As Christian conservatives, it’s easy to become disillusioned with politics. After all, the political world can be quite dirty, ugly, and vicious. The more you wade into the political swamp, the easier it is to sink.
Politics is not only defiling. It can be downright dangerous.
But if we walk away entirely in the name of our Christian faith, the time will soon come when we cannot freely practice that very faith. We dare not take this for granted.
Before looking at the Scriptures, let’s just use some common sense.
Let’s say there are 90 million Christian conservatives in America, amounting to a little over 25 percent of our population. That would be a very low estimate.
What would happen if we didn’t vote, didn’t advocate for our positions, didn’t get involved on some level in the world of politics?
In other words, no Christian conservatives in Congress. No Christian conservatives in the state legislators. No Christian conservatives serving as governors or mayors or local school board members. No Christian conservatives in the White House, from the President down through the Cabinet. No Christian conservatives in the Supreme Court.
Can you imagine what a disaster that would be? Can you imagine how quickly the laws would turn against us, marginalizing us, penalizing us, silencing us, even jailing us? Some of this is already happening, despite our involvement. What would happen if we simply walked away?
The absence of light would cause the darkness to flourish without challenge or resistance. The absence of salt – Christians serving as a moral conscience of the nation – would quickly lead to moral decay, if not moral rot.
The result of our absence would be calamitous.
Looking at the Word, we can make some simple deductions from what Paul wrote to Timothy: “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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Why are we to pray for the salvation of kings and other leaders? It is so that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Otherwise, should the government become hostile to us, it could make our lives very difficult.
Who would relish living under a government that takes your children away and places them in godless, state schools? Who would relish living under a tyrant who takes pleasure in torturing believers to death? Who would choose to live under a system that forbade the reading of the Bible under penalty of death?
It’s true, as I have written recently, that the Church can thrive under the most difficult of circumstances. But Paul’s point is simple: it’s better if we can thrive in the midst of peace.
How, then, does this apply to our democratic system?
The answer is simple: if one of the goals of our prayers for kings and leaders was that they would create a faith-friendly environment for us, one of the goals of our voting should be the same.
In Paul’s day, in the Roman Empire, voting was not an option. So the only recourse was to pray.
In America, we can pray and we can vote. Why shouldn’t we do both?
Yes, the emphasis should always be on spiritual activity first. But we should not give up on other activity as well.
Put another way, if the end goal is for us to be able to “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way,” then we should use the means we have to attain that goal.
If we drop out of the political system entirely, becoming jaded and disappointed, we might just shut the door on our most fundamental religious (and other) freedoms. Try explaining that to your kids and grandkids.
But there’s something else we can deduce from Paul’s text.
God is also concerned with the spiritual wellbeing of government rulers and officials. He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Consequently, logic would tell us that if it’s fine to pray for governmental leaders to become followers of Jesus, then it would make perfect sense for some who already are followers of Jesus, to run for office. Why not?
To be sure, many of us are so involved in politics that we have become more Republican (or Democrat) than Christian, more patriotic than kingdom oriented. But many others have swung in the other direction to the point of a very dangerous extreme. To abandon politics entirely is, on a certain level, to abandon the culture.
In short, if we don’t use our right to vote, we might lose that very right – along with a whole lot of others.
So, let’s put the gospel and spiritual activity first. But let’s not abandon the political world. We should make a positive difference in every sphere as society, and that certainly includes the world of politics.