Christians should put prayer before politics
Saturday, May 15, 2010
“Our churches need to do something! Pastors need to say something! We need to ‘take back our country!'” These are the common cries of those who feel increasingly marginalized by a burgeoning governmental structure that seems practically beyond their control.
I certainly understand the frustration and truly wish more Christians were better informed politically and engaged in being the “salt and light” our Lord calls us to be.
At the same time, however, I really wonder what people mean when they call for churches to “do something,” or what they have in mind for churches to “do,” and from whom and for what purpose Christians are to “take back” their country?
The statements give rise to questions about the church’s role in politics and questions about the biblical world view of Christians. Christians are to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16), positively influencing their culture for good. Coupled with biblical passages such as Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Timothy 1:1-2, Christians are called to be involved in politics at least to the degree of praying for leaders and obeying the law of the land.
One reasonably expects Christians will be politically informed and will vote for those best representing biblical values. We would also expect Christians to use whatever influence they have to encourage others to do the same.
But these duties are not to be carried out at the exclusion of a far greater matter of importance. The church’s chief role is to share the Gospel. Christians are to proclaim the centrality of the cross and how God has overcome humankind’s brokenness so that they may be reconciled to him through glorious union with Christ Jesus. This is a Christian’s primary concern, and it never must be forgotten.
The Bible does not call for political revolution. The Bible does not call for the church to set up a theocracy on Earth. This world is not our final destination. To be sure, when Christ returns, he will set up his kingdom as he wishes, and then we will have a perfect theocracy. Until then, however, we live in a fallen world with problems abounding, including the challenging and ubiquitous political problems facing us.
So let us continue to be involved politically by praying, influencing and voting. But let us not forget the church’s main role of “making disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20), committed followers of Christ, regardless of one’s political leanings.
Furthermore, let us not look to our nation’s leaders as miracle workers or superstars or even parental figures. They are merely fallen men and women who have been elected to office. Our ultimate hope does not lie with them. Our ultimate hope lies with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, let’s continue to share our political concerns with our neighbors. More importantly, however, let’s share the Gospel with our neighbors. That’s what they need most and what we most need to share.
The Rev. Todd Linn is pastor of First Baptist Church in Henderson, Ky.