The apostles Peter and John ran into this situation when they stood before the Sanhedrin and were commanded not to speak or preach in the name of Jesus anymore. However, they knew to whom their first loyalty belonged.
Today’s Christians may often find themselves in a quandary regarding how to be involved in the American culture as faithful believers in Christ and represent Him rightly in our words and actions. There are a few viewpoints that, when wisely combined, can lead us to fulfill our mission of spreading the Good News of salvation and standing for God’s ways.
Many Christians who believe that the Republican political platform best embodies their views were anticipating a “red wave” promising to bring sanity to the country’s leadership. They were hoping that there would be a group of godly men and women to lead the United States away from the moral collapse and reckless spending that has been taking place over the last couple of years. Instead, that “red wave” turned out to be more of a pink trickle, even though Republicans do have a slim majority and control in the House of Representatives beginning in January.
However, Christians who hold steadfastly to biblical values are learning the hard way that their chosen party disappoints them at times. This can be demonstrated by the Republican votes that allowed for the passage of the “Respect For Marriage Act,” codifying same-sex marriage into law with very limited provisions for religious liberty. In the original House vote, 47 Republicans voted in favor of the bill with no religious exemptions. Then, despite efforts to add amendments in the Senate protecting religious groups and individuals from lawsuits and other forms of persecution, only minimal protection was approved with 12 Senators voting in favor of the bill. Then when the bill went back to the House, 39 Republican House members still voted in favor, allowing it to go to President Biden for his signature. At least 8 Republicans saw the light and reversed their original votes.
An issue such as same-sex marriage, which flies in the face of God’s plan for marriage, shows Christians that their chosen party may not be as reliable as they once were to uphold biblical values.
How do Christians respond to this lack of moral clarity in government?
As Christians face a culture that includes many of our leaders being willing to compromise their principles, we may feel not only disappointment but outright discouragement regarding our country. An article by Crossway providing principles for Christian political involvement points to writings by St. Augustine in the aftermath of Rome being sacked in 410 A.D. and some people blaming Christianity. His treatise entitled “The City of God” was written to rebut the false premise that Christianity was to blame. In his work, Augustine contrasted the City of Man with the City of God. He wrote, “Incomparably more glorious than Rome, is that heavenly city in which for victory you have truth; for dignity, holiness; for peace, felicity; for life, eternity.’
The Crossway article further asserts that Christians must direct their political viewpoints differently, “[employing] our earthly politics in the service of heaven’s agenda.” Additionally, American Christians, who have the divine privilege of having a say in government, should be careful not to become “politically stupid or idolatrous.”
It can sometimes seem very confusing and overwhelming to work out living as temporary citizens in the world with the light of God shining through us while primarily living for our eternal citizenship in heaven. It is a tightrope we must walk, but Scripture provides us with some guidelines.
Prioritize Your True Citizenship
The Apostle Peter provides the Christian committed to living out his/her Christian life by exemplifying and promoting God’s ways with guidance using the following verses:
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:11-12, NKJV).
Yes, our first task as Christians speaking up for God’s righteousness is to do our best to live in obedience to His ways. We cannot possibly speak up for righteousness if we are living an obviously sin-filled life. Most non-believers have a basic grasp of the Ten Commandments as well as the instructions regarding loving our neighbor as ourselves; so if we are known for even the pettiest thefts or impure or adulterous behavior, the unsaved will certainly not pay any attention to what our mouths are saying about righteousness. While we recognize that we are flawed human beings often in need of God’s forgiveness, we have to make sure that, as much as possible, our actions back up our words.
Obey God over Man
While Christians want to do their best to obey the civil laws that keep order in society and provide for the punishment of those who commit crimes, we have to face the fact that a nation’s requirements of its citizens may occasionally clash with God’s laws. The apostles Peter and John ran into this situation when they stood before the Sanhedrin and were commanded not to speak or preach in the name of Jesus anymore. However, they knew to whom their first loyalty belonged. They told the Sanhedrin, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20).
Some fellow citizens, such as the Colorado baker Jack Phillips or the web designer Lorie Smith, have already faced the choice to stand with God’s Word versus man’s word, one by refusing to create a custom cake celebrating a gay wedding and the other declining to design a website for a gay couple’s wedding plans. Both have made it clear that they will not be compelled to participate in a message that does not align with their biblical values, saying that it is not the people they will not work with, but the message those people are demanding they promote. Since the recent “Respect For Marriage Act,” now signed by President Joe Biden, has become the law of the land, many Christians will be watching closely regarding its effects on individual citizens, especially those making a living in the wedding business because the law does not include protections of individuals in for-profit businesses, just tax-exempt religious organizations. The door has now been opened for many more people to face harassment because they live out their biblical values.
Love Your Fellow Christians and Honor Everyone Else
The Crossway article concludes with Peter’s instructions to his fellow Christians by exhorting them to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (Peter 2:17, NKJV). The article points out that all people have the right to be honored, and that is a form of love. However, those within the church are owed a very special kind of love because they are members of “the household of faith, as that family that endures eternally.” Churches that are divided by people bringing in clearly false teaching or personally seeking glory for whatever they contribute to the church can drive away visitors seeking God or expose that church to the disdain of unbelievers who are often quick to brand all Christians as unloving hypocrites. So the priority of all Christian congregations is to “put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14, NKJV).
Additionally, when the Apostle Paul addressed unbelievers, he was always very respectful. Even though he was a prisoner near the end of his life, and probably had what we would consider the right to be angry and bitter over his circumstances, he pled his case to King Agrippa with respect, noting that Agrippa was “an expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews.” He then politely asked that Agrippa would hear him patiently (Acts 26:3). Paul’s speech and manner were so compelling that Agrippa told Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (v. 28). It’s a pity that King Agrippa apparently did not go all the way with that, although he did see that Paul had done nothing wrong and was inclined to free him if he had not already appealed to Caesar. We may not be able to change people’s minds or circumstances in the world with our kindness and respect; but if we give people the honor due to all, we may at least make a lasting impression by not acting as total jerks and further alienating people.
Recognize That God Is Still on His Throne and Pray, Pray, Pray
Paul recognized that Christians did not always have the power to change society through their actions, but they have always had a much mightier weapon in the spiritual realm—prayer. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ …” (10:4-5, NKJV). He wrote something similar to the Ephesians: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (6:11-12, NKJV). Since the devil is operating in constant spiritual warfare against humanity, our best strategy is consistent prayer.
Compelling Truth asserts that our involvement in politics can be seen as stewardship of God’s provision for us that, among many of the benefits God has entrusted to us, includes citizenship in our nation and the rights and responsibilities that accompany it. It says, “We will be held accountable for how we steward those things, including being accountable for how we engage in politics.”
The article further states that Christians have choices regarding how they approach politics that include:
Abstaining from engaging in politics altogether, preferring other avenues for spreading the gospel.
Engaging heavily in politics, even running for office. After all, it’s a great way to fill a spiritual void in legislative bodies by promoting God’s truth.
The middle ground is neither abstaining from politics nor running for office, but making a point of being informed about current issues and voting for biblical values.
Whichever route a Christian chooses to advance God’s kingdom, their first consideration should be the standard written in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “...Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The glory of God should be the first and foremost reason we would step out and engage in politics.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Chinnapong
Cathy Wentz lives with her husband, Brian, in Cedar City, UT, and has been a believer in Jesus Christ for more than 30 years. She has two grown children and four grandchildren, all who live in Cedar City. Her writing experience includes working as a newspaper reporter for eight years, and she currently serves as a public relations assistant for a local orthopaedic surgeon, which involves writing blogs, social media posts and other web content.