Should A Christian Have a Political Position?



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  • Should A Christian Have a Political Position?

    As a Christian, I am sure you have been told you are confusing earthly cares for political rhetoric against certain comments? Certainly, a Christian is not to become entangled with worldly affairs as a daily passion nor become a social justice advocate, neither position is a biblical consideration. However, as a citizen of any country, it will at some point become our duty to verify our support for a public official by means of a vote. In this duty, we reflect our values after a careful review of parties portrayed... or we can choose to be pacifists.

    This same Christian pacifism is the theological and ethical position that any form of violence is incompatible with the Christian faith. The ranks consist of draft dodgers which is a liberal prerogative for such as Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Dick Cheney and social reformers like Martin Luther King, Jr. Historically, the accession of Constantine terminated the pacifist period in church history, when many men proceeding held to the non-violent non-active political role of a spiritual soldier.

    Modern legalist groups (often called cults) insist on non-active roles in worldly matters, such as the Christadelphians, Seventh-day Adventists, and Peace churches, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, Amish, Brethren, Christian anarchists, Rastafari and Quakers, oppose any kind of military service for their members.

    The question comes to bear, was Jesus really a pacifists? Did he demand that we must always avoid involvement in wars and evasive about any political action? A comprehensive study proves that He was not. In John 2:14, Jesus comes to the Temple and finds people selling “oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.” Jesus sees that the religious leaders have turned this, His father’s house of prayer, into a marketplace. Instead of prayers and supplications, there is the noise of commerce. Jesus is burning with anger and indignation. This was a physically violent response on the part of Jesus. This makes it abundantly clear that Jesus was not a strict pacifist. The Bible is also clear that Jesus was sinless. Even in this situation, he did nothing wrong.

    Also in Luke 22:36-38, when He sent His disciples out, he stated, "whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one." When traveling from city to city, people of that day often had to carry a sword in order to fend off robbers. Jesus told His followers that He was going to send them out there, and warned them to be prepared to defend themselves when appropriate. Clearly, Jesus was not a pacifist. Again in Revelation 19:11, 15. This is no meek and mild Jesus. This is not a pacifist. This is the mighty warrior, the God of love, who comes to wage war against his evil enemies. The imagery is graphic. It describes Him as treading the wine press, destroying His enemies as their blood spills over on His robes. Love and the pursuit of justice are not contradictory. They can go hand in hand.

    John Calvin emphasized that a Christian should never use force to gain self-advantage, but “use force out of love for thy neighbor.” Standing by and refusing to act while harm befalls a neighbor is not a virtue; it is a vice. Warning about a betrayer of the people and the urgency to make a careful choice is a good steward, to sound the alarm at the gate to warn citizens of impending danger.

    In Roman's 12 we read, never pay back evil for evil, but overcome evil. These two verses act like bookends in the text—one at the beginning and the other at the end. Everything between these two bookends supplies the definition and context for what Paul means when he says “evil.” What is evil? Don’t take your own revenge; that is evil. The evil that Paul, and Jesus, had in mind to resist here is the evil of personal vengeance. The Scriptures are forbidding us from taking personal revenge. This is completely different than forbidding us to examine qualified leadership from the camp, defining which possibly corrupt and immoral.

    We need to be willing to suffer injustice as Christians, and make an appeal to our God and to our State. We are to entrust ourselves to God. But, as members of the State, we are to uphold justice against evil, for the sake of others and our family. That creates a tension for many Christians, trying to understand when is the right time to turn the other cheek. John Stott put it this way, “If my house is burglarized one night and I catch the thief, it may well be my duty to sit him down and give him something to eat and drink, while at the same time telephoning the police.” We have a private responsibility and duty, and we have a public one.

    As Christians, we need to be realistic, not naive. We need to get past the common white hat versus black hat assumptions about military conflict and political involvement. When it comes to either military conflict or a political stance, there is rarely pure good versus pure bad. There are usually gray hats versus gray hats, with different shades of gray. We are all guilty sinners. Essentially a pacifist position on political matters is not only unreasonable, it is unbiblical. The presence of sin in the world means that it is sometimes regrettably necessary to take action in order to protect your neighbor and our family. Christians should remember that their ultimate allegiance is not to the State; it is to the commands of God.

    Unfortunately, history shows that individual Christians and churches have rarely stood up effectively against the State when policies are unjust. It is too easy for people to get caught up in patriotism. It is all too easy to buy into nationalistic interests. People are often so close to the situation that they cannot objectively judge the legitimacy of taking action against another nation or party. That failure was evident in Nazi Germany, where the Church became a lapdog to the State. Yes, there were those who stood against it in defiance, but most did not. The Church also failed in Constantine’s Rome.

    There are times when war and political action is just. We have to define the moral elements, and call out the immoral ones to make a reasonable choice. We must be careful to step outside of nationalistic thinking and critique our nations so that we can be faithful to God, before our State, and then act according to our conscience.

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