Congressional Republicans finally agreed on a new Speaker of the House. Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) shared in his acceptance speech that he was grateful for the opportunity and also acknowledged God for raising up leaders. “I believe that Scripture, the Bible, is very clear: that God is the one who raises up those in authority. He raised up each of you. All of us.” Which brings us to Kentucky where early voting for the governor’s election starts today. Governor Andy Beshear, while on the other end of the political spectrum, also regularly appeals to God and the bible in his bid for a second term. However, he’s not the first Kentuckian to reference God.
During the Civil War, both North and South claimed to have God on their side. Abraham Lincoln quipped, “My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” And in the midst of Kentucky’s culture war that’s playing out in the governor’s race, Christians on both sides of the political aisle should be asking whether they’re on God’s side. To bring God into the political quagmire is fraught with danger when He’s used as a tool to serve one’s selfish political ends. But to leave God out of political questions is equally dangerous.
When it comes to Christians and politics, here are a few considerations:
The Bible is the Foundation for Political Thought
There are some who argue that Christianity doesn’t speak to government. However, the Bible speaks to all of life, including our politics (2 Tim. 3:16). In fact, the bible is the foundation for the Christian life. It is God’s revelation of what makes human beings special (Gen. 1:27), what we’re made to do (Gen. 1:26-28), what’s wrong with us (Gen. 3), how we can be made right again (hint: it’s not through politics). Rather, Christians are made new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Yet the Bible also says that God created government (Romans 13:1) for our good and the good of others (I Peter 2:14). In fact, we’re told to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2). The Old Testament shares insights into political leaders, both righteous (Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, and Moses) and unrighteous (Pharaoh, Ahab, and Mannaseh). Much can be learned from their stories.
Politics Is a Stewardship
“To whom much is given much is required.” Jesus sets out the principle of stewardship in Luke 12:48. If you are given much religious liberty, you have an obligation to preserve it. If you are given economic opportunity to use your gifts and talents, you have an obligation, not only to preserve that opportunity, but also to use the fruits of your labor to honor God and bless your family and community. If you long for justice, you have an obligation to seek justice. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you oh man, what is good and what does Lord require of you, but to act justly, to love, mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Divisiveness is Ugly, but the Common Good May Divide People
Gov. Beshear has downplayed division and party labels on the campaign trail. “Because I recognize, like you do, that a good job isn’t Democrat or Republican. A new bridge isn’t red or blue.” This resonates with voters tired of partisan bickering. According to a Pew Survey back in June, the ability of political leaders to work across party lines was the number three concern among American voters. The same is true for Kentuckians tired of the divisiveness. Divisiveness in the church is condemned and it’s not a character trait of a Christ follower (Titus 3:10-11). While social cohesion and unity are important, it’s more important to rally around the correct organizing principles that make for a strong civilization. Christian hope is centered on the love and grace of Christ and extended to others. Out of this principle, believers grow in maturity where the fruit of the spirit is evident (Gal. 5:22-23).
Politics Is a Moral Proposition
Scripture speaks of meditating on the good, the true, and the beautiful (Phil 4:8). Political leaders do well to cast a vision for society’s good. Preserving human rights of innocent life, conscience, and religious freedom are cornerstones to a just and good society. What candidates stand for and who they stand with reveals their vision of what is good. When Gov. Beshear took a photo with an anti-Christian group called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, under the banner of all Kentuckians are “God’s children,” he angered many Christians. One cannot credibly embrace the idea of tolerance while standing with a group that is intolerant and mocks another group. The issue over the sanctity of life is another dividing issue of the candidates. Gov. Beshear has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the nation’s single largest abortion provider. Daniel Cameron on the other hand has been endorsed by National Right to Life and their state affiliate. He’s also been endorsed by Donald Trump, not exactly a paragon of Christian virtue, and increasingly problematic for voters, as I heard personally while on a door knocking campaign in Louisville.
Ultimate Power is God’s
God is all powerful. Christians believe that the One who spoke the universe into existence (Genesis 1) is sovereign over history (Isaiah 45:7–9) and can change hearts Ezekiel (36:26-27), even those of political leaders (Prov. 21:1). Ultimate power is demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus, for he defeated sin and death and the grave (Rom. 6:9). After all, Jesus is the king of kings and lord of lords and one day everyone will bow before him (Phil. 2:10-11).
The Limits of Political Power
Political power has force, but it cannot change a heart. Hence, it is limited. Servanthood clothed in humility, on the other hand, is deceptively powerful. While Jesus is all powerful, He chose a path of humility, took on the role of a servant, and crossed social boundaries to meet deep needs (John 4:5-30). Unfortunately, His people didn’t value that kind of power. The oppressed Jewish nation wanted a Messiah who would crush Roman rule. Is this much different from conservatives who want to “own the libs”? When Jesus stood silent before an angry Pilate who reminded him that he had the power to release him or crucify him, Jesus responded, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19: 9-11). God’s plan to transform the world comes by transforming humans at the deepest center of their being—a transformation that politics can never address.
Expansive Influence of the Church Outside of Politics
The early Church was politically powerless, yet it had the power to bless the least of these. Slaves, infants, and women who were treated as second class citizens were embraced and welcomed into the early church (Acts 20:35, Psalm 41:1, Gal. 3:28-29). The same holds true for the 21st century Church in Kentucky. While we have much more political influence today, we cannot neglect ministries that meet deep needs, especially the greatest need to come into relationship with Christ. The church plays a unique, divinely inspired role in community by meeting the physical and spiritual needs of widows and orphans (James 1:27) and the hungry, wayfarer, sick, and prisoners (Matt. 25:35-39).
Christ Followers Are Ambassadors
Followers of Jesus are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). Their new lives are centered on Christ who shows them how to live in a new way. And they are ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). A good ambassador seeks to understand the culture. They know something about the people they’re trying to communicate with. Think Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34). They also communicate with great care. (Col 4:6). And their conduct has the capacity to win over outsiders (1 Peter 2:12).
Resting in God’s Providence
Daniel 2:21 says that God “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” When the prophet Daniel wrote those words, the Jewish people were held captive by the Babylonians because they rebelled against God. Sometimes it’s God’s judgment on a nation to allow them to go into captivity and allow wicked leadership. Regardless of the outcome of the election on November 7, remember that God is still just as much God before the election as He is God the day after. The results won’t catch Him off guard. Do you believe this? If you’re a follower of Christ and believe in God’s Word, believe also that he can work through you for his glory, and for the good of others. You certainly can influence the election to the glory of God. Please pray that God would raise up righteous leaders. Then make sure you vote. In the end, realize that the election may or may not turn out as you’d like. But trust that God is ultimately working out His purposes and may you rest in that.