We’ve all known of things that don’t go well together: oil and water, Michigan and Michigan State, mayonnaise and ice cream, and of course: politics and religion. At least, that’s what we’ve heard. But what does the Bible actually say? More specifically, what BIBLICAL conclusions can we draw about how American Government and Christianity fit together? Let’s build on three ideas to reach a conclusion.
Ideal 1: The Bible says Human Government Comes from God
Let’s look at Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:1-4. In Genesis 9, God talked to Noah after the flood and laid out some ground rules for humanity. One of those rules was Capital Punishment. We see this in verse 9: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” We know this isn’t simply talking about revenge because God is adamantly against murder. Instead, by giving this command, He created the institution to which he would give the authority to enforce that command. That institution was human government. Romans 13 confirms that the authority for the death sentence was given to human government when it says, “beareth not the sword in vain.” Check out verse 4: ‘But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” After the flood, God created the institution of human government with the sole purpose, at that time, of punishing evil.
In addition to God implementing Human Government after the flood, we have further scriptural proof that Human Government comes from God. Look at the language used in Romans 13. Verse 1 says “Ordained by God,” verse 2 says “resisteth the ordinance of God,” verse 4 uses the phrase “minister of God” twice, and verse 5 alludes to the principle that disobeying government is disobeying God. The Scriptural fact is that God instituted Human Government to accomplish His purposes. Genesis 9 and Romans 13:4 show us one of those purposes is justice, i.e., the punishment of evil. Romans 13:4 shows us that the second purpose is to promote good, i.e., enforce principles that reflect God’s character.
These facts lead me to ask two logical questions. First, if Human Government is from God, doesn’t that mean it is godly? We often hear we are not to involve ourselves in government because politics is dirty. Sure, but is it dirty foundationally or is it dirty because sinful people are leading it? We already know that Satan loves to run and ruin God’s institutions. He has continually perverted God’s institutions of marriage, family, and the church. The solution in those situations is for Christians to become MORE involved—to preach on taking back our marriages, our families, and our churches for Christ. I submit to you that Satan is having a heyday perverting God’s godly institution of Government, and the solution is not for Christians to run from it but toward it. 2. Since Human Government is from God, does it not follow that it would be crazy to think He doesn’t want HIS people involved in it? The logic easily flows to say, “yes, of course God wants His people involved!” Think about the antithesis of this for a moment. To say that Christians shouldn’t be involved in government is the equivalent to saying that God instituted government to punish evil and promote good, but that He wanted all the people who don’t know the difference between good and evil to run it! In addition, it would mean He wanted all the people who do understand truth to sit on the sidelines or, at best, participate at the lowest level. Human government comes from God; therefore, God’s people should be involved.
Idea 2: The Bible Shows God using Christians in government to be an influence for Him.
There are many examples of God doing this, but we will limit our focus to three. First, Joseph. Genesis 37-47 describes the life of a Hebrew man named Joseph. As a young man, his brothers sell him into slavery. Joseph is taken to Egypt, where his story takes an unexpected turn. Because of his good Christian character, Joseph rises twice to positions of power. The greatest of these being second in command over all Egypt. Only Pharoah was more powerful than Joseph was. From this position in government, Joseph was used by God to accomplish His purposes. These include saving the world from famine, providing food and health to the messianic line, and establishing the nation of Israel in a prosperous region. What is happening here? GOD purposefully placed a “CHRISTIAN” in government to INFLUENCE the world for Him.
The same is true for Esther and Daniel, who are the other two we will mention. To get into a position of government, Esther was in a forced marriage, and Daniel’s homeland was taken captive. God used Esther to save the entire nation of Israel, and He used Daniel to write Scripture and influence the release of Israel from the Medo-Persian Empire. Once again. God purposefully placed Christians into government to influence the world for Him. This begs the question: if God purposefully placed Christians into government (hostile ones, at that) in the Bible, why would we even begin to ponder the idea that God doesn’t want Christians discussing politics in church or leading in the political arena? I submit to you that God used Christians in government in the past to influence the world for Him, and He wants to do the same today.
Idea 3: American Government is distinct.
A popular definition of distinct is “readily distinguishable from all others.” This definition is an excellent description of the government we have in America. Let’s ask the question, “what makes American Government distinct?” Many things, but we will consider only two. First, American Government is distinct because it is accessible. America is a constitutional republic, meaning it is a self-government based upon a constitution. Abraham Lincoln famously called us a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Our government is accessible because our founders formed it to be run by us, the citizens. We make the policies in our nation from positions of elected office, and those positions are available to every single American citizen. What’s so distinct about that? Look what God had to do to get godly people in government in Bible times. Joseph had to be sold into slavery, Esther had to be placed into a forced marriage, and Daniel had to be taken from his homeland by its conquering nation. In America, things are much different. If we want to hold a godly position in an influential public office in God’s institution of government, all we have to do is run. We all have the opportunity to influence the world for God through His institution of government.
What else makes American government distinct? It built a country that is a powerhouse for the gospel around the world. America makes up 5% of the world’s population, yet it provides 95% of the world’s finances for missions and Christian education. Is that distinct? The math speaks for itself. America is in this position because its government is based on biblical principles. To prove this fact, all we have to do is look at a nation whose government is not based on biblical principles. Look, for example, at Russia. How much money does Russia send to Christian missionaries every year? Less than zero. In fact, Russia is now arresting and fining Christians for sharing their faith. The American government system is not “just another government.” It is a government that God is using to accomplish incredible spiritual purposes across the world. If there were ANY government at ANY time that Christians should pour themselves into to make and keep it godly, it’s American Government. In fact, the summarizing statement of all three ideas echos this claim: Christians need to be involved in God’s godly institution of government to have godly influence that will preserve our government’s good, spiritual, purposes around the world.
I believe the three ideas we examined lead to a definitive conclusion to the question “how does American government and Christianity fit together.” That definitive conclusion is this: American government is a tool and opportunity for Christians to influence the world around them for Christ. Instead of seeing it as dirty, let’s see American Government as fundamentally godly. Instead of being skeptical toward being in American Government as a Christian, let’s ask God how He wants us to participate and to use us like He used Daniel, Esther, and Joseph. Instead of seeing American Government as a distraction from our faith, let’s see it as a tool God is using to further His purposes. If we choose to view government God’s way and follow where He leads us, we may be amazed at how He works in our nation for His glory.