The 2020 national election is being billed as the most important election of a lifetime, reminiscent of similarly styled elections of years-gone-by. Record tens of millions of Americans have already voted and millions more are expected to brave the pandemic to vote on November 3rd. I empathize with the issues and the concerns that will drive many of my friends, neighbors, and fellow believers to the ballot box on Election Day. And I recognize and acknowledge the anxiety many feel about the 2020 presidential election in particular.
However, allow me to give six reasons why I as a follower of Jesus have chosen to remain neutral in the face of the world’s politics, this year and for the last six.
- The Kingdom of God is not a metaphor, but a literal government of which I am a citizen and which demands my undivided loyalty.
The dictionary defines “kingdom” as a “state or government having a king or queen as its head”, a definition mirroring the Bible’s description of the Kingdom of God. In Daniel 7:27 we read, “And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.”
Jesus references this in Luke 12:31-32 when he tells his followers, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added unto you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”
The Kingdom Jesus will give his disciples is a not a metaphor or something already in their hearts, but, as we saw in Daniel, an actual government.
Being a real government, God’s Kingdom has its own King (Jesus Christ), citizens (all true disciples of Christ), creed (“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”), law (love God and love neighbor), and divinely instituted political agenda (the expansion of the knowledge and the glory of God to the ends of the earth). This government is presently ruling from heaven and is soon to be fully consummated on earth according to God’s predetermined timetable.
Therefore, as a citizen of this Kingdom, I feel it necessary to refrain from engagement in American politics, just as a missionary to a foreign people (who comes with his own agenda) or an ambassador to a foreign country (who comes with her own loyalties) would not think to meddle in the elections or politics of his or her host nation.
- The methods and aims of the worldly nations conflict with the methods and aims of the Kingdom of God.
It is not simply that God’s Kingdom is a different government apart from, say, the U.S., Mexico, or China, and thus demands a separate loyalty, but that its purposes also stand in opposition to the purposes of these and all earthly nations. For example…
The worldly governments execute punishment against lawbreakers (1 Pet. 2:14).
The citizens of the Kingdom of God seek to save lawbreakers and bring them into God’s family (2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Tim. 1:15).
The worldly governments compel taxes from their citizens.
The citizens of the Kingdom of God give voluntarily to the Kingdom work (2 Cor. 9:7).
The worldly governments use violent force as a means of coercion (Rom. 13:4).
The citizens of the Kingdom of God eschew violence and promote peace among all peoples (Matt 5:9; Isa. 9:7).
The worldly governments demand submission (Matt. 20:25; cf. Ecc. 8:9).
The citizens of the Kingdom of God demand no submission, but freely submit to the existing governmental authorities, to each other, and to God (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13; Eph. 5:21; Jas 4:7).
The worldly governments wage war against and antagonize their enemies.
The citizens of the Kingdom of God pray for their enemies, work for their ultimate good, and love them. (Matt 5:44, Rom. 12:20, cf. Prov. 25:21)
It is not that the listed methods and aims of the earthly nations are necessarily wrong, but that they conflict with our own divinely ordained agenda as citizens of God’s Kingdom, implying we ought to separate from the former so that we can fully and truly devote ourselves to the latter.
3. The time has not yet come for the political power of the world’s governments to be given to God’s children.
If we read carefully the Daniel passage mentioned earlier, we see God intends to transfer the political power and reach of worldly governments to His own subjects for them to rule in place of the worldly governments.
This is also seen in Psalm 2:8 where God gives the Messiah all the nations of the earth as an inheritance and in Revelation 11:15 where “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” It is in this Kingdom that the saints of God will rule with Christ (2 Tim 2:12; Rev. 1:6, 5:9-10, 20:4-6, cf. Exod. 19:6; Isa. 61:6).
Unlike “holy war” concepts in Islam or in the churches of Christendom of centuries ago, this is not achieved by violence nor the effort of man, but by the strength and will of God in His good timing (Acts 1:6-7).
Therefore, like Jesus, we do not presumptuously nor preemptively assume power, but do what God has called us to do with the sphere of influence He has presently given us, working for the common good, until we receive the promised authority from on high.
- The governments of this world are under the ownership of Satan and thus demerit our participation.
The Bible teaches that the governments of the world are presently under the strong influence and control of the enemy of God and mankind whom we often refer to as Satan (lit. adversary) or the Devil (lit. accuser) (Luke 4:5-6; cf. John 12:30-33, 14:28-31, 16:7-11; Eph. 2:12; Col. 1:12-14; Rev. 20:3, 8). This fact does not mean those who participate in government are satanic or possessed, but will imply that the ungodly characteristics of Satan shine through in human government. Consider the following:
- Satan is a liar (John 8:44). Are not governments notorious for using lies to advance their causes?
- Satan is a murderer (John 8:44). Are not governments chiefly responsible for shedding the most human blood over millennia?
- Satan is a pretender (2 Cor. 11:14). Do not governments routinely present themselves as more innocent and their motives as more pure than they truly are?
- Satan is proud (1 Timothy 3:6). Is not pride the most prominent and enduring source of conflict between world governments?
- Satan is fearsome (1 Pet. 5:8; Jude 9). Is not human government the most powerful and aggressive force on earth?
While such considerations do not entail logical proof of Satan’s influence in world governments, they are what we would naturally expect to see if such were the case and should thus de-incentivize our participation in worldly governmental politics
5. The Gospel message reaches across and goes beyond national boundaries and political differences.
The world is divided by politics. North Korea vs South Korea. Armenia vs Azerbaijan. Israel vs Palestine. The U.S. vs Russia. Even the churches of Christendom are bitterly divided amongst themselves about which candidates and policies to support.
However, God is not divided and the good news of salvation is not partisan. Being free of worldly political commitments enables me to preach the Gospel message to any person on the earth without conflict of interest, to form bonds that go beyond national differences, and to maintain unity with the worldwide brotherhood of true believers despite any existing international or intranational political conflict.
- Jesus refused worldly political service.
Finally, we must consider the example of Jesus who resolutely refused to be a cog in the machine of worldly politics (Matt. 4:9; John 6:15, 18:36). Jesus knew the Kingdom of God was the only solution to mankind’s problems and that, in due time, God would institute His reign on earth as in heaven. In the meantime, Jesus preached the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43) and worked to minister to the needs of those around him, pointing to them to a hope that lay completely outside themselves.
As our Lord and our King, this example of Jesus inspires our own commitment to preach the message of the Kingdom and of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, to work for the good of our neighbors and enemies alike by meeting their physical and spiritual needs, and to keep ourselves clean from the corrupting influence of the world, including worldly politics, as we await King Jesus to bring to earth the Kingdom he promised to his “little flock.”