7 Things Christians Need to Remember About Politics

How to be in the world, not of the world, in a culture of political vitriol.

Political discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity—the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.

Not only are believers excused for their political indiscretions, but they are often applauded for committing them. Slander is explained away as righteous anger; winning arguments are esteemed higher than truthful ones (whether or not the “facts” align); and those who stir up dissension are given the pulpit. So I balk when pastors tell me the Church should engage in the political process. Why would we do that? The political process is dirty and broken and far from Jesus. Paranoia and vitriol are hardly attractive accessories for the bride of Christ.

Rather than engage in the political process, Christians have a duty to elevate it. Like any other sin, we are called to stand above the partisan dissension and demonstrate a better way. Should we have an opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Yes. Should we vote? Yes. But it’s time we talk politics in a way that models the teachings of Jesus rather than mocks them.

It’s time we talk politics in a way that models the teachings of Jesus rather than mocks them.

Here are seven things to remember about politics:

1. Both political parties go to church

There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right. Larry T. Decker is a lobbyist and head of the Secular Coalition for America. He's an "unaffiliated Christian," but his entire job is devoted to keeping religion out of the U.S. government. Party lines are drawn in chalk, and they're not hard to cross. The Church must be engaged in politics, but it must not be defined by the arbitrary lines in politics.

2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings

When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners. If we give our favorite political ideologues more time than we give Jesus, we are following the wrong master. There are unbiased, logical and accurate news sources out there. But it’s up to you to be a good steward of information—to fact-check for yourself, take ideology with a grain of salt and make decisions based on facts rather than gossip.

3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others

They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith (Proverbs 10:12; 2 Timothy 2:23-25; James 4:1) and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to keep gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics and gun ownership; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.

If you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved.

4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake

The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them—and it will make you obsolete in a few years. Every four years, the parties adopt a current, updated platform at their respective conventions. And while they stay on general tracks, every four years the platform evolves to meet the needs of a growing, modernized and changing party. The Republican party of today doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago. We need to know when to change our views to meet a changing culture—and when to stand by them.

5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-4) and to respect those in authority (Romans 13:1-7)

Translation: if you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them. This doesn’t mean praying the President will be impeached; it doesn’t mean praying your candidate will win. God commands us to pray for our leaders—for their wisdom, for their hearts and for them to be led by Him.

6. Don’t be paranoid

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The country is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses. As 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Stand up and demonstrate what God has given you. America has functioned—albeit, at varying levels of success—for years under the direction of alternating Democrat and Republican control, and at every flip, the other side thought it was the end of the world. It’s not. And if we’re a Church that believes God is in control, we have to believe that He is the one in control of the end times—not whoever's in office now, and not whoever succeeds them.

7. Stop saying, “This is the most important election in the history of our nation”

It’s not. The most important election in the history of our nation was when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Before that, we thought it was OK to own people. Every generation thinks it’s living in the most important moment in history. We’re not, our parents were not and our children probably won’t be. And that’s OK.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated from an original version posted in September 2012.

Top Comments

Stefan Stackhouse


Stefan Stackhouse commented…

And #8 (which should perhaps be #1): Keep things in perspective - this is all temporary. We are first and foremost members of an eternal, heavenly Kingdom - and our King is coming soon!

Calen Horton


Calen Horton commented…

Thank you for this. Seriously.


Stefan Stackhouse


Stefan Stackhouse commented…

And #8 (which should perhaps be #1): Keep things in perspective - this is all temporary. We are first and foremost members of an eternal, heavenly Kingdom - and our King is coming soon!

Matthew Pennock


Matthew Pennock commented…

I was just contemplating today about the story of John the Baptist and how he stood up for truth and got beheaded for it. John's example, as well as Jesus', of dealing with the powers that be was "standing up" to the face of darkness rather than tearing apart, mocking, or seeking to pick a fight with it. Their courage lay in their willingness to be killed for "speaking the truth in love" if it came to that rather than taking a passive and cowardly route and doing nothing. It is entirely possible to bravely stand for truth without taking sides.

Carlos Rodriguez


Carlos Rodriguez commented…

When Jesus walked the earth, people came to make him king. They were good-hearted, well intended people, who wanted to force him into a new office. So they approached him with the idea. That idea was change. And that change would come through politics.

But Jesus ran away.

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:15

Read more: http://www.happysonship.com/jesus-never-ran-for-office

Steve Cornell


Steve Cornell commented…

Actually, while I appreciate some of your points, Christians must learn to think more deeply about politics. We have a calling to be agents of common grace committed to the welfare of the city of our exile (after the model outlined in Jeremiah 29:4-7).

If we who honor our Creator, We'll be deeply concerned about a common good for His creatures.

Those who live in a representative forms of democracy have a unique opportunity to sit at the table where policies and laws are formed. Ordinary people in biblical times never had this kind of opportunity and many in the world today would love to have it.

The reality and realm of common grace presuppose an ability to have rational conversations between redeemed and unredeemed about the common good. We need a fresh and bold investigation of the doctrine of common grace.

One thing that we really need to understand is that dialogue and persuasion in settings involving redeemed and unredeemed don't require quotation of biblical chapters and verses for truth to be present. Truth-based input is possible without putting people on the defensive by quoting a bible verse.

We can clearly articulate a worldview that honors our Creator without verbalizing references to the Bible We can also hope for some of these truths to resonate with a general population.

I am not trying to diminish the authority and power of Scripture. We obviously must have a thorough understanding of Scripture to be able to articulate its truth. I am concerned that we have adopted narrow conceptions of truth that treat quotations of the bible as forms of spiritual incantations.

Human flourishing and the common good are most significantly based on the image of God in humans. The universal reality of the image of God is part of the case for believing that, “God has lawfully ordered his creation in a way that all human beings have some sort of cognitive access to that lawfulnes” (Richard Mouw). Romans 2:15-16 appear to validate this cognitive access — even among those who don’t have access to Scripture.

Perhaps RELEVANT could give some space to this kind of focus. For those who wish to look more deeply into this theme, https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/thinking-deeply-about-our-in...

Steve Cornell

Carolyn Robe


Carolyn Robe commented…

I wonder how all these ideas would work out if a modern day Hitler were rising up....in US politics. If I were in Germany at the time of Hitler's ascendence I like to think I would at least try to do something more or maybe get out of the country.....if at all possible.

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