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My fellow Christians are confusing me. One of the common reactions to having Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for President has been to complain about the uselessness of political pragmatism on the part of conservative Christians. Many are complaining that those who would vote for Romney over Obama are merely looking for “a chance to right the ship,” and suggest that the time for righting the ship is past – that such a strategy is hopeless and denies the sovereignty of our Lord and true King.
The argument has been made that America is “on its way to its deathbed” both under Obama or Romney, so there is no use encouraging or celebrating a Romney victory in November. “They’re both equally bad,” they say. “At least with Obama as President we actually recognize the problems at hand,” they say. According to these Christians, with whom I fellowship and whose opinions I respect, there is no difference between a baby-killing, homosexual unbeliever and a pro-life, traditional marriage-holding unbeliever. And inwardly, I would naturally agree. But outwardly, of course, we must agree that there is a difference. The question remains – does it matter?
I have read that the ways in which a pragmatic Christian conservative must concede actually undermines the mandate we all have as Christians to take dominion for Christ over the state. Jesus is King, and He is King over all, even the Kings of the earth. Every Christian understands that, but I’m confused as to how that means that we are therefore to call for the destruction of our national political and social structure. My fellow Christians have indicated that if you think pragmatically about politics in any way, then you’re putting your hope in that “state or federal power.” They say, “Submit to God,” and assume that that means we don’t have to deal with the system which we have made for ourselves.
So with all that said – I am confused. I am confused because the whole story of Israel in the Old Testament seems to point to the opposite conclusion.
To begin with, let’s consider Abraham and the situation with Lot in the city of Sodom. Sodom and Gomorrah were terribly wicked cities which displeased God greatly. They committed untold sinful acts and were an abomination. Lot and his family lived there, and God told Abraham that He was going to destroy the city. But what did Abraham do? Abraham didn’t say, “Yes, Lord – I see the filth and the unbelief. I see the sinfulness of mankind, and you should bring low that city.” No, Abraham pleaded for God to spare the city. He pleads not once, not twice… but FIVE TIMES.
Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went His way, when He had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.”
Now, I could be wrong, but it seems to be that Abraham (the Christian – the one who recognized God as the King and Lord of the nations) is not actively or even passively seeking the destruction of a state/city/society. In fact, he is doing the exact opposite. He asks the Lord to spare the entire city for the sake of ten – TEN – who are righteous. Why? Because he denied the sovereignty of God or wasn’t jealous for the Lord and for His Kingdom? I doubt it. It seems more likely that he interceded because he desired mercy and peace. He probably hoped that over time the ten righteous would increase and prosper, but I’m sure my friends opposed to “pragmatic politics” would disagree with that interpretation.
So what about Israel? Not to draw complete parallels between the USA and Israel in the Old Testament, but both countries and social structures began recognizing Christ as King. They both stood on the foundation of the Scriptures and applied their principles and beliefs in a way that they believed would please our Lord. Now, in neither case were these countries, societies, or their leaders perfect. They failed in many serious ways, including falling consistently into idolatry and Baal-worship.
Whether or not you feel comfortable with the overall parallel, the specific parallels are there. There were faithful men and women within the nation of Israel when it was faithful as a whole, and when it was idolatrous as a whole. There were faithful men and women in the USA when the country was faithful as a whole, and now that it has become idolatrous as a whole.
Now the question is – what is our duty as Christians when the nation has fallen away from the Lord? Do we see the “Christians” in the Old Testament wishing that the Lord would pour down fire and brimstone on their nation? Do they seek the destruction of their national political structure so that they can once again be faithful to God? I read about the prophets who, upon receiving Divine instruction, prophesy about the fall of Israel, but I don’t read about the people in general seeking God’s judgment on their political structure.
All throughout the Old Testament, we see God working within the structure that Man desired for himself. God made it clear what man was getting himself into in I Samuel 8, but after that He doesn’t suggest that His people should depart from that structure. God allowed man to create his own political structure, and it doesn’t bother His eternal plan because Christ is the Lord of lords and King of kings. All nations will bow before Him. All political structures will turn in time to Him. Israel itself fell away on a regular basis, but God always worked within the structure in place. And even when all Israel turned away, God often saw fit to be merciful. He even took wicked men and changed their hearts (Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 12).
So my confusion remains – where we do we get the idea that we should give up? Where do we see the precedence for the people of God, the Church of God, to say, “To hell with this political system. Jesus is King and He is GUNNA BRING IT DOWN.” This seems to be the attitude of my friends who see Romney and Obama as the same.
Of course, my friends have responded that they haven’t completely given up – they voted for Ron Paul. God would be merciful if He gave us Ron Paul, and while I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, I don’t think we now have the right to give up on His mercy since Paul isn’t going to win the nomination. If we cared enough for the political system and believed in the redemption of the system enough to vote for Ron Paul, we can at least consider the option for voting for a candidate who won’t drive the system and society into greater godlessness and immorality faster.
Once again, I want to understand what we as Christians are supposed to do here. And as far as I can tell, we have a duty to do two things:
I believe in Jesus. I believe He is Lord. I believe He is Lord of the nations and that He rules over the United States of America. I believe He is King and that He is sovereign, and that whatever happens happens according to His divine will. I believe that He has a plan for the salvation of our country and I believe that we as the Church play a part in that plan.
But I don’t believe that He calls us to be apolitical because the system is messed up. I don’t believe that He ever calls upon the Church to abandon hope that He can and will restore failed systems. He showed Israel that time and time again throughout the Old Testament. He wants us to understand that salvation comes only through Him and not through the state. But that doesn’t mean He’s out to abolish the state. He wants us to preach the Gospel and seek for quiet and peaceable lives.
Jesus isn’t asking us to put our faith in politics. He isn’t asking us to put our faith in a system. He wants us to seek peace. Do what we can to ensure that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives. I don’t believe that a vote for someone who claims to oppose abortion vs. someone who praises the benefits of abortions is not a vote to wholeheartedly support that person and his/her principles. I believe that’s a vote for peace.
We as Christians may disagree on whether or not we can trust Romney. We can disagree on the merits of the man and the issues with Mormonism. We can draw similarities and differences between him and Obama, and we can do so amicably. What I can’t see is how NOT voting or NOT caring if it’s Obama or Romney is in any way praying, hoping or seeking peace.
We have a duty to be as Abraham, calling upon God to have mercy on us, on our nation, and on our political system. We have a duty to pray that God would revive us and do a work in our churches and in our land. We have a duty to preach the Gospel and tell the world that true, eternal salvation comes through the blood of Christ and the blood of Christ alone. But we also have a duty to seek peace. We have a duty to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We do not have a duty, responsibility, or right to pronounce judgment on those who faithfully love God and who seek God’s mercy on our politicians and politics. To do that is to deny the sovereignty of God. To deny that God can be merciful on us for “four more years” and allow the Church to have a great impact down the road and in future presidential and congressional elections is to deny the sovereignty of God. God is just, but He is also merciful, and we should pray that He is merciful, for whatever judgment is brought on our system will fall upon us as a people as well.