RIGHT OR WRONG?

Our pastor recently called for us to be model citizens. Then, the pastor said, “Be sure, though, you sacrifice your political party's platform on the altar of the gospel, and not vice-versa.” I'm left with the question, “What can I do?”

Several Scripture passages address the believer's relationship to the government. When asked a question about paying taxes, Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's” (Matthew 22:21). His disciples were to give the government and its leaders the honor, respect and payment they were due. At the same time, they were to give their ultimate worship and loyalty to God. All other passages on this subject reflect this teaching.

The Apostle Paul wrote about the Christian's duty to the government (Romans 13:1-7). He said everyone should submit to governing authorities, because God had instituted them. The ruler was God's servant to do good. The Apostle Peter said believers should submit themselves to governing authorities “for the Lord's sake” (1 Peter 2:13-17).

But obedience to God qualified their obedience to the government. Jesus said they were to give God what was God's. Their ultimate obedience belonged to the Lord. Acts 4:19 records that when ruling authorities commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, they said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.” The entire book of Revelation is about the effort of the Roman government to enforce the worship of Caesar on its people. The book admonished believers to reserve their worship for God alone, even if it cost them their lives.

What does this mean to us today? Part of “giving to Caesar what is Caesar's” is participating in the political process. Political parties are integral parts of our government, so if you want to be fully involved in the democratic process, you must be involved with one. This involvement can include voting, making financial contributions, working for candidates and even running for office yourself. But as your pastor suggested, you need to be careful that you don't sacrifice the gospel on a political platform. Commitment to Christ and his message must come first.

What can you do? You can be a good citizen by submitting to governing authorities and obeying the law, as long as these duties don't conflict with your obedience to God. You can participate in the political process by being involved in a political party. You can put Christ first in all things, and when Christ and your party conflict, side with Christ. No political party can claim the title “The Christian Party.” Sometimes parties use faith language to baptize their platforms. Be wary of efforts to co-opt Christianity in this way.

Finally, you can remember that the kingdom of God comes by the proclamation of the gospel, not by politics.

"Right or Wrong" is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University's Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene, Texas. Contributors include Baptists in Virgina, Texas and other states. Send your questions about how to apply your faith to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .