There’s an old adage, that many of us have heard in one form or another; that whether in business or at the dinner table, one should “never talk about religion or politics”.
I know that I can remember more than one occasion when discussing one or both topics has produced a myriad of reactions in others. The premise for this saying is the recognition that both religion and politics are subjects that can invoke contrasting emotions and opinions from people. As such, the discussion of religion and/or politics can turn a mealtime chat into in fighting frenzy.
What this year has brought with it
2020 has brought with it circumstances that have greatly impacted and even deeply divided many of us. Wars are being waged in every area of society and culture, leaving some of us caught in the crossfire.
Some are speaking up and speaking out on various issues, while others have remained silent, some of us unsure of where we should stand on certain issues or whether we need to take a stand at all. One thing that is clear is that many of the problems we have faced as the human race so far this year are entwined with politics.
What is politics?
According to the definition given in the Cambridge dictionary, in summary; politics is entirely concerned with government. Where politics is essentially the involvement and activities or study thereof of those who hold a position of power in government and the system and means through which a government operates.
And subsequently; government is a certain group of people who have a degree of authority over a community of people to govern their lives and society through a determined system; a set of rules and laws that result in activities through which this government’s authority is exercised over or on behalf of this community.
Does the bible talk about politics?
Before looking at the definition of politics here, some may have first answered that question with a resounding “no”. But politics is concerned with the governance of people and all that that entails. Reading through the Old Testament, it is clear that God is also greatly concerned about governments and their politics. Whole books of the Old Testament are in fact dedicated to these laws that God laid out for the nation of Israel.
But what about the New Testament?
When we step into the New Testament, we see that Jesus laid out a very clear description of what His kingdom looked like through his life and teaching, chief of which would have to be The Beatitudes recorded in Matthew chapter 5. When we study Jesus’ teachings we can see that the new covenant is concerned not just with the spiritual but with every area of a person’s life and community.
One fact that can easily be missed in reading the New Testament is that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were also community, cultural and political leaders. Jesus’ life, teaching and actions in that regard were said and done in love and were completely countercultural to their system of governance.
Christian civil disobedience
John the Baptist, publicly criticised and rebuked king Herod for his immorality, for which he was arrested and later executed. Another example is in Acts chapter four where the apostles Peter and John were commanded by the Jewish Sanhedrin to no longer speak or teach in the name of Jesus. The Sanhedrin was their court of law, that dealt not only with religious issues but also civil and political ones.
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge”(Acts Chapter 4 verse 19).
So it is clear that although Peter and John respected the positions of authority of those in governance over them, they deemed it more important for them to obey God and do what He commanded them to do, even if it meant blatant civil disobedience to the Sanhedrin.
That doesn’t mean they abandoned the fundamental law of love for others but shows us that as Christians we aren’t required to blindly agree and obey the laws of men if they contradict the teachings of Christ, which some have misconstrued some of Paul’s teachings to say.
Some final thoughts…
There were some people that Jesus called out of their workplace or community to preach the gospel to others but there were also some that Jesus called to preach the gospel and be a light and influence in their workplace and community.
Among such were men like Nicodemus who was both a believer yet for reasons unclear in scripture remained a leader in the Jewish system and also a member of the Sanhedrin. What we see in the gospels is that his position in Jewish politics gave him a voice and influence to others in power that a fisherman for example did not have.
The bottom line is that Jesus is chiefly concerned about reaching everyone, everywhere. From those who have no house to those in Parliament House. And He has and will continue to position and manoeuver the ambassadors of His kingdom into every sphere of society to reach as many as He can.
Josh Wood is an ordained minister and has been teaching and preaching around the world for the last ten years. He lives on the Gold Coast, Australia with his beautiful wife and their two beloved sons. He is also an avid fiction writer working on the first draft of a Christian fantasy novel, having also previously worked in the film and TV industries. You can check out his website woodfamilyministries.com for information about his ministry.