You’re in a conversation and someone says, “Government can’t change the human heart. So Christians should avoid politics and focus on evangelism.”
What Would You Say?
It’s true that the goal of the gospel is change people’s hearts, not just their behavior. It is also true that government is not the most effective way to reach someone’s heart. Does this mean that God wants us to stay away from what happens in government and focus only on evangelism? No. And here are three reasons why.
First, God created government.
Most Christians accept that God created the family, and God created the church. The Bible is pretty clear about that. But is also teaches something we often forget: God created government as well. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul clearly says that God created government to reward good and punish evil.
Christtians might be tempted to believe that government is less important because it cannot change hearts, but that’s not what it was created to do. The church was created for that.
The family, church, and government were all created by God for distinct purposes. There are limits to what each one can accomplish individually. However, those limitations don’t justify neglecting any one of them. Human flourishing is most possible when all three of these institutions functioning as God intended. This means that all of them are important and all of them deserve our attention.
Which leads us to the second point.
Civic stewardship does not require neglect of the gospel.
Is it more important for you to be a good spouse or a good parent? Is it more important to be kind or to be honest? The answer, of course, is that both are important. Being a good spouse makes you a better parent and being honest is part of being kind.
In the same way, the choice between evangelism and civic stewardship is not a choice Jesus offered. We are to be salt and light in our communities and we are to make disciples of all nations. That’s the job description.
God did not create a one-dimensional world, so we do not have the option of living one-dimensional lives. A Christian Worldview requires us to see the whole creation the way God does and act accordingly.
Does that mean we should place our hope in what happens politically? We’ll address that in our third point.
Apathy is not the solution to idolatry.
A common criticism of civic engagement is that people place their hope in politics when it should be in Jesus. Of course, this does happen. Does that mean we should avoid politics to make sure it doesn’t become an idol? No. After all, anything can become an idol: a career, a hobby, a sports team, a charity, even a church.
A spouse or our children can even become our idols if we ultimately look to them for comfort, joy, and meaning.
And yes, if we place our ultimate hope in the government or the next election, or a political leader, it is idolatry. But, the proper response to idolatry isn’t apathy, it’s keeping our eyes on eternity, placing our hope in God, and seeing the world the way Jesus does.
We’d never tell someone to neglect their children to avoid the risk of becoming a helicopter parent. In the same way, we shouldn’t avoid civic engagement because some people care too much about politics. The correct response to imbalance is not neglect, it’s balance.
So next time someone tells you that Christians need to avoid what’s happening in politics and government to focus on evangelism, remember these three things.
God created government. If God made it, it’s our job to see that it fulfills the purpose He created for it.
Civic stewardship does not require neglect of the gospel. Christians can walk and chew gum.
Apathy is not the solution to idolatry. Yes, it’s possible to care too much about politics, but the solution to any imbalance is not apathy, but keeping things in balance.
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For What Would You Say, I'm Joseph Backholm.
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