Should the political realm be off limits to Christians?

The question has been coming up lately whether a Christian should have any involvement in politics. Does the Bible teach us to leave the government in the hands of Satan, or are people who love God to be in government as well?

I have addressed the issue of whether Christians should be involved in politics or government work in different posts, in different ways. This time, I wanted to look at the statement, “Governements are controlled by the adversary.” Some how that idea is supposed to mean that Christians should not be involved.

First, I can not find in the Bible where it says that every government in the world is controlled by Satan. If I am missing something, please let me know. But I DO find this:

All kingdoms have been created by God (Colossians 1:16-17; Romans 13:1-5). Indeed, God even determines when and where people will live, setting the boundaries of nations, so the people might find Him (Acts 17:26-27). Government is supposed to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14). In fact, one of the purposes of government is to provide an environment so we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:1-2). More than that, government is a minister of God for good (Romans 13:4-5). Certainly, we are subject to the government (Titus 3:1; Romans 13:1-2; Peter 2:13-14), and should pray for the governmental leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and pay taxes (Matthew 22:17-22; Romans 13:1-7), all while being people who live for God (Micah 6:8). In fact, to resist authority is to resist the ordinance of God (Romans 13:2). But there are apparently limits – when a law would cause us to disobey God, then we must chose to obey God rather than man’s law and take the consequences of choosing God over man (Acts 5:17-42; Daniel 3:10-18).

I think most Christians would agree that we are to love God and love others (Mark 12:29-31), obey Christ (Ephesians 6:5-6), and share the gospel so people repent and turn to God through faith in Christ (Acts 26:20), teaching people to obey what Christ has taught (Matthew 28:19-20). We are not to be entangled (trapped, caught up in) things which are not of God (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

But is the prohibition mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:3-4 limited to the arena of government? I don’t think so. I think Paul was saying to not be entangled by anything which distracts you from being who God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do. This could be in the area of work, or play. It could mean being distracted by your family (1 Corinthians 7:32-35), or by friends. We are to be devoted to God first. HE is our first ministry, then comes family, then comes everything else.

Some would claim we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), not citizens of any nation in this world. But this contradicts what scripture tells us elsewhere. Christ’s kingdom is not an earthly one (John 18:36-37). As such, we ARE citizens of heaven, if we trust in God. But remember that Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (Luke 20:25). We are not of the world and have been chosen out of the world (John 15:19), but we have not been taken out of the world (John 17:15), and still live in it. Paul and Silas were Roman citizens (Acts 16:37-38). and while Paul was a Roman citizen, he was also a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39).  We are in fact people with dual citizenship – a spiritual citizenship in heaven and a physical citizenship on earth. Being citizens of heaven means our eyes should be on Christ, living holy lives relying on Christ rather than our own merit or deeds for salvation, loving God and others, following the pattern Paul gave us (Philippians 3:14-21). But being citizens of a country on earth means we have to be model citizens, for the Lord’s sake (1 Peter 2:13-25).

Some would ask why care about anything in politics? Why not just do your job and not worry about what the government does? I’ve addressed this question in different ways also. See What and who you surround yourself with affects you and  Why do Christians care about any particular sin?. While our struggle is a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12), this does not mean we do not have to live in this world and meet our responsibilities in it.

Let me state here that the United States of America was a Christian nation in only two senses: the majority of the population considered themselves followers of Christ, and the government and laws were drawn from principles found in the Bible. But that does not mean the government was Christian. I think many, if not all, the state governments and even the Continental Congress were led by Christians, and even encouraged the spread of Christianity through laws and financial support. But the constitution of the United States of America does not allow the federal government to do anything to establish a national religion. I do not think we are to try to force people to be Christian by law – I think history has shown this does not work. People need to hear the gospel, change and turn to God through faith in Christ to become Christian, and I don’t think our constitution allows the government to spread the gospel.

But having said that, I do not think the constitution prevents people from passing laws based upon their morals. As such, I think some people are called by God to government work (including political office), so godly laws and regulations can be enacted, adjudicated, and enforced. This is one way for people who love God to show love – by stopping/preventing laws which show a lack of love, and by passing laws which encourage people to love others in practical ways. An example of such a law is the fact that Virginia has a law which allows a woman to smother her child after its been born but has not had the umbilical cord cut. Christians are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in whatever area we find ourselves. Christians should be involved in politics to prevent such laws from being passed and to change such laws if they ARE passed.

I think we should base laws and regulations upon the truths and godly morals found in the Bible, so long as we are NOT trying to force people to follow Christ through law, nor trying to establish religion. This is what the founding fathers of this country worked to ensure, I think. But this still does not mean people should not be involved in government, be it the making of laws and/or regulations or the enforcement of them or the adjudication of them. All laws reflect the morality of the people passing them to some extent or another (even if only the morality of compromise). Whose morality do you want being reflected in the laws of your nation?

I have looked at Bible verses which some believe tell us to not be involved in politics. But after having reviewed them, I have seen no Biblical text which tells me to not be involved in politics. What I HAVE found are examples of people in government who were believers – God’s people. Some examples found in the Old Testament: Joseph (Genesis 41:46), Daniel (Daniel 1:19) , Deborah (Judges 4:4), Esther (Esther 2:17), David (1 Samuel 16; 2 Samuel 2:4), and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:8-2:6). These are examples of people I’ve found in the New Testament: Zacchaeus the chief tax collector (Luke 19:1-10); Centurion soldier (Acts 10); Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were members of the Jewish leadership Council known as the Sanhedrin (Mat 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-42), which was a group of leaders who dealt with politcal, religious and judicial matters; Erastus served as city treasurer (Romans 16:23; Acts 19:22); the Roman proconsul (governor) called Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12). Some would say we can not use the Old Testament examples – but I think God does not change. God put some people into leadership positions (remember that Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther were all in governments NOT Jewish), and I dont see why He would stop doing so after Christ was resurrected. Some would say we can not know that these people continued in their positions after coming to faith. But while tradition says Nicodemus left the Sanhedrin, we know that no one was called to leave any position they had when they came to Christ (1 Cor 7:17-24).

So where is the division between the political and non-political? I do not find such a division in scripture. We are to love God and love others, making disciples as we go, teaching them to obey what Christ taught. No where does it say except in the arena of government or politics.

What follow are a list of other posts for reference:

What Does the Bible Say About Government?

The Bible Speaks On Christian Citizenship

Christian View of Government

Christians and the Government


11 Responses

  1. Lately one of my favorite verses has been 1 Peter 2:17…

    “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

    Whatever that’s worth.

    • That’s a great verse. Its important for people to realize that is how Christians are to live. We are to honor everyone – some times, we condemn people when we should be seeking ways to honor them. We need to love Christians, even those we dont agree with. We need to put God first, and we need to honor the leaders God has put in our lives.

  2. I think Christians should be politically active, but we need to watch where our loyalties are.

    I know a tremendous number of Christians who take marching orders from materialists like Limbaugh because they’re allied on some issue, and they act like we’re all on the same team.

    I align with no party, because I haven’t found one that agrees with me 100%, and I’m not willing to compromise on what I believe to be right. That is, I think, one of the great perils to political involvement.

    Some make the choice to stay out entirely, so as not to align themselves with those who are wrong. I can understand that, although I ultimately disagree and make a different choice myself.

    Without Christians, slavery wouldn’t have been abolished, the civil rights movement would have gone nowhere, and many other problems would still be lingering.

    On the other hand, believers have been roped into supporting slavery, segregation, etc.. Heck, there were Christians backing the Nazis because they were duped by politics!

    As I said … we can (and I think, should) be involved, but we must be wary.

    • Wickle,

      I think that’s a healthy view on Christians being involved. We need to be wary and measure everything by the word of God.

      But I know some who believe Chistians should not even vote, while others believe Christians should not support any political movement, with others believing Christians should not be in government or should not be politicians.

      I think we need to be God’s people and be faithful to Him and show love to God and others in practical ways. For some, that will mean different things for different people, but for some that will mean being in government or even political office. But our loyalty should always be to God first and foremost.

  3. Yeah, sitting it out that much seems almost monastic to me.

    I suppose that it might be the right way to go if politics becomes so obsessive that it takes time away from one’s spiritual life or leads to idolatry, that sort of thing.

    But for the most part, I think that we should be a part of the world, which includes a normal civic life … as long as our civic life is given its appropriate place.

  4. wb,
    Nice post, and important. And great verse 1 Peter 2:17! The whole of 1 Peter’s Epistle or Letter is about the Christian Sojourn in this fallen, broken world. We are are “aliens” (sojourners of the dispersion..verse 1) in a strange land, and this world is not our spiritual and eternal home. But we must live and work in it, here is where we must live out our “sanctification” in the Spirit…unto the “obedience” of Christ (verse 2). And prove and mature our discipleship and “calling” (chosen by God, verse 1) in the death and cross of Christ. Only here will we find eternal peace and rest, “grace” multiplied. But always thru various “trails”. Yes, the whole Letter of 1st Peter is the Christian life under the goverment of God! But again, all is grace! (1 Peter 5:10)

    See my post on the “Alien Settement’ (1 Pet. 1:1). We do have a ‘monastic life’ “called within”. From here, we then can serve back into the warfare of “the world”, and the people who have yet to escape. The love of Christ is our only compel, or “control” (2 Cor. 5:14).

    Fr. R.

  5. PS..Note this life is a Trinitarian life in and with God Triune! (1 Peter 1:2)

  6. I have to say that I would merely stand with the early Church, and take a completely hands off approach to the Government. I will, however, vote for Wb if he runs, and maybe Wickle too. Maybe. :)

    I still disagree, Wb, but good post nevertheless.

  7. I’ve also been thinking, especially in light of the horrendous act in Virginia, and sorta long what Wickle said, that it would be nice if Christians could have their own political party, so as not to be beholden to any political party. Perhaps this is one my many worries. Christians are used and abused by this Party or that Party, when the party doesn’t hold the view of the Church at heart.

    Plus, there would have to get rid of this ‘Christian nation’ thing, and any traces of Dominionism.

    But, if Christians could have their own political party, one which dedicated to all the principles of the Gospel, from the social gospel to the individual morality, well, maybe.

  8. Thanks for the vote, but God would really have to do a number on me to convince me to run for office. I cant stand the idea.

    But I also dont want to tell someone that God does not call people to government or political office if they feel sure He has called THEM. I think some good Christian people do great work trying to protect our freedoms (such as the right to homeschool), and trying get laws passed that protect people (such as anti-porn laws that protect children), etc. Others do great work as police officers, fire fighters, judges, employees of local/state/federal goverment. I think people have been tricked by Satan into not being involved in government – some in any way. In so doing, we have allowed our society to degrade. Not that I think laws are the answer to sin – salvation and discipling believers is the best long term solution. But laws can help and protect people, young and old. And I think that is part of how we are to show love.

  9. […] about as to whether the United States of America was founded upon Christian principles. In fact, I have made that very statement. I think the founding fathers made an effort to ensure that everyone was free to have and exercise […]

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