Christian Witness in the Political Arena

Do evangelical church leaders have a strong Christian witness in the political arena of our nation? The way I see it, many of our most vocal spokespersons seem more interested in their personal agenda than in Christ’s.  As ‘prophets’ or ‘apostles’ our actions are expected to be motivated by love, justice and compassion as evidenced by our caring for the homeless and the helpless, the poor in spirit and wealth, the oppressed, the orphans and the widows. We need to remember that in our nation up to 64% percent of our people live on less than $1 per day. In rural areas the figures are even higher.

The voices of key church leaders, including mine, are notably silent to these priorities. Typically our voices are loud and strong when the agenda is personal in nature. For example, when we constructing a church building we will invite prominent politicians to come and make a contribution rather than asking them if they believe in Christ. In a similar way, when we host a conference we will invite prominent politicians to demonstrate our connection with them rather than to share Christ’s agenda with them. I cannot imagine a meeting conducted by John the Baptist or the Apostle John where King Herod or Emperor Domitian felt comfortable enough with their message to shake their hands and invite them for a cup of tea.  We learn in Scripture that John the Baptist was beheaded for telling Herod to repent from his immoral activities and the apostle John was exiled to the Island of Patmos because Rome was seeking to rid the world of Christ influence.

I am not in the least proposing that we should not relate with politicians. Nor am I saying that being persecuted by politicians is the litmus test of faithfully preaching the gospel. What I am saying is – let us not grind our own axe. Politicians know the church leaders whose egos have not been crucified with Christ. They know how to feed such egos to get us to say what they want to hear. The apostle Paul put it this way, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim. 4:3).  I sense most of us are good friends with politicians because our agenda is nowhere near Christ’s agenda – to know Christ and to evangelize the lost.

Very few of our apostles today could match the Apostle Paul’s credentials and accomplishments. Yet success was not enough for Paul.  He needed Jesus, and it was not through his success that he experienced Jesus most richly. It was through suffering and adversity that he came to have a deep relationship with Christ. He wrote from a prison cell that he wanted, “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” I believe one way we share in his suffering is through godly obedience. This includes justice for the oppressed and mercy and compassion for the disadvantaged.  Therefore, next time you have an opportunity to engage politicians let it not be to further your own agenda, rather let your goal be to grow closer to God by advocating for the oppressed, the poor and the helpless. Who knows, your message may lead to godly sorrow. Paul writes “See what this godly sorrow has produced in you … what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.  (2 Cor. 7:10-11).

Lawrence Temfwe