The Bible shows us that Christians do have a responsibility to be involved in government. In my article: Exploring the Limits of Civil Government, I explain that Jesus’ commands apply to governments, not just to individuals and because they do, we have an obvious responsibility to inform our governments about God’s law. There’s another important reason for us to be involved, though, and that’s because the government plays a role in our ability to spread the Gospel.
The Separation of Church and State
Here in the United States, a Christian’s involvement in political matters may bring up concerns about “the separation of church and state,” but God calls us to make sure that everything we do and think is based on His word. The separation of church and state is not be taken to mean that the government is supposed to be neutral to all religions. Not only is this not a rational way of thinking, it is an immoral one too. I discuss that in my article: Christianity and the Separation of Church and State.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself came announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of God. These things were very political in that day. It’s true that His kingdom wasn’t going to be coming to earth right away, but there definitely wasn’t a separation between the disciple of Jesus and politics.
Jesus’ clear command to us as His followers, is to spread the Gospel. Some have attempted to use this as an excuse to not be involved in politics, but the truth is that the Gospel is the very reason we should be involved in government.
God’s Moral Law
When I think of the Gospel, I usually think of God’s grace. I think of the fact that Jesus died for our sins and came back to life again so that we could live forever in Him. These are the facts of the Gospel, but these facts depend on whether or not we understand what is meant by “our sins.” Jesus had to die because of these sins. If a person doesn’t understand what his sins are, he could miss out on what Jesus is actually dying for. It is possible that if a person doesn’t understand sin properly, he may not even believe that he has sinned and if he hasn’t really sinned, he doesn’t really need Jesus to die for anything. A wrong view of sin leads to a wrong view of the Gospel and that leads people away from God and closer to hell.
Somehow, those we wish to bring the Gospel to, must learn about their sins and the only way for them to learn about them, is to have a proper understanding of God’s laws. A good summary of God’s laws are found in The Ten Commandments, and these laws are clarified even more by the rest of the Bible.
When you consider the need for our culture to understand what sin means, it exposes a pretty wide gap in knowledge, depending on what culture you find yourself in. In some cultures, The Ten Commandments are pretty obvious because those cultures are already well aware of them. In other cultures, these commandments may not only be unknown, they may actually assume the opposite to be true.
In the United States, it used to be quite common for people to know about the actual Ten Commandments. I hope that when you read this it is becoming more and more popular to know them again, but if not, it still exposes a major reason for us to be involved in our governments.
When Government Ignores God’s Laws
There are many reasons why a culture drifts away from God, but a big one is that governments have chosen to ignore God’s laws in the Bible. Some of them purposefully oppose God, the Bible and The Ten Commandments. When this happens, it distorts the people’s understanding of right and wrong. Good things are considered to be bad, while bad things are considered to be good.
I have recently heard famous politicians boast about their efforts to make abortion easier for people to get. Not too long ago, politicians used to say that they were personally pro-life, but that they believed that everyone should have a choice. Things have changed quickly. Abortion went from something somewhat bad, to something you can choose, to something you have a right or even a responsibility to do! This all started about 50 years before this writing when the United States government decided to declare to the people that abortion was good. The Bible clearly says that abortion is murder. It is also a violation of God’s first command to mankind which was to fill the earth. These government actions not only destroy lives on earth, they are leading people to hell by harming the Gospel message.
As I explain in Christianity and the Separation of Church and State, God actually holds governments responsible to enforce certain parts of God’s law, such as the law to not commit murder. It’s true that we have blood on their hands if they don’t, but because they have corrupted the culture’s understanding of what is right and what is wrong, they have also made it difficult for Christians to spread the Gospel.
When a government says something is good and a Christian says that it is bad, the people have a conflict to overcome before they can even say that Jesus died for sin. In the most difficult cases, the Christian finds himself opposing the government just to speak out about the Gospel. The minds of the people are also being perverted as to what is right and wrong causing damage to the Gospel message. Because of the government’s stance on moral issues, people are more inclined to ignore the Gospel and continue in their sinful lifestyles.
When Government Upholds God’s Laws
When a government is acting properly, it punishes people for violating the civil laws found in the Bible. This makes it clear to people that the sin described in the Bible and reflected in their conscience is inexcusable. A person doesn’t have to be arrested for a sin to sense their own tendency to lean that way either. That’s where Jesus’ words have a greater effect for the Gospel. He told us that even if we hate our neighbor, we commit murder inside. The government can’t and shouldn’t be involved in punishing hate crime, but God does use our conscience to let us know when we are doing it. If the government says that abortion isn’t murder, for instance, it creates a conflict with our conscience. A person can still hate their own unborn child with little cultural accountability. They may even harbor a rebellious desire to stop filling the earth as God commanded, and pervert their conscience to the point at which they think it’s a virtuous thing.
Keeping Our Eyes on the Goal
When we do get into government issues, it is important for us to stay focused on our goal. Our focus isn’t on who wins elections. Our focus is on our Great Commission. That being said, we should also not assume that we have no responsibility to the governments of the world. The Bible tells us that we are the salt and light of the earth. Salt and light won’t do much good inside of our church walls. If we don’t participate in teaching our government their responsibility to obey God and promote His civil laws, this will also harm our efforts to obey the Great Commission as well.
J.C. Ryle on the Government’s Role
This respected English pastor wrote about the separation of church and state over 100 years ago. Here’s some of what he had to say as it relates to Jesus’ comment to Pilate in John 18:36, when He tells him that His kingdom is not of this world.
Exploring the Limits of Civil Government
When is the government taking on too much? When isn’t it doing enough? In this article, I focus on the what government’s biblical responsibilities are and are not.
Christianity and the Separation of Church and State
What does the separation of church and state really mean? In this article, I explain that the separation of church and state does not mean that a government is supposed to be neutral when it comes to governing according to religious principles.