Political Principles

Tom Kendall 03 Oct 20

At the Politics Network we recognise that we serve a God who is committed to uniting all things under Christ (Ephesians 1). Who created all things and for whom all things exist (Colossians 1 and Psalm 89). We honour a God who is our judge, our lawgiver, our king, and our saviour (Isaiah 33).  

Yet we live in a world in which the Lordship of Christ is not recognised. We attend lectures where Jesus is mocked. We have political parties which present their own visions of heaven and hell and yet reject true salvation. 

We must admit, this tension is confusing. How are we to be faithful in this context? Thankfully the Bible gives us answers…

1 Peter 2:11-17

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.

We all come here with our allegiances and political identities. You might be here as a Labour, Lib Dem, or Conservative member. You might have a passion for environmental activism, local community work, or campaigning against modern slavery. You may just love your tax policy, or foreign policy real politik, or simply love a good political meme. 

As Christians though none of these is our first allegiance. These are good passions and interests for our God is Lord of all. But because our God is Lord of all that also makes us distinct, it makes us different. 

We are different 

1 Peter 2:11 begins by describing Christians as foreigners and exiles. We are outsiders. We don’t belong. We don’t quite fit the mould.  

Just a few verses before Peter reveals Christians’ true home...

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We are God’s chosen people, his representatives, his nation. We are not identified as Tories, or Socialists, Liberals, environmentalists, campaigners, justice warriors. We are called foreigners and exiles. 

I’m sure we feel that. We love politics, we like being involved but we feel a tension, we feel some pressure. Just think about some of the questions at play in society:

  • What does it mean to be human? 
  • What does human flourishing look like? 
  • Where does life begin/end? 
  • What is true justice and equality?

On all these questions we will have different responses to the world around us. Our faith determines that we are foreigners and exiles. We are reading from a different script. We are wearing a different kit. Our status as foreigners and exiles not only gives us a different identity but demands different behaviour and so we…

Act different 

Peter says that we are different and therefore we are to act different. There are typically two responses to being an outsider – get stuck in and seek to assimilate to the dominant culture or withdraw and keep your distance. Which of these two does our identity demand? 

I’m sure we all have one option we find easier than the other. Yet the Bible demands both! We are to be different in line with our identity and still remain involved in society. Look at some of the commands in this section…

V12 - Live such good lives among the pagans …

V14 - Submit yourselves to every human authority 

V16 - Live as free people – not as a cover for evil but for good

V17 - Show proper respect to everyone 

V17 - Love the Church 

V17 - Fear God

V17 - Honour the Emperor 

Our Christian calling to be different and distinct does not demand withdrawal, nor encourage embarrassment at our outsider status. No, we are to be both distinct and involved. 

Ultimately, the Christian is to be someone who does good and submits to authority v12 and v14 the key verses here. Think about how radical that is – to be submissive and seek good. How many times does a cause forsake doing good to submit? Or how many times does good come at the cost of rebellion and chaos? The Bible demands we do both. 

We see this clearly throughout Scripture. God tells the prophet Jeremiah to urge the exiles of Israel (in exile in Babylon) to seek the peace and prosperity of the city, and to pray for it (Jeremiah 29:7) by so doing they will both flourish. 

In doing good we point to the goodness of God and in submitting we celebrate the systems of order and justice God has put in place for our good (v14). Yet, this is not just for our good or even the good of the society around us. The Bible provides this pattern for political engagement because it is the one that most glorifies God. 

So that we might glorify God

Notice the reasons Peter gives for getting involved in the world around us…

V12 – That they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us 

V13 – Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake 

V15 – For it is God’s will that by doing good you will silence the ignorant talk of the world 

Being different and acting different brings God glory (when we are different in the way he demands). It pleases him. And it gives reasons for the world around us to see the good God we serve and glorify him too. Our political activity then can be pleasing to God. It can bring good for the society arounds us and it gives opportunities to talk about the wonderful Lord and King whom we serve. 

At the Politics Network we find this is incredibly good news. Fantastic that we can follow our political passions for we are called to get involved in the world. Fantastic that by so doing we can glorify God. Fantastic that this gives us opportunities to tell our friends and communities about Jesus!

In all we do, we seek to hold these truths tightly – we are different, and we are to act different that we might glorify God. 

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