Either/Or or Both/And

I have never quite understood those Christians who have said that believers should not be politically active by supporting candidates, contributing to campaigns, speaking out on the issues of the day (even from the pulpit), and advocating for particular pieces of legislation and public policy. “Just preach the gospel,” they say, “and when people’s hearts are changed, culture and the law will change, too. In the meantime lead by example.”

I am all for preaching the gospel. I readily admit that changed hearts eventually result in a change in culture and the law. And it’s true that example is a powerful thing. But why must we think of the matter as an either/or proposition:  either we preach the gospel and lead by example, or we are politically active? Why can we not do both?

Imagine yourself living in the days when the slave trade flourished and you felt compelled by Christian conviction to speak out against it and to support officials who had similar convictions. And suppose some well-meaning Christian came along and said, “Don’t mix religion and politics. Politics is a dirty business, don’t you know? Just stick to preaching the gospel and lead by example.” What does leading by example look like in a situation like this? If you’re opposed to the slave-trade, don’t buy a slave? This is the sort of thing people tried to tell William Wilberforce. Thankfully, he didn’t listen.

Or what if you lived in Germany during the Third Reich and some well-intentioned Christian told you not to speak up about that whole Final Solution thing? “Just preach the gospel, and if you’re opposed to killing Jews, don’t kill one.”

Political activity is not only not inappropriate for Christians, it is instead (especially in a system like ours) a vital aspect of responsible Christian living. To think otherwise is akin to Gnosticism. 

This is not to say that we should be beholden to a political party. Far from it. Our ultimate loyalty is to Christ our King. Insofar as a candidate or a political party embodies the righteousness and justice of his cause, they are entitled to our support. Insofar as things are otherwise, they deserve our correction and rebuke.

The level of involvement in the political process will vary for each one of us according to ability, opportunity, and calling. But clearly a part of our responsibility to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world consists in doing what is in our power to elect godly men to public office and seeking to influence office-holders to form public policy that is consistent with the teaching of God’s word.


Amen, Pastor. Glad you posted this. Too many milk-toast Christians today.

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