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A Bible-Shaped Political Witness

By Daniel Darling, Vice President for Communications at the ERLC and author of The Original Jesus. Daniel hosts The Way Home Podcast and blogs at danieldarling.com.  

I talk to well-meaning pastors all the time who will say to me, “We just don’t do politics here at our church.” In one sense, I’m relieved to hear this. We don’t want Sunday worship to turn into a pep rally for our favorite political parties. But in another sense, “not doing politics” gives me pause. Whether we acknowledge it or not, every time we come to worship on Sundays, every time we open the Word of God and read it, preach it, and commit ourselves to it, we are doing politics.

If we believe that Christ is King and his kingdom triumphs over all the powers and rulers of this world, then our faith is a very political faith. When the first-century Christians believed that Christ, not Caesar, deserved their ultimate worship, they were demonstrating, with their lives, against the spirit of the age. And it’s the same today. If you live out the Christian faith, it will have widespread implications for how you engage and interact with prevailing culture.

How do we develop a Bible-shaped political witness?

So if politics is inevitable, how do we do it well? How do we develop a Bible-shaped political witness? Here are five thoughts.

  1. This requires a deep commitment to Scripture as our final authority (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This seems obvious, right? But consider the way we often form our views of political issues? If we’re honest, we’d admit that they are often shaped more by the party or tribe to which we belong or by the politician we most admire. We need to let Scripture inform our views.
  1. This requires us to make real, specific application. Sometimes the way we apply Scripture is so generic it has no meaning. For instance, when we read the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28, we know it is telling us to go into the world to evangelize and disciple. But we often overlook Jesus’ authority to take the gospel to “all the nations.” What does this mean in my local context? How should this inform my view of the world? How should it shape my attitude toward the various people groups who might be moving into my neighborhood from other countries?
  1. We should resist the kind of lazy proof-texting to try and support our preferred political position. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, urges Christians to “rightly divide” the Word (2 Timothy 2:15). All you have to do is scroll Facebook for a few minutes and you will quickly encounter quite a few instances of Scripture being leveraged to support political positions on both the left and the right. Followers of Jesus should study and know the entire context of Scripture verses and resist the urge to cherry-pick sections to score political points over and against those who might disagree with our positions.
  1. While political activism and speaking out is important, we should put our full faith, not in men or movements, but in the kingdom of God. By meditating on Scripture, we are reminded that the story ends well, it ends with Jesus coming in triumph to defeat his enemies and renew and restore all things. God puts people in power and removes people from power. He is not shocked by what is going on in the world. He is gathering history to himself and his kingdom. Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).
  1. We should leverage our voice in the public square, not on behalf of our own welfare, but on behalf of the vulnerable (Proverbs 31:8). Over and over again in Scripture, God implores his people to use their power and resources for those who have no public voice. The Christian story uniquely tells the world that every human being is created in the image of God and has dignity. This truth not only informs the issues that deserve our passion, but shapes our public witness. It allows us to see our ideological opponents, not as avatars to be crushed, but as people made in the image of God worthy of our respect (James 3:9).