What is a Christian To Do? Some Reminders About This Election

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Introduction

Well the time has come for what is supposed to be the biggest election in our country’s history.  It could not be more apparent that the nation is polarized. And I think after tomorrow we will still be polarized. But what is a Christian supposed to do in an election like this? Christians are always confused about how much time should be put into political involvement. And who would Jesus vote for? Or, would he vote at all? After all, is Jesus  a Republican or Democrat? I say he is neither.  While I sumbit that I am not an expert in politics, here are a few of my own thoughts:

Our True Identity

First,  the Christian must remember our tue identity is not in a political party. Remember these Scriptural truths:

We are God’s child (John 1:12)

We have been justified (Romans 5:1)

Webelong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)

We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

We are blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)

We are adopted as God’s child (Ephesians 1:5)

We are in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)

We are the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14)

We are ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

We are alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)

We are raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)

We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)

We have been given the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)

We are blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)

We have been set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)

We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)

We are the light in the world (Matthew 5:14)

We are born again (I Peter 1:23)

We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

There is no doubt that  Christians have been guilty of forgetting their identity in Christ by their close association with the Republican or Democratic party. So we need to be fair and say both sides are guilty. Also, someone who gives a list of reasons to vote for a candidate (i.e., abortion, same sex marriage, or whatever) may come across as reductionistic. In other words, the comments like “Hey, stupid Christian, you only think Jesus cares about the killing of 50-60 million babies and same sex marriage. But what about the poor, the environment, and greed?”  is not really going anywhere. Don’t get me wrong: I am 100% pro-life and  think the abortion is one of the top issues in each election. But each Christian will have to  pray, do their homework, and conclude which candidate best represents their values.

What about the Reign of God? Should Christians Be Involved in Politics?

One of the most prominent themes throughout the Bible is the kingdom of God. The framework of Israel’s existence and self-understanding was formulated from God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s servant to God the King. Israel is the people of the king, and the Holy land is the land of the king’s rule. Biblical scholar J. Julius Scott Jr. has noted that in the ancient world, “kingdom” referred to “lordship,” “rule,” “reign,” or “sovereignty,” rather than simply a geographical location. Scott asserts “sovereignty (or rule) of God” would be a better translation than “kingdom of God,” since such a translation denotes God’s sphere or influence or control and includes any person or group who, regardless of their location, acknowledge His sovereignty. (1)

Therefore, this is why I generally use the phrase “reign of God,” rather than “kingdom of God.”

While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), the Davidic covenant established David as the king over all of Israel. Under David’s rule, there was the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. David also captured Jerusalem and established his capital there (2 Sam. 1-6). As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. However, God did make an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David that would rule forever as the kings of Israel (2 Sam. 7:5-16; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-37). The desire for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty became even more fervent after the united kingdom of the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, at the time of King Rehoboam.

In 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. The grant that David’s house would rule God’s kingdom forever lays the foundation of the messianic hope. J.J.M. Roberts says, “The claim that God had chosen David and his dynasty as God’s permanent agent for the exercise of divine rule on earth was the fundamental starting point for the later development of the messianic hope.” (2)

Isaiah 9:2 speaks of the Davidic Son as a light to the nations. This Davidic Ruler is repeatedly characterized as demonstrating justice and righteousness. Isaiah 11:2 speaks of the Spirit of God resting on this Davidic Ruler who brings wisdom and understanding to his people. Ezekiel 34-36 prophesies of a Davidic ruler as not only exercising his authority over the flock but also as mediating the cleansing work of the Spirit.

The Reign of God: “Already, But Not Yet”

In relation to the kingdom of God theme, one of the most debated issues in biblical scholarship is whether Jesus actually offered the earthly, national, or political aspect of the kingdom of God. A look at the content of Jesus and John the Baptist show the kingdom is the central theme of their message: (1)“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”(Matt.3:2);(2) “Repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near”(Matt. 4:17); (2) “The kingdom of heaven has come near”(Matt 10:7). One of the crucial issues in this debate is the meaning behind the Greek word “engizo” which can mean “has already arrived” or “has drawn near.” According to New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, it is best taken to mean “has drawn very near but is not yet come.” To support this view, McKnight says there are passages such as Matt. 21:1, where the travelers have drawn near to Jerusalem but are still in Bethphage (thus “have drawn very near”); in Matt. 21:34, the time for the harvest has drawn near but has not yet arrived; and in Matt. 26:45, the hour of Jesus’ death has drawn so near that its impact is now being felt, but it remains in the future. (3)  Therefore, while the kingdom is now operative in some regards, it still has a futuristic aspect in which Israel will be all that God has purposed it to be.

One day, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God. (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

So what’s the point?

The kingdom of God does have a political dimension. The Davidic King will return and rule from Jerusalem. But as for now (and not in the future),  government  will never be  the tool to bring people under the reign of God. Hence, God is the only one who can change the human heart. So ask yourself something: How excited are you to share the Gospel? How excited are you to make disciples (Matt. 28:19)? Don’t get me wrong: I know there are crucial issues involved with this election. But are you more fired up for this political election or seeing people come to faith and becoming a lifelong disciple of our Lord?

Furthermore, any Christian who thinks that either candidate is the Christian candidate who will truly bring hope and spiritual change in America is just clueless. The Gospel is the only thing that will bring a spiritual change into someone’s life (Rom. 1:16).  So for those Christians that are sitting on the fence saying, “Well, neither candidate is a Christian (at least in the sense of attempting to uphold Christian values while in office), so I can’t vote” needs to realize that whoever gets into office shouldn’t cause us Christians to say “Oh, bummer, now the U.S. is spiritually doomed.”  Sure, I love my country and am proud to be an American. But remember, our first identity is in Christ and not a Rep or a Dem or even an American. And if you really want to see spiritual change in America,  repent, pray your brains out,  preach the Gospel, do apologetics (1 Pet. 3:15-17), and make healthy disciples (Matt 28:19).

Should Christians be engaged in politics?

This is where it gets kind of tricky. The reason why many Christians fear getting too involved in politics is because of the past baggage this brings to the culture around us. Many  (like myself) are tired of being told Christianity is overly attached to a political party. In other words, the hyper focus on politics has created a barrier to the Gospel. Theologians such as Greg Boyd have discussed the challenges of these issues in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation.

Now having said that, it would be totally irresponsible of Christians not to engage the political process. My friend Neil Mammon has written a new book called Jesus Is Involved In Politics! Why aren’t you? Why isn’t your church? No doubt this book is controversial. Neil points out that if Christians had stayed out of politics over the last 2000 years then all these would still be legal: Slavery, Racism, child labor, child marriage, temple prostitution, gladiatorial games, child abandonment etc. You will have to see the book.

Get Educated and Vote

What this election really shows is that many Christians are somewhat in the dark about the relationship between their faith and government and how to be a responsible citizen in this culture around us. One thing for sure: It is not spiritual to be ignorant! Let’s do our homework and vote!

Sources:

1. J. J. Scott Jr, Customs and Controversies: Intertestamental Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 97.

2. J.J.M. Roberts, “In Defense of The Monarchy: The Contribution of Israelite Kingship to Biblical Theology” in Ancient Israelite Religions: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Crossed. Patrick D. Miller Jr. Paul D. Hanson, and S. Dan McBride (Philadelphia, Fortress, 1987), 178.

3. See Scot McKnight. A New Vision For Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1999), 70-155.

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One thought on “What is a Christian To Do? Some Reminders About This Election

  1. Nobody Important November 5, 2012 / 7:35 pm

    E-rock’s sources are always reliable (that is, they are credentialed; though we might not always agree with them) but they are not usually available (i.e. published) online. Readers interested in further research into the same basic conclusions that Eric and his sources reach above — without having to visit several seminary libraries to find them — can visit ASND’s Web page devoted to Christianity and Politics.

    http://anotherslownewsday.wordpress.com/christianity-politics/

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