Twenty years ago I became active in the political process because the attorney general of Texas was defending the state’s position that home schooling was not legal. Texas home schoolers have worked hard in many venues to elect good people who support the right of parents to teach their children at home without interference from the state.
We have participated out of self-defense, and over the years we have made an impact on our government. In the course of time, however, I have had conversations with Christian friends who have been taught that it is unbiblical for Christians to participate in “politics.” The argument goes something like this: We, as Christians, are to be in the world but not of it, and therefore, we should stay out of the political arena because it is so full of ungodly behavior and tactics. Because this environment is often not positive, Christians should not participate, some claim. In fact some would argue that it is just as wrong for a Christian to be politically active as it is for a Christian to work in a bar or some other ungodly environment.
Let us examine the premise behind those positions. First, what we refer to as politics or political activity is actually government. Government is an institution established by God in Genesis 9. Prior to this time, violence had increased dramatically because there were no external restraints. The purpose of government, then, according to the Bible, is to restrain evildoers, as the apostle Paul points out in Romans 13. Whereas Paul lived in the Roman Empire and had no opportunity to participate in his government, we live in a country in which the government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
The question, then, is: What responsibility do Christians have with regard to government in our country? In Matthew 22 Jesus’ enemies sought to catch Him in His words when they asked Him whether or not God required them to pay taxes to the Roman government. They asked Him if it was God’s will for them to pay taxes to a secular government to which they were subject. His response was, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” In other words, give the government what it is due and give God what He is due.
Just as we are Texas citizens and at the same time citizens of the United States, we are also citizens of heaven. As Christians we often focus on potential situations in which our government would seek to require of us something that we cannot do because of our faith. We might have to say along with the apostles that, if we must choose between obeying God or man, we will obey God; however, those potential situations should not be used as excuses for Christians to abdicate their responsibility as citizens of our state and nation.
Two decades ago as I struggled with this issue, the Lord used a passage in the epistle of James to help me. In James 2:15-16, the author points out the hypocrisy of telling a brother or sister in need to go, be warmed and filled, when you have the means to meet that need and do not do so. It seemed to me then and still today that it is wrong for Christians to say they will pray that God will give us good leaders but refuse to vote or participate in the process by which these leaders are chosen.
When I hear Christians lament the fact that our government has difficulty outlawing infanticide in a procedure called partial-birth abortion* or opposing homosexual marriage, I think of the fact that there are 60 million evangelical Christians in our country and that less than one fourth of them vote in most elections. This means that almost 75% of evangelical Christians may be praying for our country and its leaders, but they are not “putting feet to their prayers.”
Fifty percent of the people in our country who are eligible to vote are not registered. Of those who are registered, only 50% will vote in a high-turnout election like the race for President. Since those races are often close, something like 13% of the people who could vote actually decide who will be President of the United States. If we look at state legislative races and school board and city council races, the percentage is probably half that number or even less. While this is tragic, it is also a great opportunity for Christians if we would simply register to vote, make a commitment to educate ourselves on the issues and candidates, and get those in our sphere of influence to do so as well. Ask your church friends if they are registered to vote; you might be shocked to find that probably half of them are not.
As we approach the federal and state elections this fall, there is every likelihood that the race for President may be as close as it was four years ago. I believe that God has given us a great privilege and responsibility as citizens in our country, and if we exercise our right to participate and teach our children that responsibility as well, we could see great blessings poured out on our nation.
*Editor’s note: Tim Lambert, president of THSC, practices what he preaches. At the end of August 2004, he completed his second and last term as Republican National Committeeman for Texas, having represented the Republican Party of Texas on the national committee for eight years. In 1998, as the RNC committeeman for Texas, he was instrumental in bringing partial birth abortion to the forefront and making it a national issue; ultimately, President Bush signed into law in November of 2003 the bill that bans partial birth abortion.