[7]        Politics (1): Government & Politics

Background:

Historically, evangelical churches avoid participating in political activities. However, there have been changes in the US where the Christian Coalition began their activities in 1986 trying to mobilize Christians to elect like-minded politicians. In Canada, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada tries to represent Christians before the government. Many pro-life pro-family groups have been organized by Christians to influence the political system.

33.  What is the Biblical view of government?

a.   The Bible explicitly teaches two things about government:

(1)  The main duty of the government is to maintain order in the society; this can be achieved by rewarding the good and punishing the evil (Ro 13:1-7; 1Pe 2:13-15).

(2)  Christians are to submit to the government because all authorities are from God:

o        Taxes are legitimate even for a foreign government (Mt 17:24-27; 22:15-22).

o        God had given the government authority to rule (Jn 19:8-11).

o        Paul asked Christians to submit to the government which at that time was a foreign government (Ro 13:1‑7; 1Pe 2:13-17).

b.   Modern governments extend their authority to many more areas than those specified in the Bible. Should Christians support it?

·         Some functions are necessary for all countries, such as defence, diplomacy.

·         Some activities of the government is part of the work of providing justice, including helping the poor and the powerless, especially widows and orphans (Am 5:11-12; Isa 10:1-2).

·         There is always a danger of a power grab by the government. Most western democracies have expanded into all aspects of life (even intervening into family life and religious life). They have too much power which is supported by too much taxes. [In Canada, the tax freedom day is June 15, meaning that almost half of everyone’s income is used to pay taxes. In the US, it is April 19.] Such power grab can only be curtailed with a tax cut.

c.   Limit to government power:

·         Private morality of an individual should not be subject to government interference. But it is the proper function of the government to concern with the interests of public morality, that is, once the action of an individual affects other persons. The government must aim at using ordinances and laws to facilitate and advance morally good behaviour in the public. For example, one has the freedom to abuse one’s own body with all kinds of unhealthy habits. But when one tries to encourage other people to follow one’s unhealthy lifestyle, the government should stop it.

34.  Should an atheist (such as communist) government be opposed?

a.   The ideal government is a theocracy, one that is ruled directly by God. Since theocracy is not imposed by God in this world, democracy is the next best form of government which shares its power among all citizens. It is based on two Biblical principles:

(1)  Since all are created in God’s image, everyone is equal before God and power should not be totally held by a small group or a single person.

(2)  Since man is corrupted by sin, human power needs to be curbed and regulated. (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton, 1834-1902)”

b.   Human authority is from God (Jn 19:11; Ro 13:1-2), including all governments. Opposing a legitimate government is opposing God-given authority. Christians are commanded to submit “for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men” (1Pe 2:13).

c.   Paul lived under a foreign authoritative and polytheistic government of the Roman Empire but still asked Christians to submit. Thus Christians should not oppose the government simply because it is atheist.

35.  Should Christians obey the government under all circumstances?

a.   Submission to the government is not to ignore divine principles of morality.

b.   Christians have no obligation to obey the government when:

·         The government commits actions contrary to its duties (such as persecuting the innocent).

·         The government writes laws that violate moral principles (such as legalizing same-sex marriage).

·         The government conflicts with the God’s commands (such as forbidding worship).

c.   In these cases, God’s commands take precedence (Ac 5:29). Example in the Bible: God rewarded the midwives who disobeyed the evil command of the Pharaoh (Ex 1:15-21).

36.  Is voting in governmental elections a duty for Christians?

a.   Voting in an election is a civic duty of every citizen. A Christian should not neglect his duty.

b.   The government is a very powerful institution that affects (and often controls) almost all aspects of our lives. If such power falls into evil people’s hands, everyone will be affected by the evil policies and the society will fall into evil ways. This is surely not what God wants.

c.   The government is a power that controls lives of all citizens because:

(1)  It can allocate resources. It can legitimize activities that would otherwise be regarded as illegal. For example, Robin Hood robbed the rich and gave to the poor but his action was illegal. But if a government passes laws to redistribute income from the rich to the poor. Such action becomes legal.

(2)  It can allocate values, that is, deciding what is right and what is wrong. Political decision-making is never value-free. The government uses laws to encourage behaviour that it regards as right and to discourage behaviour that it regards as wrong.

(3)  It uses its power through force. It holds legal rights to use brute force to enforce its laws, such as using the police to apprehend criminals. More often, it uses the threat of force and the financial clout to enforce compliance.

(4)  It applies its force to all society. The government directs its use of force to every single person. No one can escape the government, whether one desires it or not.

d.   Christians are to be salt and light of the world (Mt 5:13-16) – to permeate and influence our society. Light is used to offer guidance and to shine into the darkness – we are to uphold a moral way of life in this morally dark world. Salt is used to preserve and to soak into decaying meat – we are to preserve the world from moral corruption in this morally declining society. Both goals can be achieved if we use the vote to give power to like-minded politicians.

e.   Christians need to be careful about the choice we make in an election. When we elect someone to represent us, we are giving power to this person to act on behalf of us. If we elect politicians who use that power to harm our society, we are also responsible of causing this harm.

f.    Christians should cast the vote on the basis of issues, not personalities.

g.   A government’s social policies often influence the morality of the society and have long-lasting impact on our culture. It is unfortunate that too often Christians, like everyone lese, vote for our pocketbooks. We vote for a government which is more likely to give us economic prosperity. Christians should put greater emphasis on social policies when voting.

37.  Should Christians or the church participate in politics?

·         Participation by the individual in politics is encouraged but God’s guidance has to be sought. Many Christians, once got power, become corrupted and use power in ungodly ways. Others sacrificed their Christian principles to maintain their power.

·         The church, however, should avoid association with any political party or would risk discord and division within the church. Yet, the church has the responsibility to speak up against ungodly laws and ungodly actions promoted by the government.