He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain (II Sam.23:3-4).
I think Christians should get involved in government at all levels, in this order of priority: the individual, family, the church and the state. Very commonly, we’ve got this back to front, thinking that true government begins at our national or state capital. But this has just been an example of how easily we get befuddled with the lures and glamour of power; not a good thing to do, at any time.
Godless people seek power, but Christians should be willing to accept responsibility. These two motivations are poles apart, but not all of us have been quick to see this. All the temptations that Jesus withstood (see Mat.4:1-11) were implicitly temptations to seek power without responsibility. But this is always a destructive impulse, for any person.
So we have to begin at the beginning: the individual, the family and the church. We cannot expect that these two vital institutions can ever be neglected, without great cost to all of us. Nor can we believe that self-government, the restraint and self-discipline of the individual, can ever be neglected. No state can ever truly prosper, without vigorous and vital but restrained individuals, families and churches.
Seduction and corruption are ever-present temptations for the human heart. When people are elected to a State or national position of responsibility, these temptations are significantly amplified. They were painfully evident in Samuel’s era (see I Sam.2 & 8), with Eli and his sons, then with Samuel’s sons. Judgement for the nation resulted, because the priesthood and the house of God had been corrupted.
The Psalmist spoke of such an ignoble circumstance, in his era:
O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, even the shoot which Your right hand has planted, and on the son which You have strengthened for Yourself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You have made for Yourself. Then we shall not turn back from You…(Ps.80:14-18).
Nehemiah spoke of the essential task that he and his colleagues had. He encouraged them:
You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach (Neh.2:17).
When Jesus made a scourge of cords and drove the money-changers from the temple, the disciples remembered that it was written,
Zeal for Your house will consume me (Jn.2:17).
Later, Paul spoke to the Corinthians of the
…daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches (II Cor.11:28).
For the believer, the house of God should be of far greater importance than the nation. Why? Because the health of God’s house, the church, will have great implications for the nation. But in like manner, a sickly and weakened church will lead to a corrupt and decaying nation. The best thing for national health will be the health, growth and influence of the church. We have to begin at the beginning.
Elected individuals are often away from home, their family and friends in places where they may be unknown. Corrupt people in the community will seek an audience with elected representatives, with inducements of every possible kind for contracts or “opportunities.” And how many people have succumbed to these kinds of challenges?
Governments are clumsy, careless and callous. But this is ever so much worsened when a society is degenerate at its roots, as much of the West appears to be today. So, we have to begin with the fundamentals: the conversion of the individual, and then the family. Converted, and thus spiritually healthy families should join and contribute to a local church, participating vigorously in its government and activities. With time and maturity, individuals of such families and churches can contribute to government, at other levels.
Why the progression?
Because internal integration leads to external integrity. The fundamentals of the individual, family and church have to be right, before these individuals can be net contributors at higher levels. I joined a political party in 2010. I made a couple of speeches at party meetings, was seconded to go to an annual State rally with expenses paid, and assisted a local Christian believer to get elected to State Parliament in 2012. This was an interesting and worthwhile experience for me, but I could see the writing on the wall by the middle of 2012. Why? Because the party had got what they wanted-power. They were content with that, while they did have some worthwhile objectives in government, such as reducing debt, partially through cutting the public service. But the notion of leadership through godly service was not really in their play-book.
People or political parties whose goal is the getting and keeping of power, have little moral purpose for what they want to do, beyond this. I quit that party in 2012, believing that stewardship of my time and money required me to focus my efforts in other places, and in particular myself, my family and the church.
This is an individual responsibility for every believer. We all should prayerfully consider where our time and efforts should be concentrated, because everyone’s time and efforts are finite resources. There is only so much of these to go around, and we don’t want to get to the end of our days, and discover that all this time, we’ve been ploughing in the wrong field, neglecting where we should have been.
Are all attempts to influence politics, along State and national governments are wrong? No, they are not. After all, “…the government will rest upon His shoulders…” (Isa.9:6). It does mean that we must ensure we are doing what God has called us to, and that we “bloom where we’re planted.”
The health of the family and the church must be the first priority of the believer. The scriptural records of Samson, David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat and Uzziah show us that political leadership at the State or national level is beset with pressures and temptations of every kind, so that only those who are truly sent by God to these positions should apply.