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Are Christians morally obligated to participate in the political process of their local community or nation?
Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)
No, because of two words in the question– obligated and participate. Obligated is too strong, and participate is too vague for me to affirm this without heavy qualification.
To say that political participation is morally obligated would be to say that there is a moral command to do so, indeed that a Christian would be sinning if they did not participate. This goes beyond 1 Thess 4:11-12 and infringes on Christian liberty of the conscience (LBCF 21:2).
And what does participate mean in this context? Participation on what level? Voting? Signing petitions? Working on a campaign?
It’s vital to keep the mission of the church clear- and our mission is not political. However, Christians have every right to get involved in politics individually.
Furthermore– the church itself should speak to cultural issues that God’s moral law speaks to, such as abortion, sexual identity, and racism.
Samuel Barber (Pastoral Assistant, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)
There are several principles to remember while discussing the role of Christians in political processes, though the Bible does not explicitly address the issue. First, Jesus does not ask his Father to take Christians out of the world (Jn. 17:15), implying that Christians are expected to interact with the world around them. Second, while the Israelites were exiles in Babylon, God commanded them to seek the city’s welfare (Jer. 29:11). The pertinent principle in this text is that while exiles in the world, God’s people should seek the welfare of their societies; therefore, Christians should not only exist in the world, but seek its welfare. Third, Paul says the sword-bearer is God’s servant (Rom. 13). Who better to do this than Christians? Lastly, Paul commands prayer for authorities (1 Tim. 2:1-4). At a minimum, Christians should participate by praying, though God does also call us to action.
Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)
This is a question concerning the will of God for one’s life. Though Christians are citizens of another world, they live in the present one. They are called by God to love their neighbor and do him good. This entails civic responsibilities that would promote the public welfare, like voting or making their voice known. Being community minded and working with others in a worthy cause conveys that you genuinely care.
A word of caution is needful however. A person can be so caught up in a worthy cause that one’s primary calling is neglected. Jesus focused on a kingdom that was not of this world. On the other hand, Joseph, Daniel, Mordecai, and Esther were providentially called by God to be political. Though, it is not the will of God for all to be politicians, it is the will of God to love your neighbor.
Matt Foreman (Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church of Media, Pennsylvania)
Christians have a moral responsibility to do good, to uphold life and honor and human dignity, justice and truth, to be faithful in the situations God has providentially called them to. In general, this means Christians will be engaged in the lives of those around them and the normal structures of society. In a democratic government (or Constitutional republic), the government relies on the participation of its citizens. ‘Respect to the governing authorities’ will then imply, at the least, a general participation in the political process for Christians.
Marc Grimaldi (Pastor, Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Merrick, New York)
In 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul exhorts us to “pray for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” Furthermore, the Scriptures tell us to be subject to the rulers and authorities, whom God places over us (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).
As Americans, we have been blessed to live within the confines of a democratic republic. This being the case, providentially, we have the ability to help determine the makeup of our government, by taking part in the political process of electing our leaders. For the sake of restraining evil, securing a righteous atmosphere, maintaining a peaceful environment for the growth and fellowship of the church, it is our duty to help elect leaders, who would best help to serve these ends.
While the Gospel alone is the power, which is ultimately used to change a nation (from the inside out), Christians are morally obligated to participate in the political process for the above stated reasons.
Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)
Throughout the history of the church, Christians have lived under the authority of different kinds of government. Some allow for the participation of individual citizens (e.g. constitutional republic), while others do not (e.g. monarchy). Therefore, the ability for Christians to be involved in a political process is oftentimes limited or non-existent. However, for Christians living under governments that allow for open debates, campaigning, and voting, they should take the right seriously for the sake of the gospel.
The most political action anyone can take is to educate their children. The most important action a Christian can take is to work to preserve religious freedom. Christians are concerned about justice and social issues, but gospel preaching is ultimate. Christians, therefore, ought not take a “pass” on the political process if for no other reason than to help protect our legal right to proclaim Christ in the public square.
Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)
I know this is a delicate subject for those who are struggling with degrees of theonomy, but I think the answer is fairly straightforward. It is wise, good, and even important for Christians to be involved in politics. My associate pastor is a mayor. Action and inaction have repercussions. Yet I cannot say that it is morally obligatory, because I don’t see that command given to the church in Scripture. We tread on quicksand to ever assume legislative authority on what is sin or good works, and to declare something as morally obligatory when Scripture doesn’t is to do exactly that.
Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)
Part of me wants to be snarky: “What political process?” meaning I wonder what political process we even have to participate in anymore that resembles what our Founding Fathers gave us. That would beg the question, but actually causes me to expand my thinking beyond some dreamy political ideal that many of us still live with, to any political situation that any Christian living in any country at any time in history might find him or herself.
My answer would therefore be, “It depends.” How much freedom would a Christian legally have in said nation to do anything about the process? In a republic, we have freedoms and therefore, I believe, responsibilities to be involved in some way, since this is (supposed to be) government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In a totalitarian dictatorship or a monarchy, there might not be any freedom to use.