Christian involvement in politics has been a much-debated subject at the center of Christian discourse for centuries. Many believers are taught that Christians should not seek engagement in the political realm because "faith and politics do not mix."
There is validity to the caution many Christians have voiced on this topic. Some believers entering the political arena have become so politically focused that they have compromised teachings that are fundamental to the Christian faith. Others have made the mistake of resting all their hope on politicians and government at the expense of morality and godly living. The reality is that hope for change cannot be found in any country's ruling class, but ultimately in Jesus Christ.
As valid as these claims may be, it is a mistake for Christians to completely isolate themselves from the realm of politics. When the people of God do not take it upon themselves to vote or run for office, they carelessly leave the fate of future generations in the hands of wicked and immoral men. By abstaining from the public square, Christians are compromising on one of the most fundamental teachings of the Christian faith: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).
Scripture's two greatest commandments – to first love God and then to love our neighbors as we love ourselves – are clear mandates for cultural and political engagement. My love for my neighbor is grounded in my love for God; because I love my neighbor, I must protect his inalienable rights and freedoms. But to understand how one's political engagement is related to one's love for his neighbor, the full scope of that Great Commandment must be understood. That is precisely what a biblical "lawyer" was inquiring about when he asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" The parable of the Good Samaritan is Jesus' response to that question (Luke 10:25-37).
Jesus spoke about a "certain man" who was beaten and mugged by thieves and left to die. Neither the priest nor the Levite who saw this helpless man took the time to help him, but a Samaritan demonstrated true compassion and provided for the injured man's full recovery. Jesus then posed the following question to this inquiring lawyer: "Which of these three (the priest, Levite or Samaritan), do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? 'The one who showed him mercy,'" said the lawyer, "And Jesus said to him, 'You go, and do likewise.'"
Note how Jesus changed the subject of the conversation. The parable's focus was not on the "certain man" who we would presume to be "the neighbor," but it was actually on the one who "proved to be a neighbor" (the good Samaritan). The point of fulfilling this golden rule is not in the act of loving a "certain man" in and of itself, but rather in being neighborly or loving unto all people.
Jesus left the man's identity undisclosed because God is no respecter of persons (2 Chronicles 19:7; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11) and because everyone is an object of his love, to some degree (Matt 5:45). On the basis of this interpretation, Jesus charged the lawyer to "go and do likewise." Although this is a perfect analogy for a legal representative, this great lesson is specifically given to the church of God.
Throughout the Bible, God tasked his people to care for the world's poor, the oppressed, the defenseless and the widows and orphans (Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3). The apostles were earnest about this themselves (Galatians 2:10; Acts 6:1; 1 Tim 5:3); not even Jesus overlooked any mistreatment (Mark 12:38-40), and he rebuked those who posed as spiritual leaders but neglected to be just and merciful (Matthew 23:23).
Verses that teach about engaging the needs and rights of others are pervasive all throughout Scripture (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17, 19-21, 27:19; Proverbs 1:3, 21:15; Isaiah 1:17, 56:1; Jeremiah 22:3). It is no wonder that the Apostle Paul told the Galatians that the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Gal 5:14). James went a step further by identifying the visitation of "the fatherless and widows in their affliction" as one of the marks of a true Christian.
Much of today's world is plagued by poverty, and the number of widows and orphans in the Middle East is greater now than it has ever been before, thanks to the Islamic State. Millions are left without homes and struggle to come up with a decent meal for their families.
All of these people are in desperate – but not exclusive – need of our humanitarian aid. Matters such as human trafficking, the persecution of minorities, tyranny and more contribute to the great need and present little to no hope of ever changing, if God's people do not at the very least engage in politics. For that reason Dr. R. Albert Mohler said that loving our neighbors cannot be done apart from our "participation in the culture and in the political process."
The need for Christian involvement in politics should be obvious. But it should also be evident that Christians are the most ideal people for this role. The Bible points out that only the "righteous" can truly understand the rights of the underprivileged (Proverbs 29:7), and as people who "seek the Lord" rely on biblical understandings that transcend their own selfish inclinations and social context, they are the most capable of understanding justice "completely" (Proverbs 28:5). Some may argue that Jesus himself was never politically involved – but Rome was not a democracy. Today's form of political involvement was nonexistent then. Although Jesus was not actively involved in politics during his earthly ministry, he did not undermine the idea (Luke 20:25).
American Christians are privileged to live in a democratic country in which "we the people" are the authority. That means that "we the people" also have the political influence to make a difference.
The Scriptures – the inerrant Word of God – also includes other incidents in which God was not opposed to his people's using political influence. Bible greats such as Joseph, Daniel and Esther were all elevated to positions of political power so that God could carry out his will. Even Paul's Roman citizenship played a mayor role in the spread of the gospel (Acts 22:25; 26:32).
Most importantly, the sobering truth for Christians living under a constitutional democracy is that they also share their political authority with nonbelievers, many of whom hold views with no moral boundaries or which sharply diverge from the biblical world. The current downward spiral that this country is undergoing speaks to the fallen state of mankind; but it speaks even more directly to the lack of influence that Christians have had in public affairs. That alone should be motivation enough for us to actively engage in affairs of the state. Christians who truly care about the state of the gospel and of the church should not expect nonbelievers to lobby in their favor.
To echo the first point: When the moral and righteous people of God do not take it upon themselves to vote or run for office, they are carelessly leaving the fate of future generations in the hands of the wicked and immoral – and that, dear brothers and sisters, is not loving your "neighbor as yourself."