Modern politics are full of many traps, landmines, historical abuses, and confusion. It sometimes seems best to avoid politics altogether. The Bible does not advocate for apathy in the world’s political process. It encourages us to discern, influence, and learn from the imperfect institutions that make mankind what it is. Discerning how to engage with politics is not about choosing sides in a war of political parties; it is about discerning how to operate within society in a way that honors God.


Should I vote as a Christian?

Mark: Tim, we see a lot of apathy in America in politics, right? And we know there are statistics out there and polling that’s been done that a lot of Christians don’t vote. I think for some of them it’s just apathy. But I think some because of this idea that, “Well, I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t be involved in politics. It’s a dirty deal.” So what would you say to people who have now become Christians or have been Christians forever and they don’t vote? 

Tim: We have been delegated the responsibility as We The People, for governance in America. So if you abdicate that responsibility by not voting, then I think there’s a stewardship of accountability that you’re going to have to answer for. So that’s a bad idea. That’s number one, I would say. Number two, the most important vote you have is in the primary election, the primaries are where the candidates are nominated. And 85% of districts are one party districts, either the Democrat or the Republican is going to win no matter what. And so if you have the ability to influence who that nominee is, and you may or may not, it kind of depends on your circumstances. If you have that ability, it’s a really good idea to use that ability because that’s where the biggest influence is at. And we’re talking about, I think, a little bit of study, maybe asking an opinion, being willing to be called for jury duty. Some some of the reason people don’t register to vote is because they don’t want to do jury duty. Well, that means “I don’t want Christians making the justice decisions. I want non-Christians”.

M: Exactly opposite.

T: Not a good idea. You know, we all need to step up, bear one another’s burdens. We all need to step up and do our role. I actually think it’s a really, really important part of stewardship and something that every citizen ought to do as a minimum. And beyond that, how much you do, I think, is a matter of calling. And then in terms of, well, I’ve got two bad choices. It’s because you’re choosing between two humans.

M: So your always going to have to be between two bad choices.

Candidates, two bad choices

T: You’re going to in the sense of that Jesus won’t be on the ballot. Now, eventually he’s going to take over the government and we can look forward to that. In the meantime, we’re going to have to settle. And so the more Christians that are involved, that are saying, “I will at least honor what is said, to be honored. And then I will hold that person accountable in some way.” How can that not be improving our communities?

M: I think that’s really important. I remember discussions you and I had early on in my faith walk and we were talking about how I came across Romans 13– we’re supposed to obey the governing authorities. I was very bothered by that. I’m by nature a rebel and I don’t really like the governing authorities, especially, for example, right now in this country at the national level. And I thought, “Man, I don’t want that.” And I know I don’t get a choice about which scriptures that I’m supposed to follow and not follow. It’s not a pick and choose. And so you and I started talking about that. And I think people misinterpret Romans 13 because the governing authorities are the governing authorities in a given time in a given place. Right? And that’s different from time to time. In Caesar’s Day, Caesar was the law. Right? There’s always God’s law, which is always above the governing authorities on earth. So that’s important to remember, when the governing authorities’ law is inconsistent with God’s law, well, then we don’t necessarily follow along with the governing authorities on Earth. But you and I had a discussion about this and you asked me this question– you said, “Well, who are the governing authorities in the United States of America?” And my first thought was, well, it’s–

T: The president.

The governing authority

M: The president and it’s Congress or it’s the Supreme Court, maybe. Those are the governing authorities in the United States. And you said, “Yeah, that’s not correct.” And, I was a little taken aback and thought about it and it’s “We the people,” right? We are the sovereign authority in the United States of America. And we loan that power out via elections to people who serve in these offices. At first I had said, well, look, if we’re supposed to follow the governing authorities– this was kind of an aha moment for me where I was completely wrong– if we’re supposed to listen to the American authorities and the people or the governing authorities and people in Washington, D.C. don’t do what we tell them to do, they’re in big trouble, right? In God’s eyes. God’s looking at them going, “People want you to do something. You’re not doing something.” That’s true in a lot of cases by polling. The people in D.C. don’t do what the vast majority of people in the country want them to do. And so I said, “Okay, so there’s judgment on them for that.” And you said, “Not really. That’s not really true.” And it was really baffling to me. And you said, “Well, if we have the power, if we’re the governing authority and we as Christians continue to allow them to do that stuff that we think is bad, that we think doesn’t accord with the Bible and biblical principles, then who’s in trouble?”

M: It was a real realization for me. If I don’t participate, if I don’t hold them accountable, if I’m not voting, if I’m not doing everything I can to make them walk the walk according to Christian principles, then it’s on me. It’s self-governance, right? And that’s the way God set it up. Especially here in the United States of America, it’s on us.

T: Well, we tend to focus on national politics because it’s in the news. But arguably, the most important politics is the one down the street from you as a neighbor. You’ve got your neighborhood. Maybe you have your neighborhood organizations. Maybe it’s some sort of a co-op to share security. You’ve got your local schools. And they may be public, they may be private. They all have governing structures that you can participate in. You’ve got your precinct government and the local government. Very few people participate in local government.

M: Yeah. It has a lot of power over the things that affect your daily life.

T: Absolutely. And most of those are nonpartisan, I mean, they’re officially nonpartisan. Everybody knows what team everybody is on typically. But, there’s there’s plenty of opportunities to make a positive impact. Our cities have different governing boards for things like parks and zoning.

M: Water districts, agricultural districts. 

Find the time 

T: There’s many, many opportunities to get involved and that requires a little bit of Berean, a little bit of education and then it requires some time. But everybody’s got 168 hours in a day. And I would say, here’s the challenge I would make, take one week and write down everything you do that week in one-hour increments or 15-minute increments–

M: Find a lot of empty time in there.

T: And then ask yourself, “Okay, what of that time would I be willing to give up to make my country, my state, my city, and my neighborhood a better place?” And I’ll bet you there’s some screen time or something.

M: You gonna tell me I can’t watch a baseball game whenever I want. Or I might have to miss a football game or something.

T: Yeah. Or maybe, a sitcom or something. I bet you there’s some time in there that you can fit that in. Maybe instead of watching the two-and-a-half-hour baseball game, you can watch that 18-minute YouTube summary.

M: So in summary, basically what we’re saying is, first of all, you can’t separate your Christian life from anything in your life. So politics is no different than that. That means, if you’re going to engage in politics, then you engage in politics as a Christian because you bring your faith with you everywhere you go. And number two is, as a Christian, you really ought to be involved in what we traditionally consider as politics. It’s our obligation to be salt and light in the world. It’s our obligation to obey the governing authorities. We are the governing authorities in America. So we need to participate in that. So I would say the good news is, from my perspective, not only can you, but you should participate in politics as a Christian.

T: And governmental politics.

M: And other politics you’re going to do no matter what.

T: And then I would say you should participate constructively.

M: That’s fair.

T: So in other words, don’t do it like you see it being done that you don’t like. Go in and do it in a way that is a love-your-neighbor self-governing way. That is part of your sanctification process. But do that in the local, state and national politics, and do it in office politics.

M: Family politics

T: And in family politics and in church politics. Be a love-your-neighbor person with these self-governing principles. Which, as an advertisement, we teach in the Servant Leadership Toolkit, which is basically translating the biblical parables that involve agriculture and sheep into modern language, which is mostly business and psychology language. If you do that, then you’re bringing your walk into everything you do because you’re interacting with other people. How can you do love your neighbor if you’re isolating yourself from all your neighbors?

M: You can’t. 

In your neighborhood

T: It doesn’t make any sense. And when Jesus talked about the answer to the question, who’s my neighbor? He had a real interesting answer. The person you have to step over. But what if I don’t like the person I have to step over? They’re still your neighbor. You’re stepping over them. So, who are your neighbors? Well, it’s all the people in Brooklyn that you live around. It’s all the people in Midland I live around. It’s the people in my office. It’s the people you interact with. And you’re in that political world. We’re both highly involved in politics, (Joey) you’re only peripherally involved in politics. As you listen to all this, what thoughts are coming into your mind?

Joey: A lot of different things. I think the thing for me, especially loving New York and feeling a sense of calling in coming to New York, the comments you guys are talking about in terms of getting involved at a local level in our neighborhood, there’s some great things happening in our Brooklyn neighborhood. And it’s amazing how much you can impact that, how much you can get involved by just going to town hall meetings or just hearing things out. So yeah, I think, I am proud. I probably fall, historically in my life, fall under the category of people who are just so frustrated by what they see in the national political scope. But I think you guys are right. As a Christian, we don’t get the luxury of opting out of any real arena of life. We’ve got to commit to being involved and representing the Kingdom of God as best we can. And I think a lot of times we have this false narrative, that means I’ve got to do it the way I’ve seen it done. And as you said, we represent the Kingdom of God. We bring the light with us. So we have an opportunity to step in and to do something and to do it in a different way, a better way.

T: I think what we should hope for is that every political party, state, local, national, ends up being so infiltrated by the notion, the biblical notions of self-governance that they start competing for power.

M: Right.

T: What limited power? The substantially reduced amount of power that they have.

M: Based on biblical motions.

T: Based on who can best posture themselves to at least pretend to do the biblical motions and then create a path of least resistance where the best thing for them to do to hold that power is to actually do those things. And that’s what we ought to be working for.

M: It’s an excellent prayer.

T: It’s an excellent prayer.