Sometimes it seems that the main criteria by which Christians judge politicians is their stance on abortion and same-sex marriage. As if these were the major sins that bring down a nation. However if we look at the main reasons listed in Isaiah for the judgement of Sodom these sins get no mention. Instead “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.Ezekiel 16:49. Sins, I might suggest, that are often more associated with the right wing of politics than the left (indeed the reaction by the Right to Obamacare might well be an example).
Perhaps it is these more acceptable sins of a nation which assault heaven more and by the time the sins of abortion and same-sex marriage raise their ugly heads it’s a bit late. The horse has bolted long ago. And the task of turning it around is too great for even the most Spirit-led politician. Which raises real questions for me about the relevance of Christian engagement in politics.
I should say to start with that I don’t have a problem with Christians running for a political office as a way of serving the community. What concerns me is the idea that we can somehow bring about a more tolerant, caring and God-honouring society through legislation. I would have thought that the history of Israel under the Law is proof enough that righteousness cannot be legislated. Israel had the perfect law but the inherent self-centredness of their heart meant that they either flouted those good laws or turned their observance of them into a cause for self-righteousness. And Paul, in the New Testament, makes it clear that, no matter how good the law, that will be the result. Which is surely why the only reason that Paul gives for praying for government is that we will have a peaceful environment for the proclamation of the GOSPEL.
Because even the ‘law of Christ’ – love God and love others – can only be acceptably lived out of a changed heart. Without that change of heart we simply get religious observance and humanistic welfare (epitomised by the ‘right’ and the ‘left’?). So, while I’m sure that there is a place for us to raise our voices against some of the more glaring sins of our society, our major calling has to be pointing people to Jesus. We need to come to grips with the reality that for some time now we have lived in a post-Christian society. And without a major heaven-sent revival no amount of political intervention is going to change that.
I would suggest that our calling is NOT so much to pray Christian politicians into our political systems but to pray the prayer of Jesus which was that HIS Kingdom would come. Mitt Romney and Tony Abbott may want to restore ‘traditional’ values to our countries but the best of American or Australian values fall way way short of the values of the Kingdom. So if we choose those channels as the way to bring in righteousness I suggest that we will be very disappointed.
But not to worry. All is not lost for we have a glorious and powerful Gospel, as did the early church. With it – and without any involvement in the far worse political system of their day – they turned the hearts of men towards each other, broke down ancient barriers and turned the heathen world of their time up-side-down. And surely we are destined to see the same – if we stick to the main agenda, refuse the path of politics and look only to Jesus.