I love politics. I’ve written here previously about my love for the TV show The West Wing. I majored in Political Science in college. I love indulging in wonky discussions about transportation policy and campaign finance reform. Where many others have looked at this presidential election with loathing, I’ve quietly been nerding out on election podcasts and political twitter.
It’s also hard for me to separate my faith from my views on how government should act, what policies we should pursue as a nation, and what kind of ethical and moral standards our politicians and officials should be held to. In Romans 13, Paul instructs Christians in the early church to obey the government because it is by God’s authority that the government has been established. The governments we see in the world range from flawed at their best, to violently repressive and injust at their worst. But it is still governments we rely on for everything from water and power, to the operation of schools and basic systems of commerce.
Because of this, many Christians have turned to governmental structures and authority as a means of aligning the values and practices of society with their best understanding of Biblical values and practices. Yet, nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus or any of the Epistle writers call on Christians to take hold of the reigns of power and establish a “Christian” government. No government can do the kind of kingdom building we are called to do by Christ. When we put the power of government to enforce a particular set of values above our relationship with God and the commandment to love our neighbor, we are no different from the Romans worshiping Caesar. The equation of political mandates and governmental authority with righteousness and Godly authority is idolatry.
In America, we have two parties who appeal God and faith at least tangentially in supporting their policies and goals. The elected officials of those parties, and the members of the public who vote for them, have their chosen passages of scripture to defend every issue imaginable. Speaking again personally, there is certainly one party that I find more often affirms my values and beliefs. But no political party can fully embody shalom. No political party eschews the halls of power and demonstrates an understanding of kingdom and justice as lived out by Christ. We want to know who Christ would support? I think Christ rightly answers “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” He refutes the premise of the question!
If you are American and haven’t yet voted, I hope you do. I also hope, whether you vote or not, that you pray for our leaders, both locally and nationally. In the presidential election, if you are worried that there is one candidate or another who will “lead our country away from God,” I hope you take heart and remember that there is no leader, no official, no person who can come between you and Christ, and can stop you from loving your neighbor.
I’ll close with an illustration from one of my favorite West Wing scenes, President Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) is exegeting Ephesians 5 and Paul’s instructions to married couples. He turns the passage on it’s head, saying that Paul isn’t writing just to married couples, he is writing to all of us. If you want to see a more Christocentric world, don’t look to our governmental authorities to make that happen, begin in your own relationships and in your own neighborhood. Be subject to one another. Listen to and empathize with your neighbors. Seek the shalom of the city. Love one another. And if you do that, at the end of the day, I think you will find the Kingdom of God is breaking through into this world in ways no worldly authority could ever achieve.
This post originally appeared on the YALT blog and is being reposted by me, the author.