Practicing Godly Politics

In a July 7th letter to the religious organization he leads, a fellow named Clyde Kilough wrote about the spiritual problem of practicing politics in an ungodly fashion. Whatver you may think about how his principles applies to his own conduct in the past and present, the principles he provides are indeed sound ones. As Christians we see all around us politics practiced in an ungodly fashion, and it is important for us to examine our own political practice in light of God’s word. Today I would like to probe into some of the deeper areas about practicing godly politics.

Is it even possible for Christians to practice godly politics in the first place? There are many people who call themselves Christians who do not believe so, who believe that politics is so filthy and corrupt that no godly person can practice politics on any level. There are others who believe that it is possible, indeed worthwhile, for Christians to provide a godly example in all areas of human behavior, including politics, but who may not be aware of the uniquely biblical requirements for engaging in godly politics as opposed to worldly and satanic kinds. Indeed, once one is aware of the destiny of the Israel of God to be priests and kings in the Kingdom of God (see Exodus 19:5-6, 1 Peter 2:9-10), one cannot maintain that all politics is ungodly, because to be a king or a priest is to hold a political office. A king holds political office over a city or realm, enforcing the law over civil society. A priest holds political power over a congregation or assembly, and enforces standards of ritual purity, determining by God’s law who is fit to take the sacrements (such as the bread and wine at Passover, marriage, and ordination) and participate in religious ceremonies (including church services. The fact that the Bible puts the civil and religious terms together—a royal pristhood and holy nation—would seem to indicate that there is no separation between the enforcement of God’s law in either the civil or religious sphere, except that each deal with different spheres and different sanctions, rather than a different legal and moral standard.

In examining the practicing of godly politics, let us understand that if we wish to practice politics in a godly fashion, we must do so both in means and in ends. As Christians we cannot simply pick and choose which parts of God’s law we like or wish to support, and which part we dislike and think was “done away” by Christ. We must take the whole law as the whole scripture defines it and seek to examine not only its letter but also its spirit, so that we may not be wooden sharia enthusiasts but just judges rightfully dividing the word of truth. This is not an easy task. If we are to judge rebellious angels we cannot be incompetent to judge matters according to God’s law on this earth (see 1 Corinthians 6:1-11). But to be good judges we must be taught. What are the standards of God’s law? We cannot judge according to God’s law unless we know God’s law—all of it. We ought to have messages which deal with the application of God’s law in the civil and religious sphere here and now, in society as we know it. We cannot be expected to enforce God’s law in the future until we have learned it here and now. For who becomes a judge without first showing competence in the law, before passing the bar exam? For so it is on earth, so it is in heaven—novices are not to be ordained, lest they be puffed up.

Let us be plain—if we wish to practice godly politics we must first know the moral standards of God’s law in their totality. We must see how they apply to our own conduct, as well as our relationships with others in the family, in businesses, in the civil realm, and within the body of believers. God’s law has a lot to say about all of these matters, balancing requirements for the respect of authority (which is how we learn to respect God in heaven) with the responsibilities of leaders to serve their brethren and to remember that even kings are the equals of their subjects (Deuteronomy 17:20) and that people have the duty and responsibility to obey God rather than men when the two are in conflict (Acts 5:29). Therefore both leaders and led have to learn restraint and how to balance the discharging of their God-given duties with the fact that their titles do not make them better or more important people in the sight of God, nor give them favorable treatment in the eyes of His law. The offices we wear are like judge’s robes—underneath them we are the men and women we are, and we will take off those robes and pass them along to someone else in time, if we are fortunate. The robes do not make us better people, but only give us greater responsibilities as we have shown ourselves competent and morally qualified to handle them.

Let us also remember that godly politics involves both means and ends. We cannot be selective. We cannot decide that we want to practice politics in a godly fashion but for ungodly ends—for exploiting the poor, or favoring one class of person or another—nor can we decide to practice politics in an ungodly fashion [1] for godly ends by claiming that the ends justify the means. We cannot be terrorists for God, nor will our good intentions count for much if create a hell on earth for ourselves. So, can we practice godly politics? We can, if we are willing to practice the work of both knowing God’s law and applying it to our own conduct.

[1] A quote from the letter referred to above: How does it manifest itself? Just to give a few examples, we can see politics at work when people:

Ambitiously strive for personal goals and put themselves and their interests first in trying to advance themselves.

Use their power or position to obtain their own will over what is best for the whole body.

Advance certain other people due to friendship, reward or payback for favors.

Manipulate situations to get close to those in positions of authority, either to influence them or perhaps just for the prestige of being in some kind of “inner circle.”

Shift blame when they’ve done something wrong in order to avoid accountability and responsibility and thus try to protect their place or position.

Manipulate others, such as through controlling the flow of information or slanting of information.

People can slip into these types of behavior very subtly—just because a person is being political doesn’t mean he or she even realizes it!

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Practicing Godly Politics

  1. Ivan Veller says:

    Sensible commentary/. I particularly like the scriptures quoted, along with your analogy about the judge’s robes.

    • Indeed, it is a point that many people fail to recognize. Many people falsely believe that authority makes them a better person when it only provides more opportunities to reveal what sort of person you already are.

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