Politics, Peace & The Christian Conscience

The political division can feel so oppressive these days, but for those of us who know Christ, this is our moment to shine. As the country trembles over the outcome and aftermath of the election, we get to demonstrate the peace of belonging to a “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).

One particular event, found in Mark 12, gives a strong handle for navigating political responsibility with peace. One day a company of Pharisees and Herodians came to Jesus. These groups were not typically unified. The Pharisees were discontent with Roman rule. The Herodians were sympathizers of Roman rule. What unified them this day was their shared desire to destroy Jesus.

Desiring to set a trap, they asked, Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Had Jesus answered, “No,” the Herodians would have accused him of rebellion. Had Jesus answered, “Yes,” the Pharisees would have accused him of idolatry, since Caesar claimed to be god. Jesus took a coin and asked an obvious question: “Whose likeness is this?” Caesar, of course! Jesus then said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” His enemies were left to marvel.

Jesus’ simple response teaches volumes about relating to government while enjoying peace. Since Caesar’s face was stamped on a coin, in a sense, the coin belonged to Caesar. This is why we pay taxes. But where is God’s image stamped? God’s image is stamped on our very life. In other words, Caesar may be worthy of a coin, but God is worthy of our life. If God has our heart and soul, if our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, then we can enjoy and demonstrate the peace of belonging to His unshakable kingdom, no matter the outcome of an election!

Every election is a fresh examination to see if Jesus is our strong tower, or if we have set our hopes on an imaginary tower that promises to save. I know there are genuinely important, long-term, culture-defining, social issues at stake on the ballot this year. We have a part to play in this process, a stewardship of freedom. As you seek to be faithful, let me remind you of some truths.

All authority belongs to God

Our government is a representative democracy, but in reality, we live under a divine monarchy. “[Jesus] is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:9-10). Jesus’ rule is never threatened by election, uprising, or mortality. He is our eternal King!

God entrusted a portion of His authority to government

Peter explains, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Government is ‘sent’ by God to commend what He says is good, and to punish what He says is evil, so that the world is not flooded by the river of human sin.

God will hold authorities accountable

Knowing that divine justice was coming, Daniel told the King of Babylon, “Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed” (Daniel 4:27). Before we go pointing fingers at our authorities, let’s remember that in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, we are both the ‘governed’ and the ‘governing.’ In other words, we should vote as though we will be held accountable for our part in electing leaders who commend what God says is good, who punish what God says is evil, and who protect the weak.

God’s Word is our guide. The Bible tells us that God cares deeply about the sanctity of human life from the womb to the tomb, the building blocks of marriage and family, the poor, the immigrant, personal responsibility, and our stewardship as caretakers of the earth. We also see in the Bible that God cares deeply about morality, purity, humility, and love. That which the Bible confesses to be on the heart of God should be reflected on our ballot. Sometimes the choice is easy. Other times the choice seems to be a lesser of two evils. In rare cases, some will circle neither candidate in a race to avoid violating their conscience. Whatever you do, let your conscience be clear before God.

God alone is to be feared

Politics tend to divide because each party peddles fear of what will be lost if the other side wins. While none of us want to lose liberties important to us, we must remember that the only loss we cannot endure would be the loss of God’s love. This, of course, is impossible for those of us who have trusted Jesus (Romans 8:39). In other words, we should pray, vote, petition, and hope that our liberties are protected, but we should never turn them into an idol. For even if they go missing, we shall still have Christ who is our all in all!

On election night and beyond, let this be your declaration: “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:20-23).