wrote:  “Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:22-24.)

What the Lord is saying to us through Paul is that our service is always only to Christ.  Our exclusive, ultimate allegiance is to him.  Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we are there as his servants, as his agents. The Christian is always part of the fifth column of the kingdom of God.  We come as salt and light; we come as yeast to leaven the whole loaf. (Cf. Matthew 13:33.) 

As a person who believes that our Lord’s return could be about to happen and who leaves to God to determine what the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ means in this world prior to his second coming, I believe that we must always work within a world system that is contaminated by evil and influenced by Satan.  We do not wait until this world and its institutions are Christian, or above reproach; we get involved, always remembering that while we are in the world, we are not of it. (John 17:11, 16.)  As we participate in this world, we may appear to serve it, but we are only serving our faithful Savior.

Living as we do in the time of trouble between the first and second advents of our Lord, the Church is in exile from its true home.  As God’s elect, we are strangers in the world, scattered as aliens throughout the various nations of our captivity. (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11.)  “Our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20.)  In the world that now exists, often there is a great door for effective work opened to us, but there will be many who oppose us. (1 Corinthians 16:9.)  We must avoid the retreat from the trenches that sometimes characterizes extreme millennial positions.

Our models for living in the New Testament era are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They worked in the civil service of one of the most ruthless governments the world has ever known, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, a civilization that was ultimately cursed by God and destroyed.  They were there doing their jobs with exemplary faithfulness, praised even by their worldly superiors.  Yet when loyalty to the civil authority was pitted against loyalty to the Lord, they respectfully stood their ground even though they faced the death penalty. (Daniel 1:8, 19, 20; 3:12, 16-18.)  When Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, and Daniel found himself serving under a kinder and gentler new world order, he still faced life and death decisions about his loyalty to the Lord.  But he stood the test (Daniel 6:10.), as must we.

The Christian in politics is first and foremost an agent of the Lord Jesus Christ, as is every true Christian.  That means that every enterprise and every relationship must be evaluated by how it impacts our exclusive allegiance to him.  Jesus Christ is Lord; he is our King.  For the believer, public service, as every other service, is ultimately to Christ alone.  Paul wrote to Timothy, using a military analogy:  “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4.)  Using Paul’s metaphor, Christian political leaders’ public service is a “civilian pursuit,” while their living out the Christian life is their service as Christ’s soldiers.  We may never forget that we cannot serve two masters.  We are never Christians and Americans, much less Christians and Republicans or Democrats.  We are Christians period, but Christians who serve Christ by serving others, including our nation and perhaps sometimes a political party.  When it comes to submission to civil authority, we must sometimes withhold obedience even in a just cause, and we must ofttimes obey even in an unjust cause, because Christ, not man, is King—King over every square inch of his creation.

For people who hold to God’s Moral Law as permanent and absolute, some political parties are easier to work with than others.  In many parts of the United States, there would probably be fewer temptations to compromise on certain fundamental moral issues in the Republican Party than in the Democrat.  However, with President Bush’s courtship of the Log Cabin Republicans, there appears to be little difference on the major issue that Christians will have to deal with in the coming decade:  not abortion, but the embracing of the homosexual way of life as a normal and natural choice.  However, no political party is without the demand that people surrender their consciences for the good of the party, whether that party is one of the two major ones, or one of the smaller ones, such as the Constitution or Libertarian Parties. 

For the Christian who chooses to become practically involved in politics, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and loyalty to him must be the ultimate goal, not winning an election or holding onto power at all costs.  Our cheerfulness in losing and the absence of gloating when we win spring from the fact that we are never anything more or less than the servants of the Lord Jesus.  As such, we serve without fear of the outcome, for the success the Lord requires of us is his approval not man’s.  And the Lord’s approval rests on faithfulness to his Word.  At the end of the day, if we cannot reach out and share our faith with the person against whom we waged a political campaign, we did not wage it Christianly.

For a sketch of the alliance and conflict between the Church and the State click here.

Bob Vincent

“The Sects . . .  We further condemn . . . dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt., chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18, and apostolic teaching in 2 Thess., ch. 2, and 2 Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different.” (The Second Helvetic Confession, XI, “Of Jesus Christ, True God and Man, the Only Savior of the World”)