THE CHRISTIAN AND POLITICS*

By A. E. WILSON.

 

[A short time prior to the initial presentation of this tract on the website, I received a proposition from a retired Christian business man active in politics, who invited me, at that time, to become a new subscriber to his political party.

 

Hence the presentation of the this tract, which I hope and pray will be instrumental in persuading him and many of his Christian friends and colleagues, to channel their time, money and efforts in seeking to attain entrance into that Kingdom which Christ will establish upon this earth a kingdom which His disciples (Matt. 5: 1, 2), are commanded to "seek first", (Matt. 6: 33).]

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The question has often been raised but seldom answered, Just what place should a Christian occupy in politics or civil government in the country in which he lives?  What is a politician?  In the better sense of the word a politician is one who takes considerable and constant interest in the community in which he lives, in the affairs of that community and the people of that community.  He praises the rulers when they do good and condemns them when they do not.  He lifts up his voice against all injustices, fraud, deception, corruption and any restraint on liberty.  He resists evil as far as the law permits.  He uses every civil opportunity to influence government, and if the opportunity is afforded he takes office for the good of mankind.  He hopes to administer affairs of state in a just and benevolent way.

 

How can one tell the part a Christian should play in politics?  Our appeal can only be made to the Bible.  For the Christian the Bible is the sole source of authority and doctrine.  Let us start first of all by taking the example set by our Lord.  We judge by what He did was and is right and that which He did not do is either wrong or of no consequence.

 

In 1 Peter 2: 21, we read that Christ "left us an example that we should follow in His steps."  In John 8: 29, Jesus says, "I do always those things that please Him (the Father)."  In Matthew 17: 5, God the Father says, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him."  From these verses we learn: (1) that Jesus did only that which pleased the Father; (2) the Father was pleased with everything that He did; (3) Jesus is our example.

 

Was Jesus a politician?  Did He take part at all in the government of the Roman Empire or of the nation of Israel?  Did He pass any judgment at all on any person or measure?  Did He take a stand for any political group, oppressed or otherwise?  Did He exercise any civil authority whatever?  The answer to all of these questions is a very emphatic, "NO!"

 

His conduct was the exact reverse of the politician.  The Jewish liberty was gone and He did nothing to remedy that situation.  His own country and people were oppressed by the Roman emperor and He did nothing.  Slavery, war, poverty, liquor, prostitution were rampant and He did nothing to try to correct the situation per se.  He refused to act as a politician, as recorded in Luke 12: 13, 14, when He refused to intervene in a financial difficulty between two brothers.  In John 3: 17, He states specifically that He did not come into the world to condemn the world. (How much so-called gospel preaching is nothing but a condemnation of the world and the things of the world!)

 

In Matthew 14: 10-13, when Jesus was told that Herod had beheaded John the Baptiser, there was no demonstration, no breaking out plate glass windows and looting of stores, no lying down in front of chariots and oxcarts, no condemnation whatever of Herod or his government.  Jesus and His disciples just quietly slipped out and went into a desert place to get away from it all for a while.

 

In Luke 13: 1-5, our Lord has no word of condemnation for the national outrage committed by Pilate in slaying some Galileans in the temple amid the sacrifices which were being offered.  This pagan profanation of the temple and gross indignation perpetrated by the pagan Pilate drew no word at all from the Lord.

 

Jesus did not contend for civil rights for Himself or His followers but taught His disciples to be in obedience to the powers that wereIn Matthew 22: 15-22, our Lord commanded them to pay taxes to Caesar.  Caesar was a murderer, a profligate, an adulterer; he was cruel and hartless.  Jesus said, "Pay your taxes to him," even though part of the taxes went to support the idolatrous worship of the Roman EmpireJesus did not meddle in any of the governments of the countries in which He lived.  Neither should we.  In John 20: 21, our Lord says, "As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you."

 

Let us look at the example of the Apostle Paul.  In Acts 16: 16-34, when Paul and Silas were unjustly arrested, indicted, convicted, beaten and imprisoned, their followers did not have a sit-in or a lie-in at the jail, neither at the governor's palace nor in the public streets.  Paul and Silas uttered no protest at all but prayed to God and sang praises unto Him, and God moved in a miraculous way to deliver them.

 

However, there came a time in life when Paul got involved in politics; and in his trial before Festus, as recorded in Acts 25: 11, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed unto Caesar; that is, he claimed civil protection under civil rights.  That one appeal on his part, that one moment of weakness in turning to political power and authority instead of unto the Lord, caused him to spend the rest of his life in prison, except for a possible reprieve between what are called his first and second imprisonments.

 

In Acts 26: 32, Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar."  Which is to say, This man might have gone free if he had not used civil rights instead of spiritual power.

 

In Acts 12, were we read of James' having been killed and Peter imprisoned, the Christian Leadership Conference did not appeal to Jerusalem nor Rome, neither did they start non violent protests, nor did they begin to play the part of vandals in destroying property, burning and looting.  They did what all Christians should do - retired to a private home and prayed.  And the Lord heard their prayer.

 

Now let us consider some of the teachings of the Bible concerning the Christian's relationship to the world.  In Hebrews 11: 13-16, we read that the first century Christians "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth," and that they were seeking a better country.  In 1 Peter 2: 11-18, Christians are urged to submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be the highest court of the land or the lowest.  In Romans 13, Christians are urged to subject themselves unto the higher governmental authorities, for there is no authority but that which comes from God.  Men in positions of authority of state are called by God, ministers of God.

 

Scriptures referred to already bring to our attention the fact that civil government has been established by God and the Christian is to be subject to the powers that be but not to administer.  When our Lord said in Matthew 7: 1-6, "Judge not," He meant just that.  The Christian is not to be a judge.  We learn also in Daniel 4: 17, that the Lord puts in office "whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men." (How contrary to the thought of many Christians, that Christians ought to run the affairs of the country, which are under the control of Satan.)

 

In 2 Corinthians 5: 20, the Holy Spirit calls to our attention that Christians, whose home is in heaven, are ambassadors to the world, beseeching the world to be reconciled unto God.  In civil affairs, ambassadors who meddle in the affairs of the state to which they are sent are usually recalled at the request of the country in which they are serving.

 

The philosophy of too many Christians is that Christians in politics would make the world a better place in which to live.  In 1 Samuel 2: 8, in Hannah's prophetic prayer the world is likened unto a dunghill, from which Christians as beggars have been lifted. Following that illustration, all efforts to make this sin-cursed, condemned, soon-to-be destroyed [restored] world a better place in which to live are nothing in the world but decorating and perfuming the dunghill.

 

Again, Christians passing through this world are likened unto the children of Israel crossing the desert on the way to the Promised Land.  All efforts to better this world through political means are but a planting of flowers and cultivating of gardens and landscaping the desert through which the children of Israel were passing.

 

In Acts 15: 14, we read that God is taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name.  In 1 Timothy 4: 1, we learn that the age in which we are living is one governed and controlled by the devil and his seducing spirits, and that things will begin to wax badly.  In 2 Timothy 3: 1-9, we learn that the world continually degenerates until, morally speaking, it becomes unbearable. In 1 Thessalonians 5: 3, we read of sudden destruction to come upon the world and those that are left in it.

 

Christians are forbidden to love the world, being told that friendship with the world is enmity toward God.  The world is evil, wicked, damned and perishing, and one day will be annihilated.  Then [after the kingdom age] the Lord will create a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.

 

In Matthew 5: 39-42, the Christian is told not to resist evil; if smitten on the right cheek, turn the other.  If a man sues you for your coat, give him your vest also.  If forced to go a mile by the law, go an extra mile for the sake of the Lord.

 

In 1 Corinthians 4: 5, the Christian is told to judge nothing before the time (the time will be when the Lord returns in glory and power).  In 1 Corinthians 6: 2, we learn that the saints shall judge the world, but not until the Lord returns and sets up His own Kingdom.  In John 3: 1, we learn that the world does not know, that is, will not recognize, a man is a Christian, because they will not recognize God as the Creator, [Restorer], Sustainer and goal of the universe.

 

The Scripture shows in detail how to act in various spheres in which a Christian is to move.  Scripture shows and explains to a man how to act as a husband, how he should act as a father in relation to his children, how his conduct should be if he is a servant, and how he should treat the servant, if he should be a master.  Scripture continues by explaining how missionaries and preachers and teachers should conduct themselves.  But there is not one word about how a Christian should act as a politician.

 

Moody expressed it in these words, "The world is a sinking ship, and I have not been called to save the ship but to save a few off the ship before it sinks."  In Jude verse 23, the Christian's duty is set forth as seeking to snatch dying sinners as a brand from the burning, not trying to put out the fire.

 

In 2 Corinthians 6: 17, Christians are commanded to come out from the world and "be ye separate." (How this Scripture has been twisted and perverted to justify Christians' withdrawing from Christians.)

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FOOTNOTE

Many Christians are deeply concerned about politics, but the Bible is very clear in its teachings, and like so much of the truth of the Bible, it is unpalatable to so many of us.  How does all of this relate to the Second Advent of Christ and His Millennial Kingdom?

 

One's views concerning the coming millennial reign of Christ upon the earth will determine his attitude toward world government and its politics.  Should the church of Christ be pouring vast amounts of money into building funds?  Should they be borrowing huge sums of money to accomplish their desires?  Should they be in competition with one another to see who can provide the best leisure vacillates for their members?  Most certainly not!  If one believes, contrary to what the Scripture teach, that the church has or will produce the Millennium, then he believes it is necessary for the church and its members to play a large and active role in politics.  But if, as the Bible states, things are to get worse and worse and iniquity is to abound and there will be no lasting peace until Jesus returns, then Christians have no business in politics.

 

The truth of the matter is that this present world is likened to a desert with nothing in it for the Christian's spiritual nourishment. The Christian is a pilgrim, travelling through it toward an inheritance in a better land.  The Christians' business in this world is that of ambassadors proclaiming to a contrary-minded world to be reconciled to God; and warning contrary-minded Christians that there is an inheritance awaiting them in 'the Age to come', when the King returns. This millennial inheritance can be lost (Col. 3: 23, 24; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5: 5).  As ambassadors we are here on business for Christ/Messiah our coming King.  Even though world government is usually in the hands of unregenerate men, we must recognize the fact that God rules in this kingdom of men and puts in office at the heads of governments whomsoever He will.  See Daniel 4: 17, 25.  Satan is the god of this age and the prince of the power of the air.  And though God rules in the affairs of men, He permits such men to rule under Satan. This is not the day for Christians to rule. This is not the day for the church to dominate. This is the day that the church endures rejection by the world along with Christ. This is the day when the Holy Spirit, is calling out of the church a Bride to rule with Christ in 'the coming Age' (Rev. 19: 7, 8).  This is the day of testing for the Christian, to see if he is worthy to receive that future inheritance from the Lord as a reward (Col. 3: 23, 24). This is the day of repentance and restoration for the Christian: his opportunity to qualify as an overcomer (Rev. 3: 21).

 

When Jesus returns and establishes His Kingdom here, faithful Christians will then have the privilege and responsibility of ruling and reigning with Him. Luke 19: 17: "Well done, my good servant! ... Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities." Verse 19: "You take charge of five cities." Rev. 3: 21: "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne ... "

 

Let me repeat - this is not the time for Christians to rule and reign in positions of state or local government.  Our relationship to the world rather should be that of a world citizen.  We should so live and think that we can fulfil the commission of Mark 16: 15: "He said unto them, Go into the world and preach the good news"- [That is, the good news of eternal salvation, the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ; and the good news that Jesus is coming back to rule in righteousness and peace: and only those of his people who are "accounted worthy" will be with Him then!]  - "to all creation."  "We should not antagonize all the nations of the world by proclaiming ourselves to be for one nation, thus hindering our testimony for Christ in other nations.  We should be non-partisan in the nation where we live rather than make ourselves members of one party, thus antagonizing all the other parties and hindering our witness to all parties except the one which we are affiliated.

 

A close study of the life of Christ and His disciples and their relationship to local and world politics would prove most profitable. Christ urged obedience to the laws of the land.  Christ and His disciples paid their taxes.  Christ and His disciples devoted themselves to the God-given task which was the proclamation of peace through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to be in subjection to the powers that be (Romans 13: 1).  We are to pray for kings and all in authority to the end that we may live quiet and peaceable lives in order that all men might come to know the Lord (1 Timothy 2: 1-4).  The church and Christians can exert for more power and influence in world politics by prayer than by all other methods combined.. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12: 18).

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