“The ‘significant influence’ view says that Christians should seek to influence civil government according to God’s moral standards and God’s purposes for government as revealed in the Bible (when rightly understood). But while Christians exercise this influence, they must simultaneously insist on protecting freedom of religion for all citizens. In addition, ‘significant influence’ does not mean angry, belligerent, intolerant, judgmental, red-faced, and hate-filled influence, but rather winsome, kind, thoughtful, loving, persuasive influence that is suitable to each circumstance and that always protects the other person’s right to disagree, but that is also uncompromising about the truthfulness and moral goodness of the teachings of God’s Word.” (Wayne Grudem, Politics to the Glory of God, p. 55)
Significant influence means that the church must retain its prophetic role. Anything that smells like politicizing the church or the gospel must be avoided. So as an example, Billy Graham was an advisor to presidents but he didn’t endorse them.
But that doesn’t mean hiding in a bunker. Light influences darkness wherever it goes and Jesus called Christians the light of the world. We should do everything we can to influence society and government toward the light. God’s truth is light and governments that govern according to God’s precepts and principles are blessed by outcomes God built into the moral fabric of society. This is known as common grace.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34) Where Christianity influences, that influence is toward God’s wisdom and will. It influences things like human dignity, morality, the inherent value of human life, religious freedom, social justice, punishment of evil, and the promotion of his gifts to society including marriage, family, and loving your neighbor. Think of the moral principles behind the influence of William Wilberforce in England two centuries ago or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both appealed to man’s conscience in the treatment of human beings. One changed the British Empire, the other the American empire. Both did so for good along principles God established.
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7) God tells Jeremiah to be a significant influence. Exiled Jews were to work for the good of the Gentile community around it. Seek the good of your city. Pray for your city. Its prospering is your prospering. What does this mean?
Christians can serve in government as a means to significant influence
Some Christians may choose to seek public office. This is completely legitimate as long as political power isn’t seen as a means to an end that only the gospel can provide. For hundreds of years the church was over the Holy Roman Empire and by most accounts, it was a disaster.
Christians in political office serve the people as an act of service to God. There are challenges, but holding public office provides opportunity for significant influence in the laws of the land.
In a democracy, voting is a Christian stewardship
Pastor Mark Dever makes the point that “in our democratic context, part of submitting to the state means sharing in its authority.” (Mark Dever, “How to Survive a Cultural Crisis,” 9Marks, org, October 24, 2014.) We have a vote and that vote has a personal responsibility attached. We are Caesar. If we are to pray for peace and the good of our city, shouldn’t we at minimum vote toward those same goals? Vote for candidates who as best we can tell, will lead and legislate toward those goals? They are all sinners so nothing is guaranteed. Sometimes it’s easier to identify candidates who are more clearly seeking directions against God’s plan for society. Vote against them. I urge you to vote.
In this election, there are particular challenges. So my personal approach is to view the whole platform as indicative of a general direction and ideology. We aren’t just voting for a president. He or she is a figurehead. We are voting for thousands of people who will govern with them. Supreme Court justices who will decide law for decades to come. With so much mudslinging, it’s easy to miss that there are too very divergent governments represented by the two major parties. I’m encouraging you to vote, and vote for the general direction that most aligns with a society that renders to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
Caesar is Fading; the True King is on His Way
Human government as we know it is part of a world order that is passing away. The Caesars are temporarily on the stage and then they are gone. Nations are on the stage and then they are gone. Whoever wins Tuesday will be here and then soon be gone.
History is telling us something about the future. There is a future government. It is a monarchy. On the throne is the only King worth our full allegiance and worship. He will rule with perfect justice. The effect of his earthly reign will be the flourishing of the peoples of the world. Dry deserts will bloom and rejoice (Isaiah 35:1ff.) “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6) Until then our prayer and longing is for that king to come, for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Our cry is, “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” (Psalm 72:8)
So wake up Wednesday looking forward to the day when there will be no more elections, for Jesus will reign forever.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2016 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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