A Letter Relating to Christians and Politics
My dear Brother in Christ:
When I saw your first advertisement in the local press intimating that you proposed to stand for the Colonial parliament, I was sadly surprised, and for a few days hesitated whether or not I should write to you. On the appearance of your second advertisement I could refrain no longer feeling I should not be faithful to God and to my calling nor loyal to the friendship we have hitherto enjoyed. I owe much to your kindness in affording me the hospitality of your home for so long and I am, therefore, the more grieved to learn that you have decided upon the present course.
I have no hesitation in declaring that for Christians to engage in politics even to the extent of exercising the vote is quite unscriptural. In your case the warning of Deborah comes to mind. “The journey (course) that thou takest shall not be for thine honour” (Judges 4:9). If you are elected, it may bring some social acknowledgement and advantages in the world, but can bring no true honour either to yourself or to the Lord.
The duties of Christians toward the state are clearly set forth in Scriptures such as Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:11-17, etc. There is not the slightest hint that we are to take part in choosing the authorities over us by voting or for sharing governmental power. Christian responsibilities are summed up in these passages as “be subject,” pay tribute (taxes) and render “custom, fear and honour” to whomsoever due. The highest duty of all is taught us at 1 Timothy 2:1-6 where Paul enjoins us to pray for all men including kings and all that are in high places. No doubt we Christians have often failed in this. A believer’s prayer for his government is worth more than a thousand votes.
Other scriptural grounds for noninterference with politics are as follows: First, we are a people of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1. Eph. 2:19) and citizens of a heavenly country (Phil. 3:20). Consequently, we are “pilgrims and strangers (foreigners) in the earth” (1 Peter 2:11). A foreigner has no vote in the country where he is. The Lord Himself teaches us that though we are in the world, we are not of it (John 1:14-16). Moreover, we are enjoined to set our affections on things above and not on the things of earth (Col. 3:1-4). Christ told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world, hence His servants did not fight in His defense or to establish His claims as King, (John 18:36). His subjects did not revolt against the Roman power then, nor do they against world powers today. The establishment of Christ’s Kingdom is by spiritual means now, and in its manifested form at His second advent. He alone can make wars to cease (Psalm 46:9), and He alone can right the wrongs of this world. This is what we proclaim to men in the Gospel and our attitude should be consistent therewith.
The whole world (kosmos-world-system) lies in the wicked one (1 John 5:19), and that includes its social life, its politics and its religions, even though the last may sometimes bear a Christian name. Believers are called upon to follow their Lord in the path of reproach (Heb. 13:12-14). Theirs is not to reign before Christ and fellow saints come to reign, a mistake made by the carnal Corinthian Christians (1 Cor. 4:8, cf. 2 Tim. 2:12). Democracy with the democratic vote expresses rule by the people and this is not God’s order at all. His ideal is absolute monarchy in the person of the Son of Man. During the course of His ministry on earth our Lord refused to be drawn into this world’s politics even though He was in fact King of the Jews, and they at the time under the dominion of a foreign power, (Luke 20:22-25).
Then what of the principle of separation (1 Cor. 6:14-17)? This separation, so often wrongly applied to separation from our brethren in Christ who may not always see eye to eye with us, refers to separation from the world (John 17:15-16), from its guilty pleasures, and from all man-made organizations that are contrary to God. “Touch no unclean thing” is the word. It is well known that in some countries, politics are very much worse than in others. One cannot be active in a coal yard without getting soiled. In the interests of his party, a politician has sometimes to suppress his own principles, and, if a Christian, cannot avoid compromising with his conscience and with the Word of God.
The Christian’s work is to evangelize the world, not to run it (Mark 16:15). If he concentrates on the Lord’s business, he will simply have no time for managing the world’s affairs. It is common knowledge that believers who have entered politics have declined spiritually, and have often marred their testimony for God. Their action has not infrequently brought the reproach of the world upon the assemblies of God’s children. Yes, the world openly may flatter, but at heart it is cynical and fails not to see the inconsistency involved.
Lastly, I beg you, dear brother, to remember the warning example of Lot. He himself was righteous (2 Pet. 2:8), but, alas, carnal. Abraham was righteous but spiritual, (Romans 4). He had power with God in the matter of Sodom. Lot had none whatever, and in fact would have been destroyed with the wicked cities of the plain had not Abraham pleaded with God (Gen. 18:23). On an earlier occasion when the kingdom of Sodom was in difficulty and Lot a captive, it was Abraham and his servants who delivered all (Gen. 14). Lot was helpless to save himself or his adopted city in which he had become a “magistrate” (Gen. 19:1). Still unwarned by this experience, he returned to Sodom and finally lost all in the divine overthrow of the wicked cities. Note, too, that he brought ruin upon his family, and when at last he had a true message to convey he was laughed to scorn. The citizens pointed to the responsible place Lot had accepted among them as conflicting with his warning announcement. In the mercy of God he was delivered from destruction in the divine overthrow of the cities of the plain, but what a sad story of carnality is revealed in his subsequent behaviour and that of his daughters. Moreover, he lost his wife and all his possessions.
Success in the polls may be yours, Brother, … but I fear there will be spiritual defeat if not greater disaster.