By Joel Mitchell
Over the last few election cycles I have grown increasingly troubled by the manner in which many professing, Bible-believing Christians participate in the political process: as if the platform of their preferred party had equal authority with Scripture; as if showing love, gentleness, and respect to their neighbor is not an obligation when politics are involved; and as if their hope for the future depends on “the right people” being in office passing the “right legislation.” None of this seems spiritually healthy or consistent for a citizen of heaven who claims Jesus Christ as their Lord, example, and ultimate source of hope (Philippians 3:20-21).
I have been trying to find a book that offers an informed, biblical overview of how and why Christians should participate in politics. Until this week, my search uncovered mostly partisan books on what and who the authors thought Christians should vote for (and why “the other side” is mistaken, hypocritical, and/or just plain evil). This week I finally found a winner: How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman. The author states that “The primary goal of this book is not to help Christians make an impact in the public square. It is not to help the world be something. It is to help Christians and Churches be something” (p. 33).*
Rather than pushing a partisan agenda, Leeman warns us to “…be leery of being too captivated by any political worldview. Your tight-gripped principles should come from Scripture, not ideology” (p. 157). He reminds Christians that our primary identity is who we are in Christ according to the glorious Gospel of grace, lived out in fellowship with the local church. One of his goals “…is to encourage us all to stop letting our political parties set our political agenda. Even more, we should not conflate our parties with our faith. Parties are good servants, but bad masters; useful instruments, but awful identities” (pp. 116-117).
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He deals very practically with how Christians should approach and advocate for issues that are important to them – both issues that directly relate to clear biblical principles and ones about which individual Bible-believing Christians might disagree because they are based on logical arguments, inferences, pragmatic concerns, etc. rather than a single principle. An important part of this is the discussion on how we treat those with whom we disagree. For example: “If you participate in social media, does your tone edify or convey care? Or does it lambaste and belittle? How will it affect your evangelism? Our arguments should seek to persuade rather than to score points” (p. 165).
I have another whole page of quotes that jumped out at me as I read this. However, rather than include them all, I will settle for urging you to read this book for yourself. As with any political or theological book, you probably won’t agree with everything in it (e.g. I thought he put a little more weight on Genesis 9:5-6 than it could legitimately bear), but it provides a much-needed biblical perspective on government and our participation in it. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, be guided by God’s Word not a party platform or the combative, contemptuous attitude that prevails in today’s politics.
*all quotes are from the Nook eBook edition
Joel Mitchell is the senior pastor at Griswold Street Baptist Church in Port Huron. His childhood and teenage years were spent bouncing between Caro, Michigan and Taguatinga Sul in Brazil’s Federal District. After eight years of pastoral ministry in Northeast Pennsylvania and Southern Indiana, he is happy to be back in Michigan. His wife, Karen, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest is glad to be living near water again, and his three children already love the beach life.
Pastor Joel’s desire is to lead Griswold Street Baptist to share the love of God with our community…not just in words, but “in deed and in truth.” In his spare time, he is an avid reader, reading and reviewing about 100 books per year.