Should Christianity and Politics Mix?
By Dave Cava
We are approaching Holy Week, the time we focus on the final week of the earthly life of Jesus, and there are many things worthy of meditating upon. One is how Jesus was not the messiah people were looking for. Their focus was all wrong.
On Palm Sunday the Jews anointed Jesus as king and affirmed Him as their deliverer. What kind of deliverer were they seeking? A political one. A nationalist one. One who would free them from the stifling rule of Rome and lead them into a new era of national sovereignty, prominence, and prosperity. That was Sunday.
By Friday he would be dead, and with that death their dreams of a free and reinvigorated Jewish nation died too. Two days later, Jesus rose from the dead, and by doing so he made this much clear: He really was the Messiah, but His kingdom was not a political or nationalist one; it was a spiritual one that is not of this world. He had come not to deliver from Rome – he had come to deliver from sin.
Christians are to Prioritize God’s Kingdom Over Earthly Politics
As humans we are inherently prone to idolatry; that is, our default setting is to make lesser things of utmost importance. I’d submit that politics can be one of those lesser things that masquerades as a thing of ultimate importance, and that much of the western church may be in need of a course correction.
The Jews of Jesus’ day could come up with no greater ambition than to be a free and prosperous nation once again, and assumed that would be the mission of their Messiah. What higher calling could there be? Jesus answered that question: Establishing the Kingdom of Heaven.
In Philippians 3, Paul describes some people as “enemies of the cross”. What is his charge against them? Among other things he says this: “They only think about this life here on Earth.” How many of us are guilty of that?
The next words from Paul’s pen are these: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.” If you are a Christian, your primary citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, not America or whatever nation you were born in.
- That means you worry about King Jesus’ proclamations more than you worry about the government’s proclamations.
- It means you are more concerned about the advancement of God’s kingdom than the success of your country on the international stage.
- And it means that those who share your faith are your primary tribe, not those who share your nationality or political affiliation.
The Role of Christians in Politics
With that in mind, here are some principles to consider when considering when and how to engage politically:
- We are to seek the Shalom of the city (Jer 29:7). When God’s people were in exile, the prophet Jeremiah told them to engage in the foreign land they found themselves in and to try and bring about God’s blessing, peace, and justice in that place. I believe that is a model for us today.
We are not to have a mindset of “winning back our country” for the Lord. Nor are we to disengage and hole up until the Lord returns. We are to have a mindset of missionaries on foreign soil. It is our job to bring the message of the Gospel and the presence and blessing of God to wherever He plants us. Daniel set a wonderful example for us that is very relevant to today.
2. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Paul described his mission this way: “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Ambassadors are diplomats. They carry the mission of another, and they are to present it in an attractive and respectful way so as to represent the one who sent them well.
3. We should never argue or complain (Philippians 2:14-15). Paul said “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
We carry the most important message in the history of the universe. We ought to conduct ourselves accordingly, to the point where the grace with which we comport ourselves stands out to all we come in contact with. We should be lights in a dark world.
4. We are to be singularly focused (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Timothy wrote: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” I would submit that many times politics would qualify as ‘civilian affairs.’ That doesn’t mean we despise the political world or disengage from it completely. It means we avoid entanglement with it.
We have one ultimate job: glorify God by carrying the Gospel message and making it attractive. Titus taught that we “adorn the gospel” by our lifestyle and the way we relate to others. Don’t get distracted. Stay on mission. Always.
How Did Jesus Exercise His Political Authority?
Jesus came to Earth to people who were in occupied land under the reign of an oppressive, dictatorial foreign government. Yet his reaction was essentially “not my circus, not my monkeys” when it came to those matters. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.”
He came not to fix (or overthrow) a government, but to establish a spiritual kingdom and to carry reconciliation with God to anyone he came in contact with who was willing to receive it. The Apostles continued this mission, and they called us to do the same.
So seek the shalom (God’s peace and blessing) of your city. Vote. Run for office if so led. Join the local school board. Do your civic duty. Get involved as the Lord leads. But as you do, remember the land you live in is not your home, the party you side with is not your tribe, and politics will never provide people with the deliverance they ultimately need – Jesus will.
We are his messengers, and presenting the Gospel message is our highest calling: the message that God loves people so much that he died for them so they might be reconciled to Him. Nothing else comes close in importance, and nothing should ever interfere with that calling. Always engaged, never entangled.
Dave Cava is a writer and speaker from Long Island, New York. His wide array of experience includes having pastored at a multi-racial inner-city church, losing a teenage daughter to cancer, and building and selling a successful business. Dave currently works as a business coach and consults in the area of hiring and recruiting, and he serves as an Elder at the Dix Hills Free Church. Along with his wife Audra, they encourage everyone to seek the “double hope” that is a life that is transformed on Earth now by recognizing the reality of heaven later. You can connect with Dave on LinkedIn.
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2 thoughts on “The Christian and Politics: Engaged, Not Entangled”
Great post! I am also a Long Islander, originally from Sayville, which is not too far from Dix Hills!
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