IS POLITICS FOR CHRISTIANS?
In John 7:3-4 Christ’s brethren gave Him their advice. “Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world”. In other words, how do you expect to be hailed as Messiah unless the public knows you? It’s advice that every politician should follow. To win an election, one must show himself to the public. He needs the people’s vote, and to get that he must achieve popularity. “Show yourself to the world” – that is – launch a publicity campaign! Get your name and face out there. Put up posters and distribute flyers and buttons and signs with your photo. Do some photo ops for the press – be seen and photographed visiting schools, towns, factories, talking with the poor, the farmers, smiling, kissing babies, shaking hands – be “Mr. Friendly” or you’ll never win. Organize a support team to work tirelessly for your campaign – people who are willing to sacrifice time and energy (and money!) to help you win. And speaking of money, you’re going to need a huge amount of it, so get donations from everywhere possible, because in this supposed “democracy,” only those with lots of money can win. This is the way and wisdom of the world, and any Christian who enters politics has to follow it.
But it isn’t the way or wisdom of God. A believer doesn’t need to be voted for and elected, because God has already elected him, and that’s the election that counts! He elects to save all who believe the gospel! We have been chosen, not for a government position but “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4), and that we may be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). By the grace of God we have already triumphed in the great election!
Note also that a believer cannot follow God’s will and win a political election, because the Lord Jesus Christ clearly laid out the path of all true Christians when He said,
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me” (Jn. 15:18-21).
Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus, His faithful follower? If so, you’ll be hated in the world, because you aren’t of the world. It’s a fact. “The world hateth you” said the Lord. He exhorts us, “Remember the word that I said unto you,” but today it appears that many have forgotten what He said. They believe that times have changed, or that they are an exception, or that the Lord didn’t say that for today but only for those times. Their excuses and rationalizing are numerous, but in the end all such are guilty of forgetting the word that the Lord said to us. “The servant is not greater than his lord.” Do you wish to be an exception to that? He who seeks sufficient popularity to win a political or governmental position seeks to be greater than his Lord, and that is simply ugly. The world hated and persecuted Christ (Jn. 15:18, 20), and if we are faithful to Him, we also will be hated and persecuted – so declares the Lord. Who can win an election in that condition? If we are popular and respectable in the world, something is wrong. I am not talking about being honest in our work and considerate of others, but faithful to Christ in all, separating from the world and what it loves, speaking of Him, witnessing, preaching the gospel, reproving ungodliness and warning the lost. If we do as Paul taught Timothy, “Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2), there will be a reaction. Perhaps we have fallen silent, and do not use our voice as we should. Perhaps we have relaxed in our separation from the world and cooled off in our love to the Lord. The church in Ephesus left its first love, fell (Rev. 2:4-5) and was called to repent. It still happens today. Do some of us need to repent? Perhaps we have begun to live for earthly comforts and entertainments, and begun to love the world. It is always a danger, and thus the warning of 1 John 2:15-17. Have we forgotten what the world gave our Lord? A cross! To His followers the Lord says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (Jn. 16:33), not “In the world you can be popular, win elections and do much good to make life better.” Yet some allege that if they can enter the government they can do a lot of good. Christ’s response is, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). That’s the good He would have us do! His apostles and the early Christians obeyed, and had a greater impact on the world of their day than any of us has today. They were accused of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6), and yet none of them entered politics or governments. Do we really think we can improve on apostolic Christianity? Wouldn’t it be better to imitate those who marked out the pathway?
Brethren, a faithful disciple of the Lord cannot win an election – the popular vote – except at the expense of loyalty to Christ. He must turn a deaf ear to the Lord’s warning in Luke 6:26. “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” To win an election you must be well spoken of by people. Now the Lord spoke plainly, just as He did in Eden, but alas, along comes the tempter and begins to suggest, rationalize and induce us to do the opposite of what God has said, and his strategy still gets results. How little we seem to have learned!
A Christian cannot mount a campaign, seek and receive donations, nor spend money announcing himself so that people will vote for him. Publicizing self violates the way of the apostles. “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5). “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). No eloquent speech or enticing words of man’s wisdom, but only Christ and the gospel. He should announce Christ and speak of God’s Word, not himself or his goals! “Preach the gospel”, and “preach the Word” are biblical commands. "Run for office" is not.
With regard to finances, consider how the servants of God went out in the early days of Christianity. “For his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles” (3 Jn. 7). Those who present themselves for election cannot say this. They do not go forth for the sake of the Lord’s Name, but for their own names and that of their party. Nor can they say that they take no support or donations from the unbelieving! And much less should they take money from Christians, whose offerings should only go to the Lord and His work. Christians should use their money to help the Lord’s servants, to help needy brethren, to publish gospel literature and material for Christian edification, but not one cent for politics. He who gives or spends money for political ends finds himself in the situation of the unfaithful steward, who was accused of wasting his goods (Lk. 16:1). He should prepare himself to hear the Lord say, “How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward” (Lk. 16:2).
At the judgment seat of Christ, those who have spent time, energy and money in politics and government will see that their works, although applauded by some in the world, will not endure the trial by fire (1 Cor. 3:13). They have not built on the foundation of Christ, the Rock, but on the sandy foundation of the world and human wisdom. All their hours and works of political service, however sincere, will be shown to be “wood, hay, stubble” (1 Cor. 3:12), and they “shall suffer loss” (1 Cor. 3:15). The life and resources that God gives us, and the spiritual gifts, should be used for the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). We do not have permission to prostitute them for the world.
Colossians 3:1-4 reminds us that if we are risen with Christ, we should seek those things which are above (v. 1). “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (v. 2). We are dead, and our life is hidden with Christ in God (v. 3). Only when Christ shall appear, will we appear with Him in glory (v. 4). Until then, our way in this world is to renounce what the world values and considers important, separate from it, and live for the glory of God.
Since this is so, why did Christ’s brethren counsel Him to show Himself – make Himself publicly known, to garner followers? Why did they tell Him, “Shew thyself to the world”? John 7:5 gives the inspired answer to that question. “For neither did his brethren believe in him”. Their advice was carnal, born of unconverted minds and the wisdom of the world. It sounds suspiciously like the things Satan said to Christ in the temptation. How shameful when some Christians consider that advice to be good and follow it!
Who Do You Think You Are?
Further along in John’s Gospel, when the Lord debated with the leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem, they asked Him, “Whom makest thou thyself?” (Jn. 8:53). Observe how Christ began His reply. “If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me...” (v. 54). This is not only true regarding Christ, but is also applicable to every human being. Why should any person glorify or honor himself, or seek honor from a political party or a government? And yet, many do it! Such honor is nothing. It is vain and contemptible. This has many applications, but since we are considering politics, think how vain and worldly it is when a professing Christian seeks honor for himself, desiring recognition and acclaim, praise, and in this case, with the objective of obtaining votes. Like the Pharisees in Matthew 6, he behaves so as to be seen by men, and that is his reward (Matt. 6:5).
Remember, brethren, that the believer is not to seek glory or honor from men in this world. Instead, we bear the reproach of Christ (Heb. 13:13) and wait patiently. When Lord comes we will be seen with Him in glory. Before us is the “hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2), not here but further along, not now but later. In 1 Corinthians 4 the apostle uses irony to reprove the Corinthians. “We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised” (1 Cor. 4:10). He would speak similarly today to those who desire to enter politics and seek positions in government – that is – seeking to be strong and honorable in the world. The apostles were weak and despised, yet they achieved more for Christ than thousands who attempt to use politics and government. Those who do so are on the wrong road. How could anyone who enters politics sing this hymn of consecration penned by Judson Van de Venter, without being hypocritical?
“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Lord, oh, take me now.”
“Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Co. 4:11-13).
Who could possibly win an election living in that way! If he is “the filth of the world, and...the offscouring of all things,” he will surely fail! Observe carefully what the apostle’s motive was in telling them these things. He wishes to warn them as beloved sons (v. 15). In verse 16 he says, “Wherefore I beseeech you, be ye followers of me.” His inspired desire is that believers live with the same devotion and faithfulness as the apostles, even though they will suffer because of it. “We both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace...being reviled...being persecuted...being defamed...we are made as the filth of the world...the offscouring of all things...” That isn’t a formula for political success! Believers who follow Paul will suffer for their separation from the world, their love for Christ and their zeal in announcing the gospel. And yet, Paul would not have them avoid all that, but rather follow him and suffer for Christ’s sake! To imitate Paul would spell disaster for any politician, but we are called upon, implored by the mercies of God to present our bodies in living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1). This means saying goodbye forever to the world in all its forms, just as Moses forsook Egypt (Heb. 11:27). No brethren, for these and many other biblical reasons politics is not for believers. “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32), not the election. Therefore, “Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:60).