Jesus Christ is Lord. That confession is centra! to Christian faith. As Christians we deny our faith whenever we fail to acknowledge Jesus as Lord in every area of our lives - personal, social, religious, economic, political.
But how can Christ be Lord of our politics? That is a question basic to the concerns of Christians, particularly American Christians in a presidential election year. The answer is that we submit our politics to the risen Lord by weighing every political issue in the light of Scripture. On the other hand, we offend the Lordship of Christ when we make an idol of our society, our material interests or our political ideologies.
But that raises two tough problems: 1) The Old Testament was written for a theocracy and the New Testament was written for the church in a pluralistic society. So how can one apply biblical teaching to secular society? 2) There is no detailed political or economic blueprint in Scripture. So how can a Christian determine which political views are better?
Certainly the first application of both testaments is to people of God. But the Scriptures clearly teach that God also cares about and judges nations.1 The Old Testament applied to surrounding nations like Babylon the same standards used for Israel?
Biblical revelation about how groups of people should live together was not arbitrary. Our Creator knows how we should act toward each otherto promote peace, harmony, and justice. That is why God revealed what He did about how we ought to live. Certainly sinful people will not live up to revealed standards. But to the extent that they do, even secular societies will enjoy partial peace, freedom, and wholeness.
Christ is Lord of the world as well as of the church.3 Our vote can become one of Christ's instruments for fostering the peace and justice He desires as Lord of the world.
The second problem is also complex. There is no biblical text to tell us which candidate should be President. There is no chapter that contains an economic blueprint for the international economic order in the 1980's. But that does not mean that Christians should derive their economic and political views entirely from secular theories. There are biblical principles that have
profound importance for our politics.
Certainly the application of those biblical principles to concrete situations today is an extremely complex task. People equally committed to biblicaf principle disagree strongly over specific social programs.That disagreement among Christians is legitimate and healthy.
But Christians ought to be willing to regularly discuss these conflicting proposals with those who disagree with them in a spirit of prayer, openness to the Holy Spirit, and unconditional submission to God's Word.The more deeply our politics are rooted arid grounded in biblical principles, the more Christian they are.
Basic Biblical Principles
1. The family is a divinely-willed institution.
The family, not the state, is the primary institution for rearing children. Christians must resist the growing tendency of the state to usurp the role of the family. It is God's will for one man and one woman to live together in life-long commitment.4 Legislation such as tax rates should help create a climate conducive to the biblical understanding of marriage, family and sexuality. Homosexual sinners, like adulterous sinners, have inalienable civil rights (e.g. jobs and housing). Nonetheless legislation and public funds should not promote sinful lifestyles.
2. Every human life is sacred.
Every person is created in the image of God.5 Since God "desires all to be saved" so much that he sent his Son to die "as a ransom for all"6, every person in the world is immeasurably valuable. The great value and worth of each individual is totally independent of their social usefulness. Biblical people cannot remain silent when modern society forgets the value of each individual human life-as when it neglects the retarded and aged, practices racial or sexual discrimination, or allows abortion-on-demand.
3. Religious and political freedom are God-given, in
Throughout the Bible, we see that even though people rebel against God, he continues to provide the necessities of life.7 Not until the end does God separate the wheat and the tares.8 The state should not impose civil penalties for unbelief. The church and state should be separate. Every individual is valuable in God's sight. Further, sinful, selfish people regularly abuse power that lacks checks and balances. Therefore freedom of expression and political liberty are crucial rights.
4. God and his obedient people have a very special
concern for the poor.
In literally dozens and dozens of places Scripture teaches that God has a very strong concern for justice for the poor and oppressed.9 Therefore God also commands his people to have a deep concern for them.10 A genuine sensitivity to the poor and a strong commitment to seek justice for them ought to be a central concern of politicians who seek to be biblical. "If a king judges the poor with equity, his throne will be established forever.'"
5. God requires just economic patterns in society.
Thestarting pointofall biblical thinking on economics is that God is sovereign. God is the only absolute owner of all things.12 He wants the earth's resources to benefit everyone.
The Bible condemns both those who are lazy and those who become rich by oppressing others.13 Throughout the Scriptures, God has commanded and guided his people to implement programs of economic sharing that reduced extremes of wealth and poverty.14 In fact, God cares so much about economic justice that he destroyed both Israel and Judah for two basic reasons: idolatry and economic oppression.'5 The one who is sovereign over economics requires economic patterns that enable all people to earn a just living in fulfilling work.
6. God requires Christians to be peacemakers.
Christians look forward to the time when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they iearn war any more".16 Until the Lord returns, unfortunately, persons persisitently resort to wars and rumors of wars. Many Christians believe they should, as the lesser of two evils, engage in just wars for the sake of preserving some order in a fallen world. Other Christians believe that war is contrary to the teaching of Christ and that he calls us to overcome our enemies with suffering love rather than the sword. But all agree that Jesus' words "Blessed are the peacemakers"17 are urgent in our time.
We must live out Jesus' call to peacemaking in a world that devotes to military expenditures each year an amount equal to the total annual income of the poorest one-half of the world's people. Because we know human life is sacred, Christians must do everything they can to reduce the growing danger of nuclear holocaust. President Dwight Eisenhower reflected a biblical concern when he said: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, theft from those who hunger and are not fed."
7. The Creator requires stewardship of the earth's
The earth is the Lord's,18 and humanity is to exercise dominion over it.19 Such a high calling requires each generation to protect the environment and preserve the quality of life for future generations. We are stewards of God's good gift.
8. Sin is both personal and social.
Consciously-willed individual acts like lying and adultery are sinful. So too, according to the Scriptures, is participating uncritically in social structures that are not just.20 In one breath the prophets condemn both kinds of sin.21 The Bible denounces laws that are unjust.22 Politicians with a bibilcal perspective will have a deep concern to correct social structures that are evii.
9. Personal integrity is vital.
The Scriptures demand honesty and personal righteousness. Dishonesty in public affairs undercuts the democratic process. A politician's personal and family life should be a good model for the rest of society. Government leaders ought to be humble and honest enough to acknowledge mistakes. Knowing that we all err, we should forgive those who offer forthright confession. Personal religious belief which fosters a profound sense of God's sovereignity over all nations and a sharp awareness of God's passion for justice help prevent the abuse of political power for narrow personal or nationalistic purposes.
A Biblical Balance
To proclaim Christ's Lordship in politics means evaluating political candidates by their commitment to biblical principles, rather than by their pragmatism, patriotism, or personality.
That does not mean that Christians should only vote for Christians. Ironically non-Christians sometimes have a deeper commitment than many Christians do to fundamental biblical teaching about society. Christians must resist the temptation to espouse simple prescriptions for complex problems, remembering that there is a mistaken zeal in politics as well as religion. There is undeniably a superficial appeal in the call to Christians to mobilize as a political force and elect "one of our own". But the Christian must resist at all cost the temptation to use the gospel for political purposes or to make the gospel hostage to any politican or'political cause. The words of the apostle Paul, "Do not be conformed to this world", must continually ring in our ears.
Unfortunately, no candidate for public office will embody perfectly a commitment to all the biblical principles mentioned above. More likely, candidates will be strong in
some areas, weak in others. One should strive to fin< candidates concerned about the whole range of concern reflected in the above principles. Biblically informei politics will reflect the balance of concerns revealed ir God's Word.
Assessing Candidates: Nine Steps
The nine steps suggested below are ones that you car take either as an individual or as a group. A group o Christian friends or church members could divide up th< tasks listed below. During the course of two or thref evening meetings together in your living room, you shouk be able to begin a meaningful assessment of candidates There is no substitute, however, for extensive involvemen in the complexities of politics.
At every one of the following steps.ask how the biblica principles discussed above apply to this issue or candidate
1. Use the Almanac of American Politics.
This paperback is the best available guide to the political views and voting record of members of the U.S Senate and House of Representatives. Get one from you local library or bookstore. The Almanac profiles ever member of Congress, along with a description of the district they represent, the votes they have taken on crucia issues, and how they are evaluated by a very broac spectrum of citizen's groups.
2. Attend political debates.
During the course of a campaign, most candidates hole a public debate with their opponent. The opponent wil have done a lot of your research and will probe fo weaknesses. Attending the debate, listening, and askinc questions is one of the best ways to become informec about where candidates really stand on the issues. Seeinc them in action will also give you insight into the kind o people they are.
3. Get position papers.
Write to candidates and ask for all their position papers on the issues. Nearly every candidate will have developer such detailed statements which will, if read critically, tel you a lot about his or her stands.
4. Make personal contact.
If you have particular questions to put to candidates write directly to them. Better yet, form a delegation of loca Christians, set up meetings with candidates,and questior them face to face.
5. Follow the mass media.
Find out what the candidates are saying in the news papers and magazines, on radio and TV. Evaluate what is said about them by political commentators, editorial writers and columnists.
6. Use citizen evaluation groups.
Many private organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, do their own evaluations of candidates, especially around election time. All organizations have their own axe to grind. Rarely are their evaluations done from an objective point of view. However, reading a variety of such reports will give you an additional slant on the candidate's commitments. (Many citizen evaluation groups are listed in the Almanac of American Politics.)
7. Find out who is contributing money to the campaign.
Many questions can be answered by looking at the kind
of campaign contributions a candidate is receiving. Is he or she a wealthy person who is putting substantial personal funds into the campaign? Is the campaign high-priced or low-budget? Are special interest groups heavily involved in supporting the candidate? Is there a particular profession, occupational group, corporation, or union that is giving large amounts to the campaign?
Now that we have both national and local campaign financing disclosure laws, it is easy to get this kind of information. At the national level (candidates for the U.S. Senate and House), the best resource is the Office of Public Records, Federal Election Commission, 1325 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20463. You can call the Commission toll free (800-424-9530) and request the most recent copies of a candidate's finance contribution report.The Commission will send you a listing of the kinds of reports they have on the candidate, the number of pages in the report, and the charge (usually 10<t per page) for sending it to you. Upon receipt of your check, they will send you the most recent information on the kind of contributions the candidate has been receiving.
Campaign disclosure laws vary from state to state, but oy calling the state, county, or city government offices, you should be able to find the agency that keeps comparable >ecords. Other sources of information on campaign financing are newspaper reports and private organizations such as Common Cause,2030 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036 (see phone directory for the address of the nearest such local office).
8. Apply the biblical principles.
Evaluate all the data you have gathered in light of the oiblical principles on God's will for society.
In light of your careful study of the complex issues and oiblical principles, vote prayerfully as an act of obedience o Christ as Lord of your politics. * * *
The Bible teaches that "justice is what makes a gov-3rnment strong"23 The ideal ruler is one who "has pity on he weak and poor; he saves the lives of those in need. He escues them from oppression and violence; their lives are precious to him".24
Voting for candidates who promote programs consistent vith biblical principles is one crucial way of confessing hat Christ is our Lord.
1. Ps. 96:10-13; Ps. 9:7-1 2; Is. 42:1 -4; Micah 4:1 -4; Amos
1,2; Rev. 21:22-22:2
2. Amos 1-2; Is. 10:12-19; Dan. 4:27; Ezek. 16:49
3. Ephes. 1:21; Matt. 28:18; Col. 2:10; Rev. 1:5, 19:16,
4. Gen. 2:23-24; Matt. 193-9
5. Gen. 1:27
6 ! Tim. 2:4, 6; 2 Petei 3:9
7. Matt. 5:45
8. Matt. 13:36-43
9 Ps. 35:10; Ps. 103:6-7; Ps. 146:6-9; Jer. 22:1-5; Amos 4:1-3; Amos 8:4-8; Luke 4:1 6ff
10 Deut. 27:19; Ps. 41:1-2; Ps. 82:1-5; Prov. 14:21, 31; Prov.22:22; Is. 32:1-8; Lk. 14:12-14; Matt. 25:31-46: 1 John 3:17
1 1. Prov. 29:14
12. Ps. 24:1; Job 41:11; Lev. 25:23
13. Is. 3:13-1 6; Jer. 5:26-29: Hosea 12:7-9; James 5:1-5
1 4. Lev. 25:10-24; Deut. 1 4:28-29; Deut. 1 5:1 -6; Acts 2:43-
47: Acts 4:32-37; 2 Cor. 8:8-15
i 5. Hosea 8; Amos 2:7; Amos 6:1 -7; Amos 7:11, 17; Is. 10:1-4; Jer. 5:26-29
16 Micah 4:3 1 7 Matt. 5:9 18 Ps 24:1
19. Gen. 1:28
20. Amos 4:1-2
|22-23; Ezek. 22:6-1|
21 Amos 2:6-7; Is. 5:8-11,
22 Is 10:1-4; Ps. 94:20
23. Prov 16:12
24. Ps 72:1 3-14
Tracts for Justice are published by Evangelicals for Social Action.
Evangelicals for Social Action is a membership organization of Christians committed to social justice
For further details write:
Evangelicals for Social Action 300 West Apsley Philadelphia, PA 19144 (215) 848-8860
1 ■ 24 Copies-$.15 ea. 25- 49 Copies-$.10 ea. 50 - 100 Copies - $.05 ea.