With the 2016 political season drawing closer, there has been a lot of talk about the role of Christianity in politics. Although that topic is deserving of its own series of posts (which I intend to write someday if I figure out how to blog consistently), it’s a related but distinct topic that is the purpose of this post.
I saw the following comments on a Facebook thread recently:
“No true Christian can be a politician, we are called away from worldly government and institutions.”
A bit later, in response for a request of Biblical evidence of such a claim, the same person said:
“John 18:36 would be an example, but more examples can be sought by actually reading the Bible. God’s Kingdom is not of this world, and every government on earth is in rebellion to God, so what place does a follower of Christ have in such a Carnal man made institution? If you think that Christians are going to defy prophecy through politics, then you are reading a different Bible.”
The author of these comments sees true Christianity as that which is disconnected from the world, which seems rather unlike Jesus’ demand to be “in the world, but not of the world”. If we are charitable, we could suppose that this author is referring only to the very specific situation of Christians in national leadership.
And yet, is this Biblical? The example the author gives of a Biblical basis for his claim is John 18:36 which reads:
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
The author sees this as a rebuke of Christians in political office, but is that what Jesus is talking about? The context is Jesus’ trial before Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus “Can Christians be involved in politics?”
Just kidding. Pilate isn’t asking about Christian behavior at all. He asks Jesus what crime Jesus has committed and whether He is “King of the Jews”. His questions is about Jesus and His Person, not how Christians ought to participate in worldly government. True enough, Christ teaches that His Kingdom is “from another place”, but then Christians in government office are not establishing the Second Jerusalem.
When considered long enough, the author of the comments really doesn’t specify the scope of government office, and his argument has nothing to limit it to the national level. What about state governments? County governments? City governments? The local school board? The family? Are there no places of leadership that Christians ought to participate in?
It seems obvious that there are. Jesus commands obedience and points to His Kingdom as distinct from the world, but He never forbids His followers from doing what they can in the world that is good. He tells them to be the light and salt of the world. Why would a Christian arbitrarily limit their influence by avoiding some of the most important positions in the world?