THE GREAT CHRISTIAN OPT OUT
By Pastor David Carson
For the past hundred years or so the Evangelical fraternity have believed a lie which has been devastating in its consequence. The lie I refer to is that “Religion and politics don’t mix.” While it is true that the body of the professing church, as an institution, should not be involved in politics, it is equally true that the individual Christian most certainly ought to be. It is difficult to know why this “Opt Out” mentality came to be so widely established in the true church. One suspects that the rise of Dispensationalism had a lot to do with it. This particular teaching has, in its various guises, greatly influenced Evangelical teaching for many years. At one extreme is the Brethren movement, whose adherents don’t vote at all, while other Believers who do vote seem to think that their responsibility ends there.
Evidently, there was a similar attitude in the early Church, for we find the Apostle Paul, (1 Timothy 2:1-4) exhorting the believers to pray for those in authority and to do so to very specific ends.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men. For kings, and for all that are in authority: that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
The fact that Paul had to exhort the believers to pray for those in authority is an indication that they were reluctant to do so, or were, at the very least, not doing so. Some Believers today regard government as being of the Devil, whereas the Bible plainly teaches otherwise. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers: The powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1). They are ordained of God for a very specific purpose, namely, that they are to be a terror to evil doers.
Government Without Christian Believers
It is in the Christians’ best interest that they do so, for Paul states the end result is that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Now we are not going to have those things if there are no true Christians in government. In fact Paul expressly teaches that in order to have good and righteous government we need to have believers in government. Verse four states that God will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. That is to say, all classes of men – rulers, as well as ruled. It is manifestly obvious that if those bearing rule have no Christian influence being exerted amongst them then the inevitable result will be unrighteous laws and practices. This is precisely what is happening right now. Those who bear rule are Godless, given over to the lusts of the flesh. Therefore, as surely as night follows day, they who belong to the kingdom of darkness, and who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, will introduce legislation to accommodate the lusts of the flesh.)
“Religion And Politics Don’t Mix”
This lie, which the father of lies has successfully planted in the Church, has brought forth much evil fruit. In the early Church, Christians who tried to escape their responsibilities headed off to live in deserts and other, out of the way, places – in order to shut themselves off from the world. This was the beginning of monasticism. Our present day, well-heeled Believers wouldn’t find the wilderness a very inviting proposition; but they have, nevertheless, gone off into a wilderness of some sort, even a ‘spiritual’ wilderness. But most Evangelicals don’t find this a problem – for they can comfort themselves, if they so wish, with the latest soap opera, foreign holiday or whatever. One similarity of motive is for certain; they, too, believe we mustn’t ‘soil’ our spiritual life by getting involved with political issues. The sad truth is that the average believer can expect to imbibe more filth from the TV in a single year than they would from a lifetime of combating such filth.
Believers Need To Be A Nation’s ‘Leaven’
One last thought: the rulers of those early days were not, for the most part, very nice people. Tyrants, megalomaniacs, dictators, were the order of the day. Nevertheless, it was for such they were exhorted to pray. Remember, Paul informs us that there were believers in Caesar’s household. How much more, then, ought we to pray for our Government? Just think of the profound influence that one or two soundly converted people, holding high political office, would have. Such is certainly possible, for nothing is impossible with God. If Believers cannot be persuaded to get up from their sedentary position, they may be constrained to adopt a more important kneeling position.