Christian citizens of a democratic republic should strive, with humility and wisdom, to influence and govern and live together as if Christ is over it all, because He is. We contend for the well-being of our neighbors, even when it’s unpopular. The question isn’t whether Christians should engage politically, but whether we will do it well. We don’t live in a theocracy, and pastors aren’t policy makers. But Christians are to apply God’s truth about everything to everything.
Recently, a denominational leader said to me that the best thing that the Church could do to handle the challenges of this cultural moment would be to “stay in its lane.” That the so-called “culture wars” have been grueling, and the Church is primarily called to spread the Gospel. That when it comes to the most controversial issues, the best strategy is non-confrontation and to focus on what is most important.
I think I know what he meant. There’s certainly truth to the idea that Christians overemphasize politics. As I’ve said on more than one occasion, politics makes a lousy worldview. In a culture without better answers to life’s biggest questions, politics too easily assumes the place of God, determining everything from our values to our sources of truth to who we’re willing to associate with. When Christians embrace a political identity rather than a Kingdom identity, the riches of Christ are exchanged for the porridge of political gamesmanship.
However, telling the Church to just “stay in our lane” and out of politics is an equally unhelpful answer. Typically, the “stay in your lane” mandate is only applied to unpopular issues, like abortion, marriage and family, or religious freedom. No one ever tells the Church to stop fighting against sex trafficking, or to no longer dig wells for communities without fresh water, or to cease sustainable economic development in impoverished nations. Christians should absolutely engage worthy causes because the Lordship of Christ and the implications of the Gospel demand it, not because they are deemed culturally uncontroversial.
Historically, the Church’s shining moments have often come in direct conflict with dominant cultural beliefs and practice. The Roman world needed Christians to take in abandoned children and oppose the gladiatorial games, precisely because the pressure was enormous to do exactly the opposite.