As biblical counselors, we find ourselves dealing with the normal, and in one sense, common colds of life’s issues — anger, anxiety, depression, the need to forgive, etc. As a biblical counselor, when our counselees present these type of struggles to us, we turn to God’s Word and lead them to think and respond biblically.
But what about politics? In this unique and bizarre season that we find ourselves in now, do we do the same? I am finding on many occasions that people are becoming more anxious, depressed, and angry as we count down to November 8.
Though the presenting problems may be anxiety, depression, and anger, what is at the heart of those issues could be how people are thinking about the current political scene. As the debates between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are over, everyone from SNL to news reporters are weighing in on what is going to happen. It may be possible that we believers are looking at this issue based on the latest fact checker, rather than on Scripture — the faith checker. Their thoughts about what is going to happen on Election Day may not be biblical at all.
God & Politics
So, how do you direct the conversation when the topic of politics arises? Do you take the position that politics is part of the world system, and we as Christians really don’t need to get caught up in it? Is your counsel to that person, “You need to keep your focus on God’s kingdom and not the kingdoms of this world?” Or, do you become passionate about it and urge them to be sure they do everything they can to save our country by voting for the right person? Or, do you try to balance between the two?
How do you help your counselee think biblically about God and politics? After all, the idea of government was God’s, and He is the one who establishes all governments (Romans 13:1). So, if God is the one who creates governments and is the One who ultimately places men or women on the throne (Daniel 2:21; Psalm 75:7), it is a biblical matter and we can’t ignore the conversation about this.
A Biblical View about God & Politics *
Though a blog is not sufficient to address all the issues involved on this topic, I hope that a few faith checkers (truths from Scripture) might help us steer the conversation in a God-honoring way.
- We shouldn’t expect the government to establish & support a single religion (even Christianity). This is the “compulsion” view. This is expecting the government to be supportive of and the promoter of religion. We know that Christianity has the only true gospel and the only way to God (John 14:6), but it is not the government’s job to establish this truth for several reasons. Jesus made a distinction between God and Caesar (Matthew 22:21). The Bible teaches us that genuine faith cannot be forced (Luke 9:52-55). And Jesus made it abundantly clear that His kingdom is not established by earthly powers (John 18:36). The Church is called to proclaim the gospel, making Christ known to the nations. Real and lasting change is never the result of governmental establishment. The hope of real and lasting change is the Church taking the gospel into the world, regardless of whether a government is a good or evil one. This is to be the hope of a believer as we think about the political condition of our world.
- We shouldn’t seek to change the world through political process. This is the “government can save the world” view. This view suggests that if we get the right candidate in office, maybe even a Christian, the world will be fixed. I don’t believe this view is biblically correct. The Scriptures teach us that lasting change in a nation will only happen if peoples’ hearts are changed through the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17). I want to be clear on this: the gospel and the power of God to save and change a life is where we place our hope. But that doesn’t mean that Christians should drop out of the conversation about politics. That leads us to point number 3.
- We should see the role of God’s people, as it relates to politics, as a role of “significant” influence. This is the “salt and light” view. As stated above, it is the heart that must be changed if the nation is to change. But, we should remember that an unbeliever’s heart can begin to be changed by changing their moral convictions to be aligned more closely with God’s standards in the Bible. If there are no moral rights and wrongs in a nation, then people will not see their need of the gospel. And a non-believer’s heart and mind is more likely to be changed—to realize there are moral absolutes—when the nation’s laws change so that they more fully encourage good conduct and punish wrong conduct.
With that being said, the question to ask is, “Who are the best people to influence those in politics?” Who will help the culture think accurately — from a biblical and God-honoring perspective — about moral issues such as protecting the innocent, stealing, murder, hatred, etc.? I think the obvious answer is believers. From both the Old and New Testaments, isn’t it God’s people who spoke up and influenced those in political positions? Think about the role, by God’s design, that Joseph, Moses, Nehemiah, Esther, Mordecai, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, and Paul played as they had opportunity to influence the governments they were associated with. There is no doubt that they didn’t expect the government they were under to save the world, but they did see they had a role of significant influence in the lives of those in government.
Let’s also be clear that “significant influence” does not mean being belligerent, intolerant, judgmental, red-faced, and hate-filled. Rather, it means being winsome, kind, thoughtful, loving, persuasive, and protective of other people’s right to disagree, while at the same time not compromising the truthfulness and moral goodness of the teachings of God’s Word.
Maybe if we, as believers, took a look at the political scene from a faith checkers perspective rather than a fact checkers perspective, we might see God’s people reflect where our true hope and confidence should be placed. Just maybe we would see believers filled with true confidence, contentment, and joy regardless of what happens come November 8.
* Adapted from by Wayne A. Grudem, Politics—According to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).
Join the Conversation
So, how does your understanding of God and politics show up in your counseling— formally or informally? Are there any other biblical truths you could offer related to this conversation?