Church and Politics
Jesus said he has come to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10) and to bring them abundant life (John 10:10). Soul salvation is of course of utmost importance. Yet, living a saved life is also important. That’s why I preach and teach about both life in Heaven and life on earth. That’s why I preach and teach not only about becoming a member of the body of Christ but also about living as a member of the body of Christ. That’s why I preach and teach about all areas of life, about the totality of life: earthly life, heavenly life, spiritual life, temporal life, social life, economic life, political life, etc.
We, the church, must occupy the earth until he comes. Yes, in a spiritual sense we sit in heavenly places; yet, in a temporal sense we sit in earthly places. For we and others are yet spirit and flesh. We are to trust in God in all areas of life casting our cares upon the Lord and standing against the devil (1 Peter 5:7-9) in all areas of life.
In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus gives the greatest commandments which are commandments to love. It is a lawyer who asks Jesus about the law. The foundation of law is spiritual whether that law is rooted in good or evil. The goal is for all law to be rooted in good as defined by God.
Law is governmental and that which is governmental is political. In these scriptures Jesus preaches to the lawyer who by career dealt with political questions, actions, and responses. Jesus lets him know that his actions and responses to matters should be rooted in love. This applies to matters which are directly political and those which are indirectly political;
indeed, it applies to all matters of law.
Hence, we necessarily conclude that Christians cannot avoid politics. Indeed, we are in the world though we are not of the world. To be in the world means we must engage and interact with other people and things in the world, whether they be good or bad. It is wise to therefore influence the world through preaching and teaching concerning all matters
that have spiritual and moral implications.
It is the totality of life that Jesus teaches on in Luke 19:11-26 in the parable of the nobleman and servants. He so teaches because the people thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear (Luke 19:11).
This parable has both spiritual and temporal applications. Since the subject of this article is the church and politics I will focus on the temporal applications of the parable. The parable shows that there is an interaction between the spiritual and temporal and that it is unwise for the church, individually and collectively, to neglect to attend to either. It is unwise for the church leadership (nobleman) and the membership (servants) to neglect to attend to either. Preaching and teaching about political, social, and similar community issues help all, saved and unsaved, know how God expects us to behave concerning such matters.
Historical documents suggest Jericho was an important economic trade center. In it was a major customs or taxation department. Apparently, Zacchaeus was the chief official there. Jesus interacts with this government official including requesting to abide in his house. In so doing, Jesus touches his heart to the point of conviction of sin. His conviction leads to salvation. Jesus goes to his house to fellowship. Although the Bible does not mention it, one would expect Jesus to at least to some degree speak with him about the kingdom of God and his righteousness while they fellowshipped. One would also suspect that Zacchaeus later influenced those who worked for him to do right rather than wrong at least in their official work.
Luke 19:11 ties the parable of the nobleman to the preceding verses through the phrase “And as they heard these things, he added”. In using the word because, the text also indicates he spoke this parable for two major reasons: (1) they were near the spiritual center, Jerusalem, the holy city, the place of the Temple; and (2) they thought the Kingdom of God would immediately appear. In other words, one reason he gave the parable was to remind them not to be so spiritual that they forget to live on earth. He reminded them that they must work wisely while they wait. A function of the church is to impart wisdom to the membership and community at large. The scope of eldership includes the community at large. That is why the Bible speaks of ordaining elders in cities not elders at a particular local assembly.
In the parable a nobleman (kingly man, high ranking VIP) went to obtain some territorial rights for a realm over which he would reign. He leaves money with his servants. Upon his return he rebukes one for not investing or otherwise working his money to increase its value.
The political and socio-economic elements in this parable includes, but is not limited to:
International relations (v12); socio-economics (v13, 15, 23), political authority (v17, 19), citizenship (v14, 27)
In American history we have had laws that legalized racial discrimination in general and slavery in particular. For those who advocate the church not being involved in politics should ask themselves the following question: Should Christians in general and Christian preachers in particular have been actively involved in overturning such discrimination and subhuman laws? By active, I don’t mean just praying to God and I don’t mean just preaching to the “Choir” on Sunday. That certainly should have taken place in churches of all races. I’m sure it did in some churches of all races. But I mean taking action to stand against evil in society and WORK for justice in all areas of society.
Some base their non-involvement position on their observation that Jesus did not get involved in politics directly to a large extent according to the Bible. Well, he certainly did not do so directly to a large extent.
However, he did do so in response to political questions about political issues. The question of paying taxing is one example. The fact that Jesus took the time to answer the political question means we too must take the time to answer political questions and address political issues that the church membership have and face.
Furthermore he certainly did teach principles applicable to politics as his teaching in Luke 19:11-26 illustrates.
This is also illustrated in Matthew 22:15-21 concerning rendering unto Caesar and unto God. This records Jesus answer to a particular political question. This should not be used as a basis to justify the separation of church and state in regards to all political and social issues.
Moreover, we are not limited to the letter (2 Corinthians 3:6) of what Jesus did. We are to consider the spirit of what he did and taught and its application to all of society. Also, he did say we would do greater works than he did (John 14:12).
I believe that includes addressing areas of life that he did not address directly but certainly did in principle. His ministry prior to crucifixion only lasted 3 years so of course it was limited in scope.
So then please do not allow the total “separation of church and state” proponents to entangle you in their talk (Matthew 22:15) so that you do not stand (preach, teach, work) against evil in all of society as you have opportunity. Yet I recognize that not all are called to engage society in such a way. If you are not so called, please do not stand in the way of those who God has so called. Please also encourage others not to so stand in the way.
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