I don’t know about you, but I’ve developed the habit (maybe not a good one) of interacting on social media as I watch live TV. I do this with sports, but also was active on social media during one of the recent televised Presidential debates. The comment among my social media circles that got the most interaction was from a schoolteacher and long time friend who simply posted “Jesus, take the wheel.”
This song reference was her slightly humorous but I think mostly serious way of capturing the anxiety concerning the future that this election has come to symbolize. A bumper sticker I saw recently states this sense of dreadful worry in a more dramatic tone:
Maybe that is how you feel about this election – that there’s not really a good choice to be made between the two leading candidates for President. I’ve been struggling with this. I’m not going to tell you for whom I think a “Christian” should vote. Instead, I’d like to share some thoughts that are helping me understand the bigger picture and live with a little less worry for the days and years to come.
Governments have rarely existed that were run on biblical principles or by thoroughly Christian leadership. Throughout history, most governments have been various forms of rule by a few, where the people had little to no say in whom those ruling few would be.
I would argue that even when claimed (like the so called Divine Right monarch era of European nations), these nations were not necessarily governed by biblical principles or by leaders who generally sought to live out Gospel centered lives. That’s not to say some of these governments and leaders didn’t do good things (e.g. Christian members of Great Britain’s Parliament led the way in the abolition of slavery), but it is to say that the idea of a thoroughly Christian nation-state and government is probably not realistic.
When Jesus walked among us on this earth, He refused to become an earthly ruler (John 6:15. Instead, Jesus emphasized that His Kingdom is not part of this world’s political system (John 18:33-36). He also taught that governmental systems would persecute His followers (Luke 21:10-13) and these persecutions would be opportunity for His followers to bear witness to the world about Him. So while I can hope for a nation and leaders who govern by biblical principles, I should expect that as part of the world subjected to sin (Romans 1, Romans 8:20-21), government will generally be opposed, in varying degrees, to Christians and to a biblical world view.
Jesus knew the Roman Empire and subsequent governments would do evil in general and to His followers in particular, but He didn’t act directly to stop them. If we reject the notion that God is evil or that God is not in control of His creation (which we must if we are to believe the Bible at all), then we must conclude that God uses governments of fallen men to accomplish His purposes (for one example, see Exodus 8:15, 8:19, 8:32, 9:12, 9:34, 10:1, 10:20 where God hardened the heart of Pharaoh to enable the miraculous events around the Exodus).
With this opposition of government to Christianity as the expected behavior, there are a few questions to consider as a result.
Should I reject the idea of government completely?
As a Christian, we cannot. Romans 13:1-7 is clear that God has established governments as a legitimate extension of His authority over us. Governments generally restrain a great deal of evil and provide protections to the people under their authority. Think about police, fire, rescue and first aid, area planning, courts and judicial systems, community health services, etc. All these services help people and contribute to the greater good for citizens. While there are times individuals within those groups may abuse their authority and positions (and keep in mind that here in the United States these abuses are noteworthy and make the news precisely because they are both rare and generally regarded as unacceptable), that doesn’t mean we can embrace anarchy.
Can I work to change policies or decisions within the government that are not in line with biblical principles?
As long as the actions toward these changes are morally and ethically sound and carried out in a manner that demonstrates respect for authority (think of how Daniel appealed to his overseer to eat a kosher diet in Daniel 1), I think so. Certainly Christians are well within our rights to vote for candidates and laws with which we agree. But I think we need to understand that real change, Gospel change, does not come about by passing of laws or changing of policy, but only through the Gospel making spiritually dead people alive by the power of God. In other words, our problems as a nation are not really political ones, but they are spiritual ones. We are sinners who need a Savior, lost sheep who need the Good Shepherd, and a people made to serve the One True King.
If a government is not acting in a biblical way, can I as a Christian serve in that government?
There are numerous examples in the Bible of believers who did just that. Joseph served Pharaoh, a man the Egyptian people worshipped as a god. Nehemiah, Mordecai, Esther, Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego all served in governments that were known for cruelty, oppression, and conquest. In the New Testament, there is the Centurion from Matthew 8 and Zacchaeus from Luke 19, both of whom served the Roman Empire. In all of these instances, God used these people serving within a godless government to bring good. I would venture to say that not only is public service allowed for a Christian, but it is encouraged as a great way to serve others and do good.
If governments and nations are what they are, should I pray for revival or another Great Awakening?
I struggle with this. I used to pray often for such an awakening to happen again, but have stopped in recent months (and I’m not proud of this…just being honest) because I’d really lost hope that it would happen. That’s not because I believe God cannot do such a thing, but really because I’d given up hope that He might (again, not my best moment as a Christian).
But what should I be doing if I expect another Great Awakening?
- I should be praying for the lost,
- sharing my faith,
- serving my neighbors,
- building up my local church,
- supporting missions,
- and seeking to grow in my faith.
I realize this list looks extremely similar to the stuff I should be doing anyway. It comes down to this: the future of my country (and this world) is in God’s hands. I don’t know His plans, and He may or may not act in the way I hope. But none of that matters for how I should live my life today and tomorrow. My concern is to live and proclaim the name of Jesus, the only Son of God whose perfect life, atoning death, and victory over death has bridged the chasm of human sin that separates us from the God we were made to worship.
Jesus already has the wheel of time in His hands. He doesn’t need my “help” to steer it. He just wants me to obey on the things His word clearly tells me to do. The rest is not up to me. And that, my friends, is a very freeing, worry free way to live.