It's the last Tuesday in October, just one week away from Election Day. I've noticed in some (not all) American Christian corners a silence about issues in the political realm. This may have to do with a few possibilities: the rejection of old-school Moral Majority hypocrisy and overreach, the rejection of Obama-as-Messiah liberalism, a distaste for corrupt government and flawed candidates, some kind of notion that secular nations like ours aren't our Christian business, or ignorance about self-rule in our country. As believers, we know that the purpose of government is not to save souls, but to “punish those who do evil and praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14).
Whatever the cause of the silence, here are three reasons American Christians should be politically principled, informed, opinionated, and involved.
1. You are a ruler, and God calls kings to rule well.
There is no one king in America. You and I are kings, for we hire and fire our elected representatives. While you may not have asked for this burden, when you are an American citizen you live in country that has given its people self-rule. It follows that, as kings, Christians would seek the advice given to rulers in Scripture.
Some guidance in Scripture for rulers is direct. God has direct guidance for King Lemuel in Proverbs (Prov. 31:1–9). Lemuel is to rule soberly, justly, and fairly, looking out for those who are oppressed and those whose rights are being stolen. The proverbs have many statements about kings: they take pleasure in honesty, they appreciate skilled labor, they mete out justice.
Some guidance in Scripture is by example. The king of Ninevah (a non-Jewish king of a non-Jewish people) was a king who did well. He repents of his moral sins, and he legislates that his people repent as well, thereby saving them from destruction. Again, these were not Israelites (Jonah 3:7–10). For another example, in the New Testament Paul calls on believers to pray for rulers, that they would help us live peaceful and quiet lives, that we might be “godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1–4). It would follow that Christians would wish to rule in such a way that those prayers are answered.
2. You are a Christian, and God calls you to love well.
Christ calls us to love our neighbor. It is the second half of his summation of all the law and the prophets (Matt. 22:34–40). Christian, do you love your neighbor? If you do, you will care about the types of laws he lives under. You will care about the just, merciful, and sensible implementation of such laws, too, for these things affect your neighbor. You will keenly study and deduce the things your elected officials wish to reward and encourage, and that which they wish to punish or discourage, and you will vote accordingly. These things affect your neighbor.
You will keenly study and deduce which policies work, and which are well-intentioned yet bound to fail. They affect your neighbor, and you love her. You will weigh a flawed candidate with sensible policies that achieve good things for your country and culture—against another flawed candidate with well-intentioned but foolish or destructive policies.
You will need to think philosophically about the human condition, and weigh the two parties and their approach to legislation, and you will decide which party has more sensible and upright policies. You will need to be shrewd about propaganda, false narratives, cover-ups, and the like, and you will need to learn from history. Because you love your neighbor.
You will do this because in your city, county, state, and country the crime rate, education, educational freedom, corruption, defense, and how the international community treats your countrymen—to name a few issues—matter to your neighbors. And you love them.
Christian, you love your neighbor, even—especially—the tiniest ones. I am speaking of our neighbors in utero who deserve the right to live. May I submit that you consider these—your smallest, weakest neighbors—when you weigh candidates and legislation?
3. You have the Word, and you already know 'it's complicated.'
As a child of God, you hold in your hands the book that thoroughly explains the human condition. Again, whether you like it or not, to whom much is given much shall be required. By describing life, humanity, family, community, and kingdoms, the Bible is relevant to people living in every possible “-archy” and “-ism.” Its message is eminently applicable to image-bearers living in monarchies, oligarchies, aristocracies, kleptocracies, and democracies, and under fascism, communism, and socialism. It's relevant because government is about people, and the Bible is the definitive, inerrant story of God and humanity.
And it's yours. It's in your hands.
The Bible teaches us about human nature and experience, how we thrive, and what brings out the best and the worst in us. It describes how true oppression looks and what true human rights and duties we ought to pursue. Of course human candidates, parties, and platforms are not perfect. Far be it from any believer to be surprised by sin, corruption, or imperfection. But somehow we still scorn and turn away from a system made up of flawed people. What did we expect? As Americans, we can turn away from brokenness in our culture, government, and systems. We can reject “those people and their government” and God's call on us as rulers and Christians, because we cannot find the flawless candidate or party or legislation. We can hunker down in our “Christian ghetto.”
As Christians, however, we are called to turn toward our neighbors. We are called to live in this world and engage our communities and love those around us. We can do this by exercising the gift of self-rule wisely, shrewdly. As Christ's regents, we can support sensible candidates and policies to help bring about freedom and quiet living rather than oppression, here in our little 21st-century kingdom called America.