It’s Not About the Government, It’s About the Gospel

Yes, this is going to be another article about how Christians should view their involvement in politics. But please, bear with me through this as I attempt to make a few points that I hope may cause you to stop and think a little harder on the issue. I will start off by saying I am not looking to cause you to think about who you should vote for, whether or not you can vote for a person in a theological cult, or whether you should even bother voting at all. It is my sincere hope that by the end of this article, you will have a slightly different perspective on this matter altogether.

The first point I want to make is this: I do not believe Christians are called to “rescue America.” Now before you drag me out into the square and put me in front of a firing squad, I want you to consider some things. In Romans chapter 13, Paul calls Christians to “…be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God,” (Romans 13:1 ESV). Note that Paul does not say that Christians are to rescue Rome by appointing Senators and getting laws passed that are in keeping with the Scriptures. He does not call for Christians to appeal to Caesar to make laws more favorable to religious liberties. Rather he calls Christians to obedience to the governing authorities appointed over them. Also note that Paul does not make a distinction as to whether the government is conservative or liberal, honest or corrupt. He only states that the governments have been established by God who is the one true authority.

And before you tell me that means all governments must therefore submit to biblical principles, I must remind you that it was God who raised up Pharaoh in Egypt for the express purpose of oppressing the Jews so that He would be glorified when He delivered them from Pharaoh’s hand. God raises up good and bad governments for His express purposes. Christians are not called to overturn bad governments, but to obey them. We are called to do this so, “…that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:15, 16 ESV). In other words, when the world sees us obedient to government, it is a testimony to our faith in God. Our obedience indicates our willingness to be obedient to the ultimate authority, God alone.

Now, there are several of you right now who are probably pretty irritated with me. “So you’re saying that we should let the the wicked, sinful government roll right over us, is that it??” Not in the least. I do believe that we are given liberty to stand up for ourselves within the government, which is my second point. In Acts chapter 16, Paul and Silas are wrongly arrested and beaten by the magistrates in Phillipi. When they were to be released the next day, Paul announces that he and Silas are Roman citizens and called upon the magistrates to be held accountable for their actions. Additionally, Paul appeals to have his case heard by Caesar in Acts 25 after false charges are brought against him.

I believe this is clearly a biblical principle which demonstrates that Christians can, and should, work within the legal confines of the government for the express purpose of defending one’s self against unjust government intrusion and false arrests. However, what I do not believe is that is sets a precedent that Christians are called to rescue a broken system and set it right by forcing it to comply to biblical principles. In both cases, Paul legally defended himself against injustice. What he did not do was call upon the Christians to organize the ousting of unjust magistrates or make mass appeals to Caesar to change the judicial system so that false charges could not be made. What I mean is that Christians have the liberty to act within the laws of government to defend themselves against injustice and persecution. But we are not necessarily called to rescue an unjust system. Does that mean I am advocating we should never, ever fight to establish godly laws. No, not at all! But I am saying that the proper biblical, perspective must be maintained. Government is established by God for our benefit, to protect its citizens and punish evildoers. It is not the means by which God will establish His kingdom. That being the case, Christians should not be seeking to win government to God as the sole means of establishing God’s rule on Earth. In fact, there is really but one means by which God has commanded that His kingdom would be established, which brings me to third and final point.

If Christians are called to obey governments and to act within a certain context when it comes to injustice of laws, or the application thereof, then just what are we supposed to do about the mess our country is in? “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'” (Mark 16:15 ESV) That is our command from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To preach the gospel. Why? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 ESV) When the gospel is preached, people get saved. When people get saved, the Holy Spirit makes them a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). People who are new creations, who are led by the Spirit, who desire to obey the commands of God willingly because they love their Savior, do not have to be convinced to change laws and appoint representatives that are in line with biblical truths. They do so of their own accord.

Stop and think about this. Just how much time, energy and effort have Christians poured into the political system in the last several decades? Every election cycle, we are inundated with calls for churches to mobilize and get into the voting booth. Organizations pour countless man hours into tracking voting records, courting candidates and sending out mailers with recommendations on who to vote for. In the end, we end up with two candidates that just about everyone agrees are terrible, but nevertheless, we are encouraged, guilted and practically ordered to vote for the “lesser evil” because at least he’s not as bad as the other guy. And even when the “right guy” wins, or the right measure is voted into law, it doesn’t take long before all that hard work is reversed when the next guy takes office, or when the right lawsuit gets filed. For all our victories, we are left with very little to celebrate. I’m not advocating that Christians not vote, don’t get me wrong. I believe we are blessed with an amazing privilege to have a voice in our government, but like I said before, it has to be in the right context.

Imagine something different now. Imagine if every single, truly born again Christian got as excited and driven about the souls of those in Washington, in their legislatures, in their city councils, or even about their neighbors, as they do about who is going to get elected. Imagine if we spent nearly the amount of time praying, studying and sharing the gospel with them as we do watching news reports, complaining to our co-workers about candidates and attending political rallies. Just imagine if the souls of those who were going to Hell got us as incensed as the increase in our taxes, or the next failed social program being announced. What if, instead of calling our representatives to complain or demand action on an issue, we took the time to care about their eternal destiny and shared the gospel with them. If the amount of time, effort and energy we spent fighting political battles was spent in preaching the gospel to a lost and dying world, what might the end result look like? I’m not advocating that we preach the gospel to get a better country. I am saying that rather than caring more about rescuing the country, we should care more about rescuing souls. And if souls are rescued and captured for Jesus Christ, then all these other issues might not be as big a deal as there are now.

Christians, we are not a political party, though we may align ourselves with one when we get into the voting booth. We were once wretched, vile, God hating sinners who God condescended to save through the perfect life and sacrificial death of His Son. We were the ones who lied, cheated, stole, lusted, hated and blasphemed. We were the ones who deserved nothing but the fires of Hell. We deserved no good thing, especially not a good government and a free society. Yet, God, in His mercy, sent His Son to take on human flesh, to live a perfect life free from sin, to die a bloody death on the cross in our place, and to be risen again to give us a promise of eternal life. He did this so that our old man might be crucified and that we might be created as a new life. He granted that through repentance, the turning away from our sins, and through faith in the Savior alone we might be granted eternal life with Him. What on earth could possibly convince us that “rescuing America” has more value than that? What could possess us to believe that political maneuverings and machinations could do more for the lives of our countrymen than the preaching of the gospel? It simply boggles the mind that we could ever want to do more in the realm of politics than in the proclamation of the greatest news ever told.

Election time is coming and I encourage you to vote. It is your right as a citizen and a liberty as a Christian. But let’s keep it in perspective. Let’s stop pouring so much energy into a world system that can only produce temporal results and let us be driven to share the gospel which has eternal results.