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How do you balance faith and politics?

Towards the end of November, a reader asked, “How can/should one reconcile Christian faith with belonging to a political party (or even just patriotism)?” Being that the inauguration is just around the corner, it seemed a fitting time to respond.

Before we begin discussing this topic, I think it is important to recognize that one’s faith informs their political views, but faith does not require you to align with a particular political party. The rhetoric which argues that if you believe in God then you must be Republican (because they lean towards pro-life), or if you believe in God then you must be a Democrat (because they care for the poor), or if you believe in God then you must not vote at all is unhealthy and reductionist.

There are a multitude of reasons for why a person might choose to align themselves with one political party over another, and often the issues are extremely personal, which is why they become volatile.

This is not to say that I don’t have opinions on politics. I do, but I do not intend to discuss specifics here, nor do I presume to think that everyone who follows my faith worldview should have the exact same political opinions that I do. The simple truth is that if you want to be a follower of the Bible, no political party will line up 100%. You will have to compromise on things that are intrinsically important to your faith.

So, how do we balance adhering to a political party and being a people of faith? I have two main thoughts.

The first thought is that you must allow your faith to be the lens through which you view the world, including your politics. You cannot just embrace a turnkey system in its entirety. As we engage with current social issues, be it related to race, immigration, abortion, poverty, foreign affairs, etc., we must be informed by our faith. To check our faith at the door when debating political issues is a tragedy and borders on (if not dives headfirst into) hypocrisy.

The idea of a secular world and a spiritual world is truly a myth. For the Bible-believing follower of Jesus, everything is sacred, even the most mundane action. Every act of life is supposed to be an act of worship to our Creator. To say that your faith doesn’t have a say in how you vote or your political views is unbiblical.

At the same time, the Bible is quite silent on big government vs. small government. There are some issues of politics that truly are related to personal opinion and the culture in which you were raised. That said, our faith should still plow the conversations that we have in these areas, looking at the implications short and long term for adhering to various perspectives.

My second thought is this: your primary citizenship, as a follower of Jesus, is not the United States. Instead, it is heaven. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (3:20-21).”

The people of Philippi prided themselves on being a Roman colony, which meant that anyone born there would also be granted citizenship - an incredible privilege at the time! Paul reminds them that they should look to Christ, not Caesar, for their model of behavior and leadership. Although they were living under Caesar’s reign, their primary allegiance is to God and his kingdom. As such, Christians should stand together with one another, striving for the gospel, rather than bickering against one another over political issues.

If you are a follower of Christ, the Bible’s message is clear. There is nothing wrong with being involved in politics, but your primary allegiance is not to a party, but to Christ. Elsewhere, Paul says that we are ambassadors representing King Jesus. We are here as strangers, pilgrims, nomads just passing through. Our home is elsewhere - the kingdom of God. Our allegiance is to a different kind of king - the King of kings.

It’s not that faith and politics are at odds, on the contrary we should bring our faith into our politics as an ambassador of our Creator. At the same time, we should remember that we are followers of Jesus before we are Americans. Followers of Jesus should be able to stand shoulder to shoulder as they pursue the goal of being representatives of Christ, not bickering among one another over political views. A much larger responsibility has been given to us, proclaiming the cross and the empty tomb.