God established the three institutions of family (Gen. 2:21–24), state (Gen. 9:6), and church (Matt. 16:17, 18). Most Christians seem to actively and even aggressively participate in two of these institutions but are reluctant about the third. Perhaps we think of Jesus’ words that “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), or we’re concerned about being identified with postmillennialism and “Christian Reconstructionism.” But there is a multitude of Biblical commands and principles that require our participation in the affairs of civil government.
Biblical Considerations for Involvement in Politics
1. “There is no power but of God” (Rom. 13:1). The sphere (“jurisdiction”) of civil government is ordained of God and is good. A godly man runs to his responsibilities in all of his God-placed spheres, and Scripture does not excuse us from our responsibilities in this sphere.
2. “When the righteous are in authority [“government”], the people rejoice” (Prov. 29:2). Our civil government is “of the people,” but we should be seeking for righteous people to receive that authority! Our form of government calls for participation, and we ought to use any influence we have to see good men in authoritative positions. Thus, political involvement is a matter of “loving our neighbors.”
3. Pray “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” (1 Tim. 2:1–3). To think that when we have prayed we have done everything doesn’t match how we believe God expects us to operate in other areas of our lives. We shouldn’t look for God to work while shirking our own responsibility (Exod. 4:2).
4. “Ye are the salt [and light] of the earth” (Matt. 5:13–16). Salt retards corruption, as does good political involvement. “Light” exposes that corruption through the clarity of God’s truth (Eph. 5:8–14). If we aren’t advocating the truth within our wicked society, who will?
5. “When I went out to the gate through the city . . .” (Job 29:7). The godliest of men were active politically, including Job, Joseph, Moses, David, and Daniel (Ezek. 14:14). Paul did not cease being a Roman citizen or cease fulfilling his responsibilities of Roman citizenship after becoming a Christian (Acts 21:39; 25:6–11). He did not deny his privilege of citizenship by shirking the responsibility. Paul asserted his political rights in insisting that the magistrates treat him with respect when he could have simply meekly departed from Philippi upon his release from prison (Acts 16:35–39).
6. “Render . . . unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s” (Luke 20:25). While Jesus’ words designate two spheres, they also require our involvement in both. Our Caesar (“we the people”) calls for our involvement! 7. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). Can I be a better peacemaker by not having a strong national defense (Matt. 12:29)? Can I better provide for my family by not protecting them physically or by not being involved politically (1 Tim. 5:8)?
Of course, some take the position that Christians as individual citizens should participate in politics but that the local church should stay away. But the idea that local churches cannot speak to the wide range of moral issues facing our local, state, and national governments is not Biblical.
Christian Responsibilities to Civil Government
So where should we begin in our efforts to influence our nation and culture for good? Let’s look at a list of practical recommendations for political involvement.
1. Be righteous (Prov. 14:34; Ps. 33:12). Righteousness exalts a nation, and that nation is blessed whose God is the Lord. It seems that the single greatest thing one can do for his community is to live a righteous life before God. This would certainly include obedience to magistrates (1 Pet. 2:13–17; Rom. 12:1, 2) and paying taxes (Rom. 13:7; Mark 12:17), but righteous living by individuals, families, and churches ripples outward throughout a nation.
2. Be informed (Prov. 18:15; 19:2; 24:3–6; Hos. 4:6) so that you can pray. The heart of the prudent gets knowledge, and through wisdom is a nation built.
3. Pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). Because this is a Biblical command, obedience is not optional.
4. Build strong families (Prov. 14:1; Gen. 18:19). All wise families “build their houses,” and Abraham modeled a family emphasis that brought blessing. The strength of a nation is the strength of its families.
5. Build strong local churches (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:24, 25). The hope of America continues to be changed lives resulting from the preaching of the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. Politics is not the solution to our problems, but it is part of the solution when Christians, in obedience to the Word of God, are involved in the community. Our position politically is similar to that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3:17, 18—we stand, and God delivers at the moment, or He doesn’t. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other” (John Adams).
6. Maintain law and order immediately around you and in your larger community (Prov. 24:11, 12). If we know evil is happening and can do something about it, how can we choose not to act before Him “that pondereth the heart”?
7. Require civil government to be righteous (Prov. 14:34). Our government is designed to self-regulate through mutual accountability. We ought to take the time to express political pressure for righteousness. “It does not take a majority to prevail . . . but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men” (Samuel Adams).
8. Vote (James 4:17). When I have the ability to vote to put into office one who will seek to protect the innocent (Prov. 24:11-12) or one who will promote moral economic policies (2 Thess. 3:10) and I refuse to do so, why would I not bear responsibility for the “slaughter of the innocent”?
9. Be involved in a special project. Give time, energy, and money (Prov. 22:29; 31:23; Esther 4:14; Acts 13:36). Be diligent in your business, and stand before kings; be known to some degree “in the gates.” Who knows whether or not you “art come to the kingdom for such a time as this”!
Pastor Keith Hamblen resides with his wife, Linda, in Lima, Ohio, where he pastors Calvary Bible Church. Since 1985 he has represented church-schools before the State Board, Department of Education, and General Assembly of Ohio, serving with the Buckeye Christian School Association and the American Association of Christian Schools.
This article is featured from the current (September/October 2013) issue of FrontLine. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
- “If righteous rulers are a cause for rejoicing and a source of national blessing, then it is imperative that righteous, Godfearing citizens become engaged in the selection and maintenance of their civil magistrates. No passage in Scripture makes a more succinct and compelling case than Proverbs 29:2 for committed Christians to be involved in civil government, in both selecting magistrates and serving in public office” (Professor Daniel Dreisbach). [↩]
- “Do Christians ever have the right, duty, or obligation to resist someone who occupies the seat of civil magistrate? The proof text for an answer in the affirmative could be Acts 5:29. Those answering in the negative usually cite Romans 13. There are those who offer a close reading of Romans 13 and conclude that, in fact, Romans 13 suggests an answer in the affirmative. There were a number of political sermons in the American founding era that took this position—for example, Jonathan Mayhew’s famous and influential ‘discourse concerning the unlimited submission and non-resistance to the high powers’” (Professor Daniel Dreisbach). [↩]