Why Believers Must Care About Politics (Part 1)

Why Believers Must Care About Politics (Part 1)

The need for believers to better engage the complex political issues of the day is on the incline. The how and the why of Christian engagement must be thoughtfully considered. This article will not directly engage in policy matters; instead, it will present an ontology of Christian political engagement, with the desire that it will encourage believers to think Christianly about our voice in the public square. This first of two articles will consider why Christians should engage in politics, and the second article will consider how Christians should engage in politics.

There is an increasingly great divide among evangelicalism today. One can scarcely argue that extremism has not influenced the church's thinking. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me define what I mean by "extremism." The space between the ideological and theological far left and far right has become anything but a demilitarized zone. The ability to disagree with grace and Christian charity has become fleeting, even among friends and allies. One must either fall in line with their tribe of conviction or be anathematized. The decline in civil discourse has resulted in militant tribalism that threatens the unity of families, churches, denominations, and even the very fabric of our democracy.

Extremism has replaced soul liberty with oppressor and oppressed power dynamics. The far left is quick to accuse those on the right of being bigots, misogynists, and indifferent to the abuse of authority. By contrast, the far right is quick to identify slippery slopes of any kind, often looking for deep-state conspiracy theories. Both sides are guilty of lobbing the hand grenade of institutional corruption and financial malfeasance into the crowd and letting the accusational shrapnel cut down whoever is in the way. The days of civil disagreement in the church and the marketplace would appear to have gone by the wayside.

Why should Christians engage in politics?

1. A distinctly Christian voice is needed.

As Christian Americans, we find ourselves as citizens of two kingdoms. Our primary allegiance is to the kingdom of Heaven and our Savior King, Jesus Christ. As citizens of Heaven, we have been commissioned by the Lord Jesus to proclaim the excellencies of the gospel and protect the integrity of the message of the Word of God.
In the current cultural climate, one biblical doctrine constantly attacked is the imago Dei. The Bible is clear from the beginning of Genesis that God created humanity in complementary roles (men and women) to reflect the image of God within creation. I often tell the church I pastor, "You are created in the image of God for a relationship with God, by the grace of God, and for the glory of God. Therefore, yours should be a life of worship." When the image of God is distorted within creation, the result is a distortion in the ordered worship of the Creator. For this reason, Christians should voice their convictions on all matters of life. We should unapologetically defend the right-to-life of pre-born children and defend the sanctity of end-of-life care.

In the same way we are unapologetically pro-life, we must also be pro-family. We should vigorously defend the gender binary created by the Lord and resist the encroachment of the LGBTQ+ agenda and the sexual revolutionaries. Within this vein, we should also be resolved to defend a biblical understanding of marriage (one man and one woman in a committed covenantal marriage for life). We should elevate the complementary roles of men and women as part of God's created order. We should also protect our children from the cultural lies associated with gender dysphoria. This protection can be done through advancing a robust biblical theology on the nature of gender, which will combat the tide of gender fluidity.

Additionally, we must remain committed to religious liberty. This commitment means we cannot be intimidated by someone else's religious convictions. As Christians, we believe Jesus is the only way to a reconciled relationship with our heavenly Father, but others do not believe the way we believe. We must preserve individual religious liberties for all. Once the government regulates religious liberties for one faith system, the door is open for our religious liberties to be regulated. We may disagree and can undoubtedly speak out where that is the case. Nevertheless, we must fight to preserve our first liberty.

2. The church is inherently political.

Jonathan Leeman is incredibly helpful in this part of the conversation; his treatment of the church as embassies of Heaven and believers as ambassadors uses innately political language to address the relationship between the two kingdoms.

In How the Nations Rage, Leeman rightly presents several things the church is not: It is not a base for voter recruitment. It is not a lobbying organization or a branch of this or that party. It is not a place for partisan positions and campaign speeches. Instead, a church is political, like an embassy is political (How the Nations Rage, pg. 135). The Bible is full of political language. For example, when Jesus says, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." This political statement pits the kingdom of Heaven against the kingdom(s) of the earth; contextually, this would have been Rome. Jesus also calls his followers to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Paul calls the Roman Christians to submit to their rulers, and Peter says the same (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2). Leeman is right to address the things a church is not. He is also right to assert the church is political.

Additionally, writing as a Baptist that holds to baptistic congregationalism, a healthy church models a healthy democratic polity where the authority of the pastor/elders is given first by the Lord Jesus but secondly by the congregation. The congregation is responsible for removing and installing pastors/elders as the need arises. In turn, the pastors/elders are expected to steward that authority to the glory of God and for the spiritual health and well-being of His people. Not only should Christians let their voice be heard in the democratic process of their church, but they also have the responsibility to let their voice be heard in the democratic process on the local, state, and federal levels.
In part two, I will explore how Christians should engage in politics, and one of the points I will make is that Christians should engage in politics missionally. The missional component of Christian political engagement comes to bear within the distinctly Christian voice in the public square. The defense of the Imago Dei, biblical family values, and religious liberty are gospel-driven aspects of Christian political engagement. My prayer is that these articles will help you think Christianly about your voice and your engagement in politics.
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1 Comment

Ellen Berra - March 8th, 2024 at 6:02pm

Thank you for this article. I can’t wait to read part 2. I think we forget sometimes what Jesus told us to do. My job is to tell and show the good news of Jesus. To make disciples so they have a new heart with the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the church to teach and show them how to live to bring glory to God. Bless you for your commitment to teaching the Bible. Appreciate your leadership for our church.