Christians and government
Christians disagree about how involved we should be in government. Some believe we should not be involved at all and not even vote in elections. Others think we should use the government as a way to promote Christianity. Most Christians adopt a position somewhere between these two extremes. We need to look at what the Bible says about this subject.
We are commanded to pray for our government leaders.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1,2)
The command is found in the Old Testament as well as the New.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)
This was what Jeremiah told the exiles in Babylon to do. Since Christians are citizens of Heaven we are in the same position as those exiles; we are exiled from our native land and living in a foreign country. This is true even if we are living in the country in which we were born.
We are also commanded to obey the laws of the land in which we are living.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (1 Peter 2:13,14)
There is one exception to this; if the government commands us to act in a way contrary to what God has commended we must disobey.
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
When Peter and the apostles said this they were responding to a command to stop teaching about Jesus. We must preach the gospel and obey God regardless of what the laws of our country say. This is the only case where God allows us to violate the law.
Paul was a Roman citizen and as such had rights that most residents of the Roman Empire lacked and he exercised those rights.
But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” (Acts 22:25)
His example shows that we are allowed to exercise our legal rights and to protest when someone tries to deprive us of them. The constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religion.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
American Christians have the constitutional right to exercise our faith and the other rights listed here enable us to share this faith with others. If you live in a country other than the United States you should check the laws of your country to find out what rights you have.
What about serving in the government? Is a Christian allowed to do that? The answer is found in the last chapter of Romans. Paul concludes the letter by sending greeting from the believers who were with him.
Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. (Romans 16:23)
One of the Christians who was with Paul was the treasurer of the city of Corinth.
The Bible contains many commands for those who possess political authority. Here is one example.
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Palms 82:2-4)
When the Bible was written those who weren’t part of the government generally had no way other than prayer to influence the government. That is no longer the case. Most governments are elected so the voters have a chance to choose who rules them. Christians need to exercise this power wisely by voting for leaders who will obey God’s commands once they are in office.
Sometimes neither of the candidates seems likely to fully live up to God’s standards. American voters faced such a choice in the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump advocated restricting immigration. (I have written a post in which I explain why Christians should support increased immigration. Immigration and evangelism ) Hilary Clinton advocated making it easier for woman to obtain abortions. Biblically both of these views are wrong, but murdering innocent children is a much worse sin that keeping people out of the country. I voted for Trump because I felt that he is the lesser of the two evils. I believe I made the right choice, because although he has done many things I disagree with he has appointed judges who will make it easier to limit abortion.
In one sense every election involves choosing the lesser of two evils. There are no perfect candidates; all of us are flawed. We won’t have a perfect government until Jesus Christ returns to earth and sets up his kingdom here.
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
When Christ reigns during the Millennium we will have a perfect government which will carry out God’s will on earth. Until then the best we can expect from government is that it will retrain lawless activities and create an environment in which we can freely carry out Christ’s command to make disciples. Our primary purpose must always be to preach the gospel to the world. Political action my be necessary at times but it must not interfere with our main task. Praying for our leaders will always be more effective than exercising our right to vote.