Another election season is in full swing. Americans are inundated with commercials, yard signs, billboards, brochures, and flyers promoting candidates for local, state, and federal offices. Such messages either promise to fix societal, fiscal, ecological, and moral problems, or they contain negative accusations against opposing candidates—why he or she is unfit for public office. Some candidates cater to the conservative and evangelical voting bloc opposing abortion, euthanasia, same-gender unions, and the like. Other candidates opt for a partial or total secular base of support.
A few candidates profess to be Christians. Yet when asked specifics about salvation, even the message of the Gospel, these same politicians are often incapable of giving a straight or clear answer. Moreover, most politicians in this category seem to view the purpose of the church as a reforming agent—to reform the society in which it exists, having little or even nothing to do with spiritual truth. In fact, such candidates often seem to view the church in conjunction with the government, believing it exists to provide resources to meet people’s emotional, mental, and physical needs (crisis pregnancy centers, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.). Therefore, they reason the church can, or should, be a help to their candidacy for public office.
Many evangelical Christians have embraced the idea that good government is a solution to the ills of culture and society, believing that the government’s role is to fix whatever ails people. Good government exists to provide a “safety net” for everyone; no one should ever be disadvantaged, lack opportunity, or “left behind”; circumstances and opportunities should be equal. To them, the government exists to make sure that the field is level. Voting for a specific candidate will make inequalities and injustices disappear, almost overnight!
Is this what Scripture teaches as to what Christians should expect of the government? Are Christians, and churches, to rely upon and assist government officers or policies? So many professing Christians seem to invest so much time and energy into reading political essays and works, promising that this or that political system will fix all that ails humanity. Little effort seems to be made to really study God’s Word, in context, to discover God’s revealed will on such matters.
Throughout church history, since A.D. 33, has the church ever been able to reform the cultures of nations in which she has existed? Nothing in the New Testament Scriptures, nor in church history, indicates that this has ever actually happened or should be the case. The “marching orders” of the church, and individual believers, have nothing to do with politics or social justice. There is nothing in the Great Commission texts—which all outline the mission of the New Testament church—about the great reform of cultures or nations (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-49; John 20:19-23, and Acts 1:8-9). The Great Commission is about the making and maturing of disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ—nothing more or less. If churches were actually doing this, there would be more than enough to keep us busy. Time would not be spent on peripheral, tangential issues that have no warrant in Scripture.
It is no secret that wicked men and women are governing every nation on this planet. The evidence for this is obvious by the decisions and policies they legislate upon citizens, as well as the restrictions and complaints they level against citizens who object to oppression, and instead, determine to “obey God” (Dan. 1:8; Acts 4:18) with a humble, meek spirit. We must recognize that the reason for such vast amounts of evil and corruption in human government is this: The heart of man is utterly depraved (Jer. 17:9). In fact, sin has corrupted every facet of all mankind (Isa. 1:5-6). This is true of all mortal humanity (Rom. 3:23). Since the Fall (Gen. 3), this world has been dominated and controlled by evil rulers. When Adam sinned, he lost the authority for ruling this planet. Through the temptation, Satan gained temporary rule over human affairs. Throughout history, he has done a masterful job of ruining the lives of individuals, nations, and cultures. Even in ancient Israel, his power was seen repeatedly as the nation incessantly turned to idolatry, even after repeated and fierce warnings by Moses and the prophets who followed him. This was true in Christ’s day, and is certainly true in our own!
We certainly desire godly leaders (Prov. 11:10, 11; et. al). Truth and godly behavior ought to be valued and promoted in any culture. This is especially true in nations, like ours, where citizens are given a voice in how they are governed. Yet, do we actually expect unsaved people who have no clue as to who God is to teach, let alone actually value, either His truth or His holiness? To them, the former does not even exist. As for the latter, that is merely antiquated legalism of a bygone time.
Will voting into office the “right” candidates fix the problems we face? Temporarily, it might help, or the tide toward destruction might seem to slow down. But, until Jesus Christ reigns during the Messianic phase of the Kingdom on this present earth, little will be right, just, equitable, or fair on this earth (Isa. 32:1, 2, 16-20). Rumors of war and actual warfare between nations, even civil conflict within nations, will continue to exist. Corruption, murder, and lawlessness will continue to thrive in this fallen world. Any politician—even religious leader—who tells us that his or her solutions to the problems we face will serve as the remedy for our social, economic, or cultural ills, is either “deceiving or being deceived.” That is what “the wicked one” does most effectively and consistently.
Is the church and Christianity all about political, social, and cultural reformation? Where do we find any substantial involvement of believers in the early church seeking political office or attempting to change the culture apart from spiritual regeneration? Was not the government system of Rome corrupt? Let us realize that politics and politicians do not solve problems. For any policy or law they enact, more problems will be created by what they seek to accomplish, requiring more government regulation and subsequent restriction on the freedom of law-abiding citizens.
Pray for elected officials (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). Be humbly submissive to “the powers that be” and “to every ordinance of man” (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13). If voting is possible, exercise this privilege. We can, and should, be “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13) and “light” in this world (Matt. 5:14; Phil. 2:15). But remember, politics and politicians will not solve the problems of our nation or the world. The purpose of the church and the focus of our ministries is not cultural reformation. Rather, it is to win people to Christ and to see them grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and only Savior who died and rose again for them. —Pastor Gary Freel