Rightly understood, I think the Bible teaches us that Christians should aim for a significant influence on government. In recent months, the obvious engagement of churches with media and through open letters to the Prime Minister has been very encouraging. But this should be the norm, not the exception.
For individual Christians, the starting point surely has to be engaging with our local politicians. With this in mind, here are five reasons to encourage you towards robust, winsome, grace-filled, truth exalting engagement with your MP.
1. The example of Daniel Inspires It
The prophet occupied a position of influence and was able to speak truth to power as part of the royal court. He was placed there by the providence of God. One particular example of his courage and boldness is when he advised Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:27 to stop sinning, practice righteousness and to look after the oppressed. Here, then, was one of God’s servants using the gifts God had given him to influence a secular, pagan ruler.
2. Seeking the common good produces it
There’s a striking moment in the letter Jeremiah sends to the exiles of Israel who are in captivity in Babylon. He urges them to ‘seek the welfare of the city’ they are in (Jeremiah 29:7). In fact, the exiles are to pray to God on behalf of the city. For in its welfare, they will find their welfare. This principle applies as obviously today as it did then. We are to pray and seek the good of the city, town, village where God places us. This surely involves engaging with local councils, local authorities, regional authorities and national authorities. For laws and policies have direct consequences in our lives.
3. The existence of specific passages on government compels it
Perhaps the clearest passage in the Bible in respect to our attitude towards government is found in Romans 13. There, the Apostle Paul establishes a number of key points. Chiefly he says that all governments (good and bad) are established by God. What authority they have comes ultimately from Him. As Christian citizens, we are to obey and be subject to the governing authorities because of this deeper reality. The purpose of governments is to affirm what’s good and punish wrongdoing. The standard for right and wrong is supposed to be God’s word. As Christians, we seek to help governments to do this by influencing their decision-making process.
4. Our engagement is grounded in the truth that all humans are image bearers of God
Alongside the examples above, there is another reason for Christian influence on government. If we believe that all human beings are made in God’s image and carry irreducible dignity and value, then surely we can and should lobby and work towards a society that places a greater degree of respect on the value of life. This is part of being salt and light. By our advocacy, both individual and corporate, we seek to bear witness to this better story.
5. We engage because we love our neighbours
The Bible teaches that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. If we believe this, and if we take the repeated emphasis in the bible on God’s heart for the quartet of the vulnerable (widow, fatherless, foreigner and poor), then we cannot stay on the sidelines. Jesus tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, so we engage with lawmakers and policy makers and seek to persuade them to do what’s right.
Of course, the ultimate need of government is for a radical change of heart – the new birth that God alone can give. Yet God’s common grace also means government can and does do good.
Our engagement then flows from the points articulated above. We must reject the overly cynical and jaded view which seems so rampant and thinks there’s no point in engaging. And we must not be naïve or blind to the reality of sin. Our calling, surely, is to engage with truth and grace and, in doing so, follow the very pattern of the Jesus Himself.