You have probably heard the old saying, “Two things we never talk about around here are religion and politics.” Why do people say that or think that way? It is because both of those issues are very personal. People can feel passionate about either one and still feel that they are a private matter. However, the main reason is usually the fear of conflict. It is one thing to talk about religion or politics but it is another thing to mix them. There is so much talk about the separation of church and state that Christians are often made to feel they should not be involved in politics at all.
The Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state means that, as a nation, we should not have one state church. It means the government should not do anything to interfere with the freedom of individual worship or lack of it. It does not mean believers should not vote, run for office or speak out on political issues, especially as they apply to biblical principles. Paul used the fact that he was a Roman citizen to protect himself from an unjust whipping and help his ministry (Acts 22. 24-29).
What is the biblical basis for the involvement of Christians in government? Is it really that important that we vote given that our citizenship is in heaven and we are just strangers and pilgrims on this earth (Philippians 3.20; Hebrews 11.13)? Consider these biblical mandates and thoughts.
We were created in the image of God and given the mandate to subdue and rule over the earth (Genesis 1.26-28). This means that we are God’s representatives on the earth, and that we are to exercise stewardship over it and be accountable to Him. This would eventually get into establishing some type of government since we were also told to fill the earth with people. Then sin entered the human race and marred the image of God. That didn’t change the mandate it just made it more challenging since there would now be opposition to God’s plan. Genesis 3.15 tells us there would be conflict between two seeds, the godly and the ungodly.
Paul refers to this conflict as spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6.10-12. The principalities and powers these verses refer to describe demonic influence over those in places of governmental leadership. This is what the angel in Daniel 10.12-13 describes in reference to why it took him 21 days to arrive with his message from God for Daniel. The prince of the kingdom of Persia, a demon who exercised influence over the Persian Empire, detained him. God sent the archangel Michael to help this messenger in the conflict. Just as the Spirit of God seeks to influence people, so too does Satan. This is the conflict between the two seeds, the two kingdoms – God’s and Satan’s (Isaiah 14. 12-14). This is why 1Timothy 2.1-2 tells us to pray for all those in authority because they play a huge role in how quiet and peaceable our life is.
Proverbs 29.2 tells us, “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people weep.” The simple reality is that our governmental leaders play a large role in the quality of life we live and the freedoms we enjoy. God tells us to pray for them, but why? The answer should be obvious: so that they will make better more godly decisions. These decisions will result in a nation that abides under God’s blessing rather than His curse. This kind of nation creates a climate of freedom, opportunity and prosperity. Just study the promises God made to Israel to bless them as a nation for their obedience to the ways of God (Deut. 11).
God established human government, just as He established the family and the church. We see the beginnings of government in Genesis 9.6. When God allowed the people of Israel to have a king, the stipulation was that the king was to rule according to God’s law and not his own (1 Samuel 12.12-15). In Romans 13.1-7 scripture instructs us that governmental leaders have authority delegated to them from God and they are to be God’s ministers to us for justice. In other words, they are to rule as God would. This would be a wonderful world if every leader did that. With the giving of the Ten Commandments, God gave us the basis for our laws. The first four have to do with our relationship to God and the last six deal with our relationships with one another. Law is simply the codified morals, ethics and character of a nation.
God also gave every human free will – the ability to make choices. He designed us to worship Him and for His own purpose. God brings liberty wherever His Spirit dwells. We have the liberty to choose the kind of government we want to have. This is the power of the ballot box. The choices each of us make determine what kind of country we want to live in; if we want a country where laws are based on God’s truth, if we want to enjoy freedom of religion, speech and the ability to pursue our God-given purpose, and if we want to live in a land in which there is justice.
In light of the scriptural truths we have just studied, common sense tells us that we must exercise our right to vote and do so wisely. Each of us must study the people and issues we will be voting for. Then, once they are in power, we need to pray for them and hold them accountable. Not voting leaves us with no right to complain about the things that I don’t like in my nation. Remember the words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Politics is a big part of the Christian life, and politics and religion definitely do mix. Exercise your right and privilege to vote, a right that many have died for and that we often take for granted.