The Christian and Politics

 “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).

One would think that after a verse like that, no further commentary would be necessary.  However, in light of increasing involvement of professing Christians in politics it has become necessary to expound more specifically such texts.  Every Christian is a soldier of the Lord, and like it or not, is engaged in warfare.  And one reason why so many wage an ineffective spiritual warfare, not being able to “fight the good fight of faith,” is entanglements.  This world system dangles before every Christian various spider-webs of entanglement, and politics is one of those.  The Lord, the One who enlisted us as soldiers, is never pleased with any such entanglement, let us be clear about that at the outset.  Why, then, do Christians become entangled in politics?  

Mixed Motives

Putting the best possible construction on the situation, we must say first of all that there are those who entangle themselves because in their heart they really believe that they are doing good and that God does not object, but rather approves.  As our text insists, they are sadly, but honestly mistaken.  There is nothing wrong with wanting things to be better, or being against injustice and the like.  To those who feel that way, we say that we share their desire.  But politics is tricky business, and there are others with other motives, such as fame, money, power, and self-aggrandizement. Of course, the only way to have those things that the political system offers is to be voted in, and to be voted in you must, among other things, be popular with people.  And to be popular with people, you must tell them that you are interested in helping them and serving them, or else you’ll get no votes from them.  So there remains a serious question about the purity of motives and the depth of true, untarnished, humanitarian interest in all politicians.  Those who deny it are either naive or not completely honest.  The trouble is, a good number of people seem to not want to face that reality.  Politics offers not only what it tells you, namely, improvements, but also power and fame and money.  Those who sincerely enter for “good” motives soon find themselves in a large tree where many other birds can and do roost, or to put it another way, they find themselves in an entanglement.  But this involves the voters, too, and not just those who run for office.  Think of the hours spent campaigning and listening to campaigns.  Think also of the money spent in the most modest campaign, and ask yourself if this time and money would not do more if invested in the kingdom of God, the progress of the gospel?  They answer that it is ridiculous to suppose that alternative, because the political parties will not spend money on the gospel.  We must reply, then, with the simple question, “Then what is a Christian doing entangled with them, devoting time and money to such things?”

Black Holes In Space

Perhaps you’re aware of the discovery of what they call “black holes in space,” those collapsed stars, extremely dense, whose gravitational pull even draws light rays from nearby stars into them to disappear forever.  Nothing ever appears again once it enters.  That is an illustration of what has happened to some Christians, and will happen to others, who give their time and energy to the politics of this planet.  It is a hopeless situation.  Think about it, how many years of recorded history are there on this planet?  Something over 3,000.  How many of the basic problems of mankind today are the same as when they began?  All of them.  Selah.  How many sins has man eliminated in all these thousands of years?  Not one.  Just think of all the myriads of kings, governors, parliaments, congresses, courts, and other officials and governing bodies that there have been. From all over the world, in every age, in every conceivable circumstance, they have been trying politics from every possible human angle of approach, and they still have not been able to solve mankind’s problems.  No, dear Christian, they don’t merit one cent of the money nor one second of the time that God has entrusted to us as stewards who will give account.
On the other hand, consider the gospel.  How many of the basic problems of mankind does the gospel solve?  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).  What can repair marriages?  The gospel.  What can reform prisoners? The gospel.  What can affect employer/employee relations?  The gospel.  What can guarantee the care of the elderly and sick? The gospel.  Every time a person gets saved he becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit, and not only changes inwardly, but outwardly as well, and so his change affects those around him, permanently.  Consider, then, which is the best investment of time regarding the world and it’s problems.  Politics, or the gospel?  But don’t make the mistake of trying to mix them, they’re like oil and water!
There has never been a political system that has ushered in the millennium, nor will there be.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself will personally introduce that era when He comes to reign in glory.  What the politicians can do, as history proves, is rearrange the problems, treat the symptoms of sin, and even at times impede its advance, but they can’t eliminate it. Therefore the Christian who becomes involved in the politics of this world unfortunately sees his time and money disappear into this “black hole in space,” instead of seeing them invested in the gospel and bringing him everlasting results.  Politics cannot produce those kinds of results. Why not?  Because mankind’s basic problem is spiritual in nature, and not related in any way to political science. If someone has pneumonia, they need internal medicine and not a band-aid.  The gospel gives man that internal medicine that he needs, but politics can only offer a band-aid.

Human Government Established By God
“But,” they argue back, “in Romans 13 and other passages the Bible supports human government going back as far as the time of Noah after the flood.  After all, God ordained human government.” That is correct, God ordained human government.  But He did not ordain all the accompanying political science that adorns government today.  Neither did He ordain government to be the Savior of mankind.  Politics cannot save souls or produce a truly better world to live in.
“More laws!  Better laws!  Enforced laws!  More law enforcers!” they cry to us.  Well, if these are the tools of the politicians, then they only make loud confession that politics is not working, or else why would such things be needed?  Yet they propose to us that through these administrative, executive, and judicial functions the Christian can serve God in the world today by making it a better place in which to live.  Are they ignorant or arrogant who hang their hopes on such ideas?  Let us ask a question.  Who can make better laws than God?  Is not His law good, perfect, and holy?  But when will Christians learn that the law, not even God’s Law, cannot impart to us the needed power to keep it?  You cannot eliminate sin or wickedness by legislation, but you can by salvation.

Moral Obligation
Eliminate sin – that is a feat that the best of political scientists is absolutely powerless to achieve.  So they tell us that they know they can’t eliminate sin, but that Christians have a moral obligation to get involved (entangled) in government/politics as a means of restraining lawlessness.  Well then, let them produce verses, in context, to support such claims.  The Bible tells us in plain language that as Christians we have a moral obligation to obey the law, but it never tells us that we have a so-called moral obligation to become involved in politics.  No, not even once.  

Combating Humanism
No true Christian is in favor of any form of humanism or its creeds.  On that we are agreed.  However, it is a favorite approach of Christian political activists to alarm the Christian community with reports/statistics of how the humanists are taking over the government and what will happen as a result.  They propose that we should all go to the polls and vote for the pro-Christian candidates to prevent this.  The idea is to organize Christians as a powerful voting block.  To this end they even produce reports and voting guides for Christians, giving the profiles of the views of different candidates on the issues.The main problem is not the surprises that elected officials produce, but the basic idea of fighting humanism in government by what amounts to a Christian version of humanism – producing a man/men who have the answers. Does man have the answers?

Human Responsibility
“What about our human responsibility?” they insist.  “What are we supposed to do, then, just sit in Sunday School and let the world get worse and worse?”  They insist that we cannot take such an passive and unrealistic approach to problems, but that it is our responsibility to vote, to campaign for certain candidates, and even to run for office so as to have Christians in government.  The cry of “human responsibility!” is intended to wake us up to the fact that we’re being overly spiritual and, in their eyes, irresponsible in the matter,  taking an extreme position. In these days of “balance,” “balance,” and more “balance”, calling someone extreme is like calling them a heretic.  But the early Christians were extreme enough to not get involved in politics, not even a little.  
Another angle of attack is when we are told, “if you don’t vote, then don’t complain later about who is in office or what they do.”  That’s a nice political-scientist cliche, intended to shame us into entangling ourselves, but we reply that we will not complain, because it is a sin to do so, even if you do vote!  And isn’t it odd how the very ones who campaign and vote are the ones who are the most vocal with their complaints?  Think about it.  

Yet we must answer in the affirmative regarding our human responsibility.  We do believe very much in being responsible Christians.  But that responsibility is defined for the Christian by the Bible, not by university professors or political scientists or campaign advertisements.  First of all, it is the responsibility and obligation of every Christian to PRAY as the Lord teaches us in 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  This tremendous responsibility is often neglected by professing Christians.  Some are disinterested.  Others say they don’t have time.  Let us ask the Christian political activists how regular and consistent and fervent their personal prayer lives are, and if they are consistently devoted to the prayer meeting of their local assembly?  If not, they should be ashamed to talk about responsibility to others.  They talk about “putting feet to your prayers” – one of those sayings not found in the Bible.  How about putting knees to your prayers?  How about putting fasting to your prayers?  God did say to pray, but He did NOT say to vote.  Think about this – we can do more in 5 minutes on our knees in prayerful communion with God than we can do if 5 minutes in a voting booth.  So why do they offer to provide transportation to vote but not to prayer meetings?  A look at the private prayer lives of many, and the attendance at the prayer meetings of their churches, will tell you why professing Christians turn to politics.  They do so because they believe that politics gets results, and that prayer doesn’t.  What kind of Christianity is that?
Second, we believe strongly that it is our human responsibility and moral obligation as Christians to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).  We believe that we should follow the example of the early Christians, who according to Acts 8:4 “went everywhere preaching the word.”  If we really believe this, then we believe that we can do more by going door-to-door for Christ, or by distributing gospel literature, than by canvassing door-to-door for some politician, however pious.  Which campaign should we work for and support? The gospel campaign!  What a shame it is to see some spending time and money in politics, laboring tirelessly, devotedly, always talking about politics and candidates and votes.  They do it so well that they have little or no time for testimony or impact for Christ in the way that the early Christians did. They are entangled, and it is wrong, and Christ is not pleased. How much worse is the case when their own local church is struggling along and in need of help, or when we consider the tremendous amount of work that remains to be done in planting and edifying assemblies of God’s people around the world.  What responsibility to these who are involved in politics feel towards seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness as the Bible commands?

Love Not The World

1 John 2:15 instructs us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”  This is violated by those who give themselves to politics.  It is never our responsibility to help the world system nor much less to love it.  Yet they will tell us openly that they love politics! They pursue the mirage of doing good through politics in a way that the unsaved political scientists admire.  But politics is something that the world has produced, not God.  It is one of the things that is in the world.  If you don’t believe that, just read Luke 4:5-8 and see who is behind this world’s kingdoms.  We must remember that the world is an orderly system, organized and headed by the devil, leaving God out, designed for the purpose of making man happy without God.  Why should any Christian want to mix with such a system, much less find it lovable?  What communion has light with darkness?  What ever happened to “come out from among them and be ye separate?”

The problem is often a case of misplaced love.  As someone said, “Some Christians love the world so much that they anticipate making it their heaven.”  But God expressly prohibits love of and entanglement with the world system. His Son received no justice from the best-developed political system that the world of that day knew, the Roman empire.  The Holy Spirit, speaking by Paul, warned the Christians in Corinth against going to law and seeking justice before the unjust (1 Cor. 6:1-8).  To whom does he refer as “unjust”?  The context is clear, he refers to the lawmakers/enforcers of that day as “the unjust.” Why?  Not just because spiritually speaking they are unjust in God’s sight, but also because for the Christian, that is NOT the way to solve problems.  But we are then told that Paul himself got involved in the political/legal system in order to continue propagating Christianity.  They cite for us his trials first in Caesarea and then in Rome.  Need we remind them that it was his unsaved enemies, and not Paul, who brought all that about?  Also remember that the same system that freed Paul after his first trial in Rome later condemned and martyred him. And in all his trials there were never any votes or petitions or demonstrations concerning getting him released.  It doesn’t present a very solid case for the “Christian political scientists.”  

Verses, Please
It’s time we thought about asking these folks to defend their position from the Scriptures.  What verses do they find that clearly teach the obligation of Christian political involvement?  Careful!  Don’t let them quote you any verses about Moses or Daniel or Nehemiah or the good kings of Israel, all of whom were Jews, promised by God a land, a king, and a kingdom, all here on the earth.  The Christian, on the other hand, is never promised any such thing, nor encouraged to get involved in the kingdoms of this world.  His hope is heavenly, not earthbound (see Colossians 3:1-4).   The Lord Jesus’ words to Pilate are full of meaning for us: “My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight” (John 18:36).  Since we are questioning them about “Christian” political involvement, they will have to give us some New Testament verses, teaching of the Lord or His apostles, that clearly and unmistakably teach Christians to become involved in any way in politics.  Oops – there are none! This is one reason why saying “verses please” infuriates some religious politicians, because they know they cannot produce any!

Citizens Of Heaven

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).  A citizen of one country cannot participate in the politics of another.  That is a forgotten part of the Christian life.  We are citizens of heaven.  Some will argue for dual citizenship, that is, in heaven and in an earthly country at the same time.  But this is merely what men impose by their laws, and is not something that requires our active participation.  Our interests and our activities should be “heaven-oriented”, and we should decline to become entangled in another kingdom.  Let us be like those of Hebrews 11, who “all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off and were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return, But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Those heroes of the faith knew nothing of being entangled with the affairs of this life.  They were “underwhelmed” with what the world system had to offer them, because they fixed the eye of faith on the promises of God, and desired a BETTER country. Did God tell them that they were being irresponsible?  Did He tell them that they were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good?  No!  The Scripture says, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” This expression by implication introduces the possibility of living in such a way as to make God ashamed of our use of His name. Those who live separated from the world system do not make God ashamed. Are we in their company? Christians, let us remember that our heavenly citizenship is to be real, practical, not just a theory.  Part of the practical application is to not become in any way involved with the politics of this present evil world.
The same is true of those who are ambassadors.  They most certainly may not become active in the politics of the country where they live.  Their relationship is with another country, and there alone may they participate in such affairs.  We, as Christians, are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), and our activity should be with the things of His kingdom. We should not become involved (entangled) in this world’s politics.

The Example of Moses

Some try to use him as an example of a man using political influence to achieve good.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is true that God let Moses be educated 40 years in “the university of Egypt”, but it is also true that after that God sent him for 40 years to the silence and solitude of the desert to care for sheep. Only then was he ready.  Hebrews 11 speaks of the example of Moses:

        “By faith, Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he looked to the reward.  By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”

Friends, the Biblical record is clear. Moses forsook the politics of Egypt: the name and the fame;  the pleasures and the treasures. Yes, he is an example of faith for us. He could’ve tried to make Egypt a better place to live, but he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God. That is a truth that we know precious little of anymore in practice:  the experience of suffering affliction as the people of God. We have been sidetracked, entangled into fighting for our rights and privileges like the rest of the world.  Not Moses.  Perhaps he could’ve been the next Pharaoh, or at the least one of the most influential people in Egypt.  But he gave it up to shepherd God’s flock.  Some assembly leaders could learn from his example.  Instead of giving half of our available time to the assembly (a generous estimate!) and half to politics, whatever happened to that song we used to sing?:
        All for Jesus, All for Jesus!
        All my being’s ransomed pow’rs:
        All my tho’ts and words and doings,
        All my days and all my hours.
        Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus,
        I’ve lost sight of all beside;
        So enchained my spirit’s vision,
        Looking at the Crucified.

Did you notice those words: “Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside”? No wonder Tozer said that Christians tell more lies when they sing hymns than at all other times put together. The way around that problem in many churches is simply not to sing the old hymns, whose stanzas contain a message. They opt for the new light-weight choruses that are repetitive and shallow, and avoid the heavy, committing, convicting stuff!

“Looking at the Crucified” is a good expression of how to live. We should live as seeing by faith (not a vision) Him who is invisible, as Moses did. May the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for us and raised for our justification, be all our vision and fill all our vision.  May we go deeper than superficial, professing Christianity, and learn what it means to say: “for to me to live is Christ,” as the Apostle Paul did. Then we don’t have to worry about who to vote for any longer.  
When you stop and think about it, the country’s history has been pretty pathetic under politicians. When will some people learn that the answer is not in politics?  The Lord Jesus is still saying, “come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).  Yes, it is a gospel verse, but there is a very real application for the Christian who in faith turns away from this world’s politics to find rest in the Lord Jesus.  

What The Future Holds

“…Both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:10-11).  Who would go into a condemned building and start painting the walls and replacing broken windows?  Who would stay on a sinking ship washing dirty dishes in the galley? That’s what it is like to become entangled in this world and its politics. Not only is it prohibited, not only is it not pleasing to the Lord, but it is wasting precious resources that the Savior could use for His glory. Wasted hours, wasted funds, wasted lives! The ship is going down, the building is condemned, reserved for fire.  What God is doing in this age is not improving society, but saving souls and adding them to the church through the proclamation of the gospel. Don’t be a cinder soul, saved as by fire, with years and works burnt, consumed, dissolved in the fire of God’s judgment. The logic of the Holy Spirit in 2 Peter 3 is that since we know the end of the world and its works, we ought to be different, holy, godly, not earthbound and worldly.

It is o.k. to go to the beach and build a sand castle for fun, but not to invest your life in playing with sand castles. A few waves roll over them and the beach is smooth again.  You can’t even tell where the castle was. That is what the future holds for those who insist on Christian politics. They are adults playing with sand castles – investing their lives in them. The world and all its works will be dissolved. The waves of God’s judgment will roll over this planet, and the works of those Christians who got involved (entangled) in politics will be erased. The beach will be smooth, and we won’t even be able to tell where their “castles” were. What a sad day that will be, and may we each avoid that tremendous disappointment. There are no crowns offered in heaven for being in politics. But there are crown’s waiting for faithful elders, for saints who suffer for righteousness sake, and for those who win others to the Lord. How much better to invest our lives, the time and money that we have, in proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and making disciples. Allow me to exhort you in the Lord’s Name, even as I say these things to my self: Listen to His voice!  Renounce the world system.  Heed His command!

    “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (2 Cor.15:58).  

Remember this refrain that we have heard before:
        Only one life, ’twill soon be past.
        Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Let the world take its human responsibility, and continue to do with it what it has done for thousands of years. The Scriptures teaches us not to get entangled with them.  As for you, my friend, when are you going to decide to use your one life, the only one you have, for Christ. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time! Decide to be always abounding in the work of the Lord. Decide to take your Christian responsibility to pray, to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. Then you may rest assured that you will see the difference in eternity between those who lived confessing that they were strangers and pilgrims, and those who sought to mix Christianity and politics. May God give you grace to live a separated and devoted life, for the One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  To Him be the glory forever, amen!

Carl Knott


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