During General Election Campaigns, it is common to hear fellow Christians quip, I’m just not that interested in politics, or, Politics just aren’t my thing. Some will even say the Holy Book says do not be conformed to this world or love ‘worldly things’.
These dismissive remarks are often delivered with a veneer of piousness implying that political engagement is inherently defiled, occupying an arena unfit for those serious about the Gospel.
Now as the 2018 General Elections fever mounts, the questions we pose is this, is desisting from the politics of the land a better position for Bible-believing, gospel-loving Christians? Is it congruent with Scripture? Are we now sleeping on something that can rightfully and determine our livelihoods as a people and a community?
It is a known fact that Religion is how we chose to live our lives and politics is how we order it. It is therefore impossible to separate the two. Factually, anyone who claims it can and should be done is either lying or hasn’t thought it through or perhaps was fed with an infringing doctrine that’s robbing them of a special right to shape their lives. It is pretty basic.
The question that should worry us the most should, however, not if we are to vote or get involved in politics. Rather it should be of how deep we need to be involved.
The Gospel is a holistic message with implications for all areas of life, including how Christians engage in the Political process. The Biblical-documented Christian worldview provides a comprehensive understanding of reality. In fact, the Bible speaks about civil government and provides examples of faithful engagement. Therefore, our Christian worldview should include a theology that recognises every area of life, especially Politics, which is an area with significant real-life implications for people.
A frequently raised objection against Christian engagement with Politics is that anything besides explicit preaching and teaching of the Bible gives a leeway to distraction from the Mission of the church. However, this is a limited understanding of the Kingdom of God and is contravening to examples in Scripture, the Esthers, Nehemiahs, Ezras etc.
Some will be itching to understand why we are so inclined to have the Christian vote in general elections.
The candid answer is that the decisions made by the state have a substantial impact on the people and the way we interact with them. As sojourners and exiles (1 Peter 2:11), it can be tempting for Christians to adopt a mindset that earthly governing systems are inconsequential to the task of furthering the Gospel. But ask a Pastor or a Missionary trying to access a closed country if Politics are inconsequential. Religious liberty, passports and visas are not unnecessary luxuries but are often vital for Pastors and Missionaries seeking to fulfil the Great Commission.
And because politics have real-world implications for Christian evangelism, missions and preaching the gospel, Christians ought to engage the political process by leveraging their rightful authority, advocating for laws and policies that contribute to human flourishing.
Governments derive their authority from God to promote good and restrain evil. This mandate is expressly stated in Romans 13:1-7. Elsewhere, Paul urges that prayers be made for leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). No doubt he understood the need for Christian participation in government.
Government plays a role in the work of God’s kingdom on earth. A good government encourages an environment conducive for people living peaceably while bad government fosters unrest and instability. Because of sin, the legitimate institution of government has, at times, been used illegitimately throughout history. However, many examples persist of Christians reasserting their influence and redeeming government to promote good and restrain evil.
In his book How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt documents Christian influence in government. Examples include outlawing infanticide, child abandonment and gladiatorial games in ancient Rome, ending the practice of human sacrifice among European cultures, banning paedophilia and polygamy, and prohibiting the burning of widows in India.
This is still true. Today, good governments promote god-fearing culture, literacy, advance just laws, provide religious liberty and allow churches to preach and teach. Good government can serve as a conduit for the furthering of the gospel and human flourishing, (we can not overlook Pastor Evan Mawarire and Bishop Magaya‘s contributions last year).
Christian witness in the public square contributes transcendent values about moral and ethical issues. Christian withdrawal opens a moral vacuum susceptible to influences that pressure government to move outside the purview designated by God. Politics affects government, shapes society and influences culture. Because of what the Bible teaches and the inevitability of its effect on our culture, Christians must care about politics.