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?
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?”
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.
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?
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.”
“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.”
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?:
“…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).