This Is the first month of the year 2013. This year follows the presidential election year of 2012, and this month is 22 months away from the next round of congressional elections. It is therefore my hope that this is a safe enough time for one to engage in a meaningful, balanced dialogue on the interplay between Christianity and politics without being accused of being motivated by a hidden political agenda.
When the Pharisees and the Herodians approached our Lord and asked Him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not, our Lord’s answer was, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Our Lord’s answer implied that anyone who lives on this earth must have to deal with the government. Paul generalized our Lord’s point when he called on Christians to respect the governing authorities (see Romans 13:1-7).
The question then is not if Christianity and politics do mix, the question is how they should mix. To contend that Christians disavow politics is to refuse to face the reality of the world in which we live. I propose what I believe is a biblical principle, if not the biblical principle, in this discussion, namely, a three-tier, clearly hierarchical, system of loyalty—Loyalty to God, loyalty to the nation, and loyalty to your party.
Loyalty to God: The Christian’s primary loyalty must be his or her loyalty to God. The believer must see himself or herself as an ambassador of heaven on this earth. The Christian’s goal must be to glorify God, so he or she must be prepared to say ”no” to anything which clearly contravenes God’s law, in much the same way that an ambassador of a country has to say “no” to anything that goes against the national interest of the nation he or she represents (see 2Cor. 5:20).
Loyalty to one’s country: The Christian is to be loyal to his or her country. Patriotism for one’s country is not just to be commended, it is to be expected. However, one’s patriotism for his or her country must be superseded by his or her patriotism for the kingdom of God. The believer must not think that anything which clearly contravenes God’s law is good for the nation.
Loyalty to one’s Party: There is nothing wrong with a child of God belonging to a political party. But one’s allegiance to a political party must be subordinated to his or her patriotism for the country which in turn must be subordinated to his or her loyalty to God. The thought must never be entertained that what is detrimental to the nation is beneficial to the party.
If this three-tier system of loyalty is adhered to, the following would be true:
A believer’s likes or dislikes cannot be dictated by the planks of a political party’s platform. The believer must obtain his or her absolutes from the Bible, not from the planks of a party’s platform.
Any lying—be it lying about one’s positions on the issues or the deliberate distortion of an opposing candidate’s positions–must be seen as non-biblical, and therefore wrong.
The believer should not automatically endorse any candidate of a particular party and his or her positions on the issues and automatically condemn, or even reject, any candidate of an opposing party and his or her positions.
The believer who holds an office must not automatically rubber-stamp and advocate any position that is a plank of his or her party’s platform, and reject and condemn a differing position, no matter how reasonable it may be, simply because it happens to be proposed by someone in an opposing party.
Any Christian in general, and any minister in particular, may align himself or herself with a political party, and may even run for an office. What makes it tricky, though, is that the three-tier system of loyalty cannot, and should not, be set on its head. Any Christian in general, and any minister in particular, who violates this rule loses his or her prophetic voice on any issue being discussed.
A sermon should not be so partisan in tone that any member of an opposing party would feel out of place. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents ought to be able to worship gladly together even in an election year. No worship service should sound like a political rally for any party. In any discussion of the issues, civility ought to be maintained. It is bad enough when there is incivility of tone in the secular arena. It is abhorrent when there is incivility in the Church at any time.
Being a citizen of a country calls for loyalty to the nation. If the nation passes laws that clearly contravene God’s laws, the Christian is duty-bound to oppose those laws without disavowing his or her loyalty to the nation. Acceptance of Christ as one’s Lord and personal Savior demands that the person’s loyalty to God be sacrosanct. This loyalty is absolute. But the Christian’s loyalty to a party must neither be predetermined nor absolute. The Christian must be willing to consider becoming an Independent, or even changing parties, when he or she sees his or her party drifting farther and farther away from biblical principles.