Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mixing Religion & Politics?

On returning from Spain we found the General Election to have been called (not exactly a surprise). While in Spain we'd been to Jo's Spanish Evangelical Church (the service was all in Spanish, fantastically translated by Jo for us). The sermon wasn't exactly expository, rather gathering various biblical thoughts together. The topic was most relevant: the role of Christians towards government. This in a church who have known persecution in recent times, but today stands in freedom of religious expression.

On the biggest picture of things Christians know that God rules the world. He is the supreme ruler of all things, though not all acknowledge his rule. A world under his rule was the way creation was made, and how things one day will be.

Tracing forward we see humanity reject God's rule and run things their own way. This is illustrated in Eden as Adam and Eve assume they know better than God's word. We see it at Babel as humanity plots to exalt itself in one place, rather than filling the earth to exalt God. (Genesis 1v28 vs. 11v4).

As God establishes a people for himself, ruled by his promise and revelation to them we again see that rule scorned. They reject his word, they don't believe his promises. Ultimately they request the appointment of a king over them - like the other nations of the world. This is as planned by God, but nonetheless stands as a rejection of his direct rule since their motivation is not to honour God.

In Proverbs we find that it is God who appoints kings and rulers, likewise in Psalm 2, Daniel and elsewhere. It is the Most High King who rules - God himself. Consequently what kings and rulers do is to act as agents of God - with varying degrees of faithfulness to God's ways.

As the story of the Bible reaches the New Testament God's true King is revealed to be Jesus. He is the annointed one, the Messiah, the Christ. He rules - and his rule is established in his most glorious hour, at his death. There we find his great triumph over sin, death and the devil. And from here on men and women from all nations are invited to live proclaiming that "Jesus is Lord", citizens of heaven not of earth.

Yet these citizens of heaven live as citizens of earthly countries. The Bible knows nothing of Christian states or a Christian racial grouping. Christians are to be scattered among all the peoples of the earth for one day believers from all nations will gather around the throne of King Jesus.

In the meantime this means that Christians are called to live under the rule of their nations (1 Peter 2v13-14). To pray for their God appointed leaders (1 Timothy 2v2). Such authorities have the responsibility to deliver justice - and should do so. In a democratic society the people have the power to hold government accountable to the task they are commissioned to fulfill. We should surely do so. Let us vote on May 5th.

The only exception to submitting to the Government and Law of the land would seem to be where Government decrees that to be lawful is to be sinful. At this point the Christian will always defer to the true ruler of the world. The true judge who always judges rightly: Jesus.

Whilst human government and law will always rule imperfectly we know there is one whose final judgement will be perfect. Though we will see injustice today (not that we should tolerate it), we have sure hope of ultimate justice.

We cannot expect a perfectly governed state today - no-one, Christians included, lives perfectly today. And those who aren't Christians will never live in a way that fully honours God's rule. The church cannot moralise the world, nor should it (we rather show the world for what it is, and offer hope). But government is appointed to establish some measure of right and wrong in society, to commend and to punish.

Let us live under the rule of Jesus. Let us live under the rule of our nations for then the church will stand without blame. Let us use our freedom to do good. Let us take religion into politics. Let us call our leaders to be just in their government. Let us do this for the Lord's sake (1 Peter 2v13-17).

BBC News Election Coverage