SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE INVOLVED IN GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP?
An important question in the minds of many Christians is whether or not it is right or good for a Christian to become involved in politics and government. There are two main viewpoints in answer to this question. On one side are those who point to the many problems which have been discussed in the series. They point out that politics in general is a corrupt and dirty business where the love of power, the love of money, dishonesty bribery, tribalism, selfishness, immortality and many other corrupt practices seem to rule the lives of many government officials. Some Christians warn that those who become involved in government are almost always corrupted or influenced in a negative way by the system of which they become a part. Hundreds of years ago a philosopher named Machiavelli observed, ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupt absolutely’. It has been the sad experience of some Christian of good intention that the temptations of power and money in government office have resulted in the loss of their Christians in government, it would be wise for a Christian to be very sure of God’s leading before seeking to become involved in politics. Christians who are led by God into government leadership should gather around them a group of mature Christians who will hold them accountable for their actions in office and who will also pray regularly for them. The most important questions which a Christian seeking political office should ask him or herself are these. Why do I want run for this office? What will I accomplish that others are not able to do? Is my real motive personal ambition or the advancement of the Kingdom of God?
On the other side of this question is the clear testimony of the Bible that God himself has placed certain people in very high places or secular government leadership at different times in history. God did this in order to accomplish his will for that government or for his own people. Joseph was a foreign Jewish slave, sold on the Egyptian slave market as household help to Potiphar, the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard (Gen. 37:36). Joseph was a man with no freedom, no rights, no reputation and no hope of anything in Egypt. Yet God placed this young man at the very top of the Egyptian government, immediately under the Pharaoh himself (Gen. 41:41-44), in order to save Egypt from starvation and to provide a place of protection and expansion for God’s people (Jacob’s family). Moses was the son of despised and enslaved Jewish parents in Egypt, yet God placed him in the home of Pharaoh’s family. God enabled Moses to receive all the education, training and experience that was reserved for Egyptian royalty in order to prepare Moses for the task of leading God’s people for 40 years in the desert. Esther was an orphan who was being raised by a relative named Mordecai (Esther 2:7). Yet in God’s sovereignty, this unknown girl became the queen of one of the largest empires in the entire world. (Esther 2:17).
God did this so that the appropriate time this woman could be used by God to protect the entire Jewish nation from genocide by a crafty and wicked Persian government official named Haman (Esther 8:1-7). Daniel was taken as a prisoner of war while still a young man (Dan. 1:1-6). Yet in God’s sovereign plan this man became the most spiritual influential government official of ancient history and perhaps in all human history. This took place inspite of a careful laid plan to take his life (Dan. 6:1-7). What other man is history has ever been appointed prime minister under four different world empires? Yet that is what God caused to happen to this most unusual man. More amazing still is the testimony of Daniel’s political enemies about his character and integrity. Even his enemies could find no fault in him (Dan. 6:1-5). Throughout his long and unusual government career Daniel gave a powerful, effective and absolutely fearless testimony to the living God and his holy standards. His personal testimony was so powerful, in fact, that at least one of the kings under whom he served (Nebuchadnezzar) was converted to faith in the true God and wrote out the testimony of his conversion for the entire Babylonian empire to read (Daniel 4:1-2). It is clear from these biblical examples that it is the plan of God to have certain persons from among his own people occupy the highest offices of government at certain times in history. It should be observed, however, that in each case mentioned above it was not through the effort of the particular individual concerned that he or she came to occupy a position of high government leadership.
Instead, it was the hand of God through circumstances which brought each person into power. This fact should be a guideline and a warning to Christians who seek high government office through the political process. As Daniel himself observed, it is God who put his people into positions of government authority and also removes them (Dan. 2:21). It is therefore extremely important for a Christian who becomes involved in the political process to be very sensitive and responsive to the will of God for his or her life. If Christians try to secure such positions for themselves they run the risk of personal ruin by entering an area of very great temptation and corruption – just as Machiavelli said long ago. God alone will choose those of his people whom he wants to run world governments, and God alone will determine how to put them into those positions. In truly democratic governments today, God may use the will of voters to place a Christian into a position of high political office. This has happened in a few African countries in the last decade of the twentieth century.
Some years ago, a senior Christian military office was installed as the head of state of the most populated country in Africa. The General did not seek this position. It came about through a selection by the ruling military council. This man rules his country for nine years and became the most beloved leaders of his nation since its independence in 1960. He was removed from his office by a military coup d’ etat, although in God’s sovereignty he was not personally harmed by the coup. These circumstances revealed the hand of God, since most heads of the state are killed as a result of coup plots to overthrown their governments. This man went on to get a PhD degree in Britain. He was asked many times by his people to return to his country in the 1990s to lead an interdenominational prayer movement for national spiritual renewal. The story of General (Dr.) Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria is a modern example of the hand of God working for the spiritual good of a nation. Apart from prayer, what else can the common Christian do to influence the government of his or her country for good? The answer is that every Christian is called upon by God to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the society in which he or she lives (Mt. 5:13-16).
In the days of the New Testament, salt was used as a preservative to prevent the spoilage of food. Christians today an exercise an influence against sin and evil in their societies through prayer and through making their voices heard on issued of good and evil. Light helps people to know where they are going in the dark. In many countries, seeing the lives of Christian may be the only what to do or the right way to live. Jesus said the lives of his people are ‘the light of the world’ (Mt. 5:14). It is God’s plan that Christians should live out their lives and their civic responsibilities in a manner which will bring praise to our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter wrote long ago. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men; whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God”. (1 Pet 2:12-16)
Those involved in political leadership in every country of the world are subject to great temptations to use the power and influence of their positions for personal gain. The love of power and money and the pride of national recognition have destroyed the moral and spiritual lives of a great many people in government leadership and also in church leadership. It is easy to feel that the situation is hopeless, but that is not the perspective of the word of God. God commands his people to pray for government leaders regardless of whether these leaders are Christians or not. Since God has commanded this, it is clear that he intends to use the prayers of his people to bring about changes in government officials and politics. The prayers of Christians for their leaders can bring about a change of heart from evil to good. Their prayer can reduce temptation for such officials or even bring the complete removal of such officials. Most important, the prayers of Christians for their government can hinder Satan and his demons from carrying out their plans of evil for that government and that nation. God sometimes place one of his people into a position of high government leadership in order to accomplish his will in that nation.
Christians, however, should be very careful about seeking political office for themselves. Such positions can be lead to great temptation and moral problems. If a Christian does have clear leading from the Lord to seek political office, he or she should surround himself with a team of committed prayer partners. All Christians in every society are called on to live holy, helpful and obedient lives in their community and their country in order to be salt and light for God in the presence of a sinful and selfish world. Have question, you may call: 08055059656, or write: [email protected] Stay blessed.
*** Dr. Lewis Akpogena, a Christian devotional Writer/Minister, Educationist and Consultant writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.