by Rev. Dr. David Adams
Is it alright for Christians to be involved with politics?
The Bible contains no specific command that either requires or forbids Christian involvement with politics. However, through the prophet Jeremiah, God teaches His people that they should, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf” (Jer. 29:57). In other places, God teaches that Christians should obey and pray for those in positions of civil authority (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:17; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13). These passages, together with the general biblical teaching that Christians should care for and promote the welfare of their neighbor, would suggest that Christians should participate in the process of deciding how we, as a nation, shall live.
But the New Testament passages that you mention talk about obeying the government, not participating in it. How are they relevant?
In a nation ruled by a king, the duty of a citizen is to be submissive and obey the ruler. But we live in a constitutional democracy. For us, rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s (Matt. 22:21) means not only obeying the laws and paying taxes, but also fulfilling our duty as citizens to participate in the democratic process that the Constitution establishes.
If Christians living in a democracy have a responsibility to participate in the process of governing the nation, then why doesn’t the church speak out about public issues more often?
First, it is important to distinguish between our individual vocations, including our calling to be citizens, and our corporate voca-tion as church. God has given to the church the very special task of making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). Worshiping God in Christ and making disciples for Jesus are the focus of our life together as church, and we must be careful not to let anything distract us from those tasks. It is the job of the church to teach the Word of God and to help Christians grow into faithful followers of Jesus. It is the job of the individual Christian to apply the teachings of Jesus to the specific situations that he or she faces every day at school or at work, in the family and in society at large. To use a parallel, the church should teach Christians the value and necessity of work (2 Thess. 3:1012) but not tell Christians which job to take or train them how to do their job.
The second factor that limits the way that the church speaks to public issues is respect for the freedom of Christian conscience. Quite often, determining public policy is not so much about the question of what (the principle), but the question of how (the means to accomplish that principle). Christians who have heard and believe the Word of God may legitimately disagree about the best means to accomplish a God-given task.
Given those considerations, should leaders of the church ever speak out on public issues in the name of the whole church?
Yes. The church as a whole, through its leaders, can and should speak out in certain circumstances. Where the Bible speaks directly to an issue, the church can and should speak to it. Since the Bible teaches, “You shall not kill” (Ex. 20:13), the church must oppose government policies that encourage people to kill their unborn children through abortion or the elderly and infirm through euthanasia.
How can individual Christians help make our society a better place?
First, live as people guided by God’s Word. In our land, this includes participating in the democratic process. For some it may mean running for public office. For others it may mean supporting or working for candidates who will represent you well. For still others it may mean speaking out in public forums, such as newspapers or online discussions. And for others it may simply mean voting for the candidates and issues of their choice.
What is the best way to express my views or concerns to my elected officials?
In general, the more personal and individual the contact, the greater the impact. Most members of the Congress have offices in their constituencies and travel there regularly. Local activities provide opportunities to speak to your representative face-to-face. You can also telephone or write to them, either by regular mail or email. Contact information for members of the House of Representatives can be found at www.house.gov and for senators at www.senate.gov. Contact information for the president is online at www.whitehouse.gov. However you choose to contact your representatives, your communication will be better received if you are well-informed about your topic, thoughtful in your views and courteous in your manner.
> Go to www.lcms.org/hhsmandate to read what secular news sources had to say about LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison’s recent testimony before a House committee.
About the Author: The Rev. Dr. David L. Adams teaches Old Testament at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Adams formerly served as the executive director of the LCMS Office of Government Information as the LCMS liaison with the federal government.