Every time there are elections we see a lot of talk on the Internet and between people on things like who should one vote for, which political party is the best, which candidate has the best competence, and among religious folks, how the believer ought to view polictics in general, is God interested in politics, can use the scriptures to better decide which party to vote for? etc ..
These discussions and debates are often very passionate on all sides. There are many people who say that we should not mix religion and politics including God and politics. It’s an age old adage. So we hear a lot about the issue of mixing religion and politics. We hear about it a lot in the United States regarding their Constitution and the famous Establishment Clause, “Congress shall make no law Respecting an establishment of religion “with” … or Prohibiting the free exercise thereof ” Because of these perpetual quarrels and abuses of these terms and ideas on the issues, we hear that the church should not “interfere” in the state.
To clarify the issue I must say at the outset that there is a difference between “God and State” and “Religion and State”. Religion is the human expression of beliefs in God or not, metaphysical beliefs. The government must therefore not impose a specific religion on the nation since the people must have the right to choose freely. It is at this level that the words of Christ, “My kingdom is not of this world.” applies .
However, we must not make the mistake of saying, based on this saying, that Christ is not interested in human governments. On the contrary, the Old Testament very clearly declares his interest in the way that nations act. He is called King of the Nations. Even in the Apocalypse of John, the book of Revelation, we see the role of nations in the new earth ruled by Christ and his servants.
Assuming that those who read this article understand the subject fairly well, I will try to clarify some important points.
The Bible is the compass of the world, and not only the Christian. It is the revelation of God to humanity, not just Jews and Christians, to show us the way to God and the way of righteousness, justice and mercy in life. So it’s back to the Scriptures to find the correct views. What does the Bible say about the subject? Does the Bible speak of it? We do not want only human, subjective opinions versus another opinion, but we want to see if the word of God is clear on the subject.
I will start with a quote from a highly relevant key text for all that concerns God and human governments.
At one time I may threaten to tear up, break down, and destroy a nation or a kingdom. But suppose the nation that I threatened turns away from doing wrong. Then I will change my plans about the disaster I planned to do to it.
At another time I may promise to build and plant a nation or a kingdom. But suppose that nation does what I consider evil and doesn’t obey me. Then I will change my plans about the good that I promised to do to it.
– Jer 18: 7-10
In it God reveals very briefly the principle by which he governs the nations on earth. The whole principle is closely related to their obedience or disobedience to the moral law. The very fact that God intervenes in the affairs of men already gives us an important clue to the question of God and the State. God is not absent from the state, he is not indifferent to the state and considers the human affairs constantly.
So right there we may not pretend that God and state should be kept separate, as if one had nothing to do with the other. The reality is that it is actually impossible to separate them completely! Indeed, although we could believe that government should not establish a single religion as the religion of the state, imposed on all, one can not say that a government can be separated from God and views of religion either.
In the Old Testament, for example, God arranged to place a person of his choice as the head of a Nation and over and over again. For example, Joseph was chosen by God to come to rule Egypt. We see the many judges he raised up and established. We see the he choose Saul to be the first king of Israel, followed by David etc. In the story of Esther we find God very involved in the fate of the Jews in a pagan nation. We see how God used Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem through the governor. God is seen to interfer in the Gentile (non Jewish) nations also. For example with Cyrus that he predetermined many years before his birth, to become the king of Persia (Iran). We also see Daniel and his position of influence and governance in Babylon.
The list is long. One can even say with certainty that the Old Testament is the history of moral and political relations between God and nations, especially Israel but many others also. We read in Deut. 32: 7.8
Remember the days of old, consider the years of generation to generation: ask thy father, and he will declare to you, your elders, and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the son of Adam, he set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the son of Israel.
We see throughout the Bible that God wants to be respected and served by nations and their leaders. In Psalm 2 we read,
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, and for thy possession the ends of the earth;
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; like a potter’s vessel thou shalt parts.
And now, O kings, be wise; you rulers of the earth, receive instruction:
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling; …
In Psalm 9 we read,
Psa 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget God;
King David recognized God’s authority when he said, “you have made me head of the nations;” God is interested, not only in politics. but who will be leader of a nation. And is it any wonder? Seeing that God’s purposes on earth for the well being of humanity are always at stake in politics?
Even stronger language is used by Isaiah when he said, concerning the Messiah (Christ), “and the government shall be upon his shoulder;”
In short, to say that we must respect separation of state and religion and especially with God is simply a very wrong idea! We cannot separate the them. It is in fact impossible, because God intervenes in the affairs of men and more than anything else in politics!
Psa 10:28 says,
“For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he dominates among the nations.”
The nations belong to him. He is not an idle, uninterested bystander. A normal family man is interested in and has daily involvement with his family and it is his duty. It is also so with God, indeed it is the duty of God to govern nations.
The prophet Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar
“This order is fixed by the watchers, and the decision is by the word of the holy ones: so that the living may be certain that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and gives it to any man at his pleasure, lifting up over it the lowest of men.
… your kingdom will be safe for you after it is clear to you that the heavens are ruling.
For this cause, O King, let my suggestion be pleasing to you, and let your sins be covered by righteousness and your evil-doing by mercy to the poor, so that the time of your well-being may be longer.” – Dan 4:17…
The interpretation Daniel gave Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was fulfilled and when the time of prophecy was completed seen said,
“… At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth;” – Dan 4:35
King David said,
“The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God is like the morning light when the sun shines And a morning without clouds; Shining after rain out of the earth the green. “- 2 Samuel 23
God cares passionately about human affairs and therefore to claim that we should not mix politics and religion, or more specifically God and politics, is a major mistake. It is therefore important that people probe their conscience and the scriptures and biblical principles in any decision dealing with politics, political parties and their leaders. We can not pretend that the politics is religiously neutral. It most definitely is NOT! Politics determines the governance of a nation and must necessarily touch its morality, its behavior and thus its fate. It is therefore important that the people get informed as much as possible on the ideology of a political party, ideology of its leaders and their goals in government.
This means that the people must try to choose as leaders, chiefs and the party with the objectives, principles and moral ideology close as possible to those things in the Bible. The religious person, most precisely the Jew and the Christian, has a moral obligation to get informed, to follow biblical principles and not party loyalty or political leanings and not to just vote as usual or act with irresponsible complacency towards political choices and involvement.
It is therefore very ignorant of scripture and just plain foolish to talk of elections, politics and government without God and religion.
Now, does that mean we can take politics into the church to make sermons? I do not think so. Not to discuss who should vote or to present the parties and candidates involved. No more than a few words on the nature of the thing and the Christian duty to carefully examine the morals, goals etc. each party to make an informed choice by the Bible and by his conscience before God.