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Christians and the Public Sphere

How to survive 2024 from a Christian perspective

How to survive 2024 from a Christian perspective.

Introduction

As America enters yet another election cycle in 2024, both secular and Christian citizens have a lot to think about. If this election cycle is anything like the last two, it is likely that Christians, particularly will be pushed and pulled in many different directions. This is because, even among the body of Christ, people can have different political persuasions. This is fine if those persuasions don’t lead us to abandon the principles of the Bible, but political differences can sometimes lead to division.

Additionally, as we observe the state of our post-Christian nation, it can be easy for one to be burdened with feelings of despair. It seems that no matter who gets elected, things only get worse. Thus, there is a real temptation for Christians to put too much stock into politics or their political affiliations. As a result, we forget we have a sovereign Lord Who has authority over our nation and the entire world.

With all of this in mind, my intention here is not to convince the reader who to vote for this November. I would encourage the reader to vote, if he or she is eligible, but I instead want to take this time to talk about the Christian’s relationship to politics. How should a Christian participate in the public sphere, especially during a time like this?

Believe it or not, I think it is possible for a Christian to be aware of current events without losing his or her head. But to explain how this is possible, we need to understand the biblical concept of the civil magistrate.

The Governing Authorities

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval… Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1–5)

Under normal circumstances, Christians are commanded to obey their civil authorities. This is because God ordains for certain people to be in positions of power. These are known as the civil magistrates, but today we would call them the government. According to the Bible, disobeying government authority is tantamount to disobeying God. In this way, submitting to the government can be seen as an extension of the fifth commandment.

I would argue that submission in this case extends to giving respect to our rulers. We may not like our current politicians, but we should still pray for them. Sure, most politicians can be shady or sinful, but we must remember that we’re no better (Romans 3:11–18). The government is run by humans, and all humans are prone to error. This includes Christians.

Nevertheless, in the above passage Paul assumes that the government here is acting in accordance with God’s Law. But when the government commands the people to do something contrary to God’s Law, it is then permissible for Christians to not submit. However, these circumstances require discernment and wisdom. We should not make a habit of breaking laws simply because we don’t like who’s in power. Christians do not operate from a position of lawlessness and revolution, based on the word of God.

Christians and Political Parties

Earlier, I recommended that every eligible Christian vote in the upcoming election. Additionally, I would argue that a Christian can vote Democrat or Republican and still adhere to a biblical Christian worldview. But while this is true, we must take care not to align ourselves too closely to a political party. In other words, I am urging Christians not to put their political identity above their identity in Christ.

This is because, in one sense, the Bible is both progressive and conservative. God has brought blessings upon our land, and we ought to respect and uphold those blessings. So we’re conserving something, but we are also progressive in the sense that there is much work to be done. We must extend the Lord’s blessings upon the world.

Consider the example of helping the poor, a virtue often associated with progressivism. I should note that this is also a biblical virtue (Proverbs 14:31). Now because this tends to be progressive virtue, conservative Christians may be tempted to ignore it. But we should not skip over a part of the Bible because it is not consistent with “our side.”

To reiterate, there is a sense in which the Bible is both progressive and conservative. But in another sense, the Bible is simultaneously neither progressive nor conservative.

This is part of the mystery of God’s will: it transcends bipartisan politics. Try as they might, both the Democratic and Republican parties will fall short of God’s perfection. This is because they are both man-made institutions, and mankind is corrupted by sin. Thus, a biblical Christian worldview requires one to put his adherence to Christ over his preferred political party.

Conclusion

Politics cannot save anyone. Rather, politics will be used by the Lord, to accomplish His perfect will. Christ reigns supreme, and this means He is Lord over our public sphere. This does not mean we should be ignorant of current events, but rather that we should navigate this election season prayerfully seeking His direction. Fortunately for us, this is possible if we hold fast to God as both our Lord and Savior (Eph. 2:8–9).


Author – Brandon Charles | BCWorldview.org 

Salvation – Eternal Life in Less Than 150 Words

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