Politics pull like gravity. Thus, strong political persuasions can divide. Like a sword, politics can sunder families and turn friends into foes. Even for Christians, political affiliations can, sadly, make the blood of Christ pale in worth. We can use our party card as a blade to cut the throats of our brothers and sisters.
We should engage in politics as Christian pilgrims.
But how should Christians engage in politics? My answer: we must engage in politics as Christian pilgrims.
Pilgrims vs. Earth Dwellers
A pilgrim journeys through life. They are like nomads who build temporary huts instead of permanent houses. Pilgrims resist the gravitational pull to be ‘earth-dwellers.’ Likewise, Christians must resist the pull of politics and live as those who are passing through, as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21).
Earth-dwellers gravitate towards temporal things. They also mock pilgrims whose hopes transcend the transient.
The book of Revelation classifies earth-dwellers as those whose hope is in earthly systems. Earth-dwellers gravitate towards temporal things. They also mock pilgrims whose hopes transcend the transient (Revelation 11:10).
Earth-dwellers settle in the land on which they stand through which they ought to sojourn. The world and what it offers is all for which they live and die. This momentary world is their destiny. And upon these, God’s judgment falls (Revelation 3:10; 6:10; 8:13).
Those Who Live For Politics Are Consumed By Them
Because this life is all the earth-dwellers have, the book of Revelation tells us that they will inevitably worship earthly politics and power.
Because this life is all the earth-dwellers have, they will inevitably worship earthly politics and power.
The beast, who represents earth-bound and earthly dominion (Revelation 13:8; 17:8), dominates their life. This beast deceptively fools earth’s citizens (Revelation 13:14), promising what it cannot, and does not, intend to deliver. Ultimately the beast consumes them.
Christians, on the other hand, are pilgrims, belonging to another world. They occupy earthly cities and villages as guests rather than citizens, for their ultimate citizenship is in heaven. As such, they engage in politics differently from how the earth-dwellers do. Well, at least they should.
How To Engage In Politics As A Pilgrim
So below, we will consider five ways that Christian believers can engage politics in light of their faith and heavenly citizenship. Remember, we are pilgrims.
1. Engage In Politics With Discernment
To engage in politics as a pilgrim requires wisdom. We must be discerning. Christians should be aware that though we live in the world, we are not of it. Therefore, part of this discernment is knowing the limits of earthly power and the human heart’s corruptibility.
It is also to know that political promises are always sweet when given. But delivering on those promises is another ballgame entirely.
Human governments still lie under the sway of the evil one, regardless of who occupies the office
Additionally, to live as a pilgrim is to recognise that human governments still lie under the sway of the evil one, regardless of who occupies the office. Discernment is to know that power tends to corrupt.
Even well meaning leaders are not exempt from these dangers. As such, we do not follow the trail of politicians unquestionably.
2. Do Not Worship Politics
To engage in politics as a pilgrim is to refuse to venerate or praise politics. Whether we worship politics becomes apparent in how we handle our political disappointments or ‘victories.’
Whenever we make politics the saviour of our souls and world, we make it a god. To place our redemption hope in who occupies the State House is to bow down to an idol—even the beast.
To place our redemption hope in who occupies the State House or White House is to bow down to an idol—even the beast.
But the veneration of politics is not merely a dangerous idol. For in praising our politicians we put too much expectation on the wrong shoulders. God made us for himself. Therefore no politician can deliver the heaven we yearn for. Indeed, pilgrims understand that their hearts, until they find rest in God, will remain restless no matter who occupies the office.
3. Engage Prophetically
By what I say above, I do not suggest that Christians cannot support or challenge their leaders. We must hold our leaders and politicians accountable. Indeed, this is an opportunity for prophetic witness. To call leaders and earth-dwellers to God’s standard, is a testimony to God’s infinite wisdom, goodness, and holiness.
Pilgrims infuse transcendence into politics by refusing to make the beast of power ultimate.
There is a way we can prophetically call leaders to account without asking of the beast a replica of the city to which we travel. Pilgrims prophetically call politicians to see the gospel of God without seeing them as their redeemers. Pilgrims infuse transcendence into politics by refusing to make the beast of power ultimate as earth-dwellers do.
4. Witness To God’s Impending Judgment
As pilgrims, we are witnesses to the imminent judgment of God. This judgment is being stored up against those who do not repent (Romans 2:5), regardless of their political affiliations.
It is easy for those who hope in politics to use their party affiliation as a litmus test for who loves God or not. It is tempting to think that heaven endorses our candidate and welcomes those who surround him or her. We may forget that parties do not circumcise anyone’s heart. And then we may forget our primary mission—to warn the earth-dwellers of the woes coming upon them, no matter who they vote for.
It is tempting to think that heaven endorses our candidate and welcomes those who surround him or her.
Pilgrims seek to preach the gospel at all times, through all their conversations and lives. Like Abraham, pilgrims tell their neighbours why they seek a city with foundations whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). Like Lot, they warn the earth-dwellers that the Lord is about to destroy their habitation because he has promised something greater (Genesis 19:14).
5. What Christ Unites, Let No Party Separate
Lastly, we live as pilgrims when we do not allow the party card to cut through Christ’s blood, rendering it inconsequential.
Christians must never let their commitment to political parties threaten their unity in Christ. People can tell where our ultimate allegiance lies even through our political conversations—on Twitter, WhatsApp, or Facebook. If we are tempted to hate anyone for politics, if we become rude and uncharitable to Christians on the other side of the political debate, we must reconsider our allegiance.
Christians must never let their commitment to political parties threaten their unity in Christ
When we demonise political adherents and leaders on the other end of the spectrum, we must check our hearts.
Pilgrims, remember that no matter who temporarily rules on earth, Christ eternally rules in heaven. Thus, God’s family and his vision for the world must claim our loyalty and shape how we engage in politics. Pilgrims should not be uncharitable to their fellow-travellers. We can disagree politically yet still love unconditionally.