‘I come to church to forget the world!’ That put me in my place. As a young curate I’d just preached a humdinger on social and political responsibility. An elderly single lady tackled me at the door. I sympathised but couldn’t agree with her view as it would lead to an irresponsible escapism.
Some politicians I know suffer from a form of schizophrenia. They believe in keeping their faith and their political life in two separate compartments. Some pietistical Christians hold to an unhelpful distinction between the sacred and the secular, as if there are no-go areas for the Holy Spirit. Politics is one of those.
I believe we must be involved with politics. We are called to be the salt of the earth. And that means being spread all over the place. We are the light of the world and we therefore cannot leave in darkness such a huge and important area of life as politics. In any case non-involvement is, in a sense, a political position; it deliberately leaves politics to non-Christians.
Of course the priority of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel. But our concern should not be narrower than God’s. He is clearly concerned about human government as the Bible makes clear.
What is more, in order to appreciate the core of the Gospel -justification by faith – the world needs to know of God’s law, of our accountability to him and consequent condemnation. The prophetic proclamation of God’s law, in the political sphere too, is a preparation for the Gospel.
However, there are two very important provisos. First, our political involvement should be thoroughly supernatural. Lobbying and other political activities are important. But in a world dominated by sinful human nature and satanic influence much more is needed. In-depth intercession will be a fundamental weapon in Christian political involvement.
Second, although Christians must be informed about politics, the basic political manifesto for them must be Scripture. Glib comments are made about Christians coming to opposing political positions through reading Scripture. But that sounds suspiciously like the old argument: you can prove anything from Scripture.
I don’t think enough serious study has gone into the whole of Scripture by some politically active Christians.
The Church should not be aligned to any political party. However, individual Christians may be. But I cannot see how any biblical Christian could be an uncritical member of any party.
Jesus is Lord and that means he is Lord of the political world too. The Church would be failing if it did not proclaim that lordship and the supremacy of God’s Word in politics.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction