With the national election just weeks away. Jim Denison, co-founder of Denison Forum, pastor, author and digital-ministry leader, digs into the Bible to discover its insights on politics.
“Some Christians say we should stay ‘above’ politics, especially in such a politically-charged season as 2020,” Denison said. “At the same time, God’s word calls Christians to be ‘salt and light’ in their culture. So how can Christians be politically active while remaining Christlike? How can Christians vote biblically? How can Christians make a difference in this season and act in ways that empower their witness when the election is over?”
Three points from the Bible offers a way forward:
- God calls and uses political leaders.
- God is calling us to participate in politics.
- Ultimately, we must serve our highest authority: God.
Watch a Video on the Bible and Politics
One: God Calls and Uses Political Leaders
It is tempting for Christians to stay “above” politics and out of the fray. In this day of “cancel culture” and 24/7 media coverage, and a nation that feels more divided and divisive than ever, it is understandable for good people to want to sit on the sidelines.
However, as Plato noted, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
The Bible makes clear that, despite the stigma often associated with politics, God calls and uses political leaders.
He calls those who partner with him, like Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery then 13 years later feared him after he became the second-most powerful man in Egypt. And like Mordecai in the Book of Esther, who was dressed in royal robes and given great authority in Persia. Or Daniel, a captive in Babylon, who saw his obedience to and trust in God lead to ruling the entire province.
But God doesn’t need our agreement. He used Pharaoh in the time of the Exodus from Egypt. He used Herod when Jesus was born. He used many Romans intent on harming Christianity. His will was done through reluctant political leaders.
God has used those who don’t know they are being used. In the large cosmopolitan city of Ephesus, a riot broke out against Paul and his companions. Members of the imperial Roman cult in Asia warned Paul and helped him avoid danger.
Whether with God, against him or even unaware of him . . . he uses people in politics.
Two: God Calls Us to Participate in Politics
As the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14), the flourishing of our world is, in part, our responsibility. If I have the only light in a dark room, its darkness is my fault. Caring for our culture and engaging in its political processes is part of good citizenship for God’s people.
Here are four ways to participate.
- Vote: It’s our responsibility to be informed voters, to seek God’s leadership, to actually vote and encourage others to do the same.
- Engage: Your elected officials need to hear from you. They want to hear from you. You would be surprised how few people take time to go beyond forwarding a pre-penned email. Call. Let your voice be heard.
- Serve: We need voters of faith. We also need leaders of faith. Is God calling you to elected office? Are you asking him to make his desires known to you and others?
- Intercede: We are to pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not. In fact, the less we agree, the more we should intercede. We should pray for all leaders. Do you know the names of your city council? Are you praying for them and for your mayor? For your governor and state officials? For the president and his cabinet?
Three: Serve Our Highest Authority
Peter told the early Christians to “honor” the emperor, but “fear” only God. This means that if we must choose, we must choose our highest authority.
We should come to this position only if we must, first seeking every means to obey the secular authorities while remaining true to our Lord. But there are times when we must declare with the apostles, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Ultimately, voting in the United States is the privilege and responsibility of every eligible citizen. Christians must never think they get a pass on that. What we have, though, is clear guidance from God’s word why and how to participate in this marvelous republic.
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Who Is Jim Denison?
Denison and the Denison Forum reach people around the globe with The Daily Article, delivered by email and social media; The Daily Article podcast; and numerous books. He speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues where faith and current events intersect.
Denison holds doctoral and master’s degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dallas Baptist University and has pastored five churches across 36 years with a combined membership of more than 20,000. He is the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum. He also serves as Resident Scholar for Ethics with Baylor Scott & White Health and as Senior Fellow for Cultural Studies with Dallas Baptist University.
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