At the Politics Network we recognise that we serve a God who is committed to uniting all things under Christ (Ephesians 1). Who created all things and for whom all things exist (Colossians 1 and Psalm 89). We honour a God who is our judge, our lawgiver, our king, and our saviour (Isaiah 33).
Yet we live in a world in which the Lordship of Christ is not recognised. We attend lectures where Jesus is mocked. We have political parties which present their own visions of heaven and hell and yet reject true salvation.
We must admit, this tension is confusing. How are we to be faithful in this context? Thankfully the Bible gives us answers…
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 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.
We all come here with our allegiances and political identities. You might be here as a Labour, Lib Dem, or Conservative member. You might have a passion for environmental activism, local community work, or campaigning against modern slavery. You may just love your tax policy, or foreign policy real politik, or simply love a good political meme.
As Christians though none of these is our first allegiance. These are good passions and interests for our God is Lord of all. But because our God is Lord of all that also makes us distinct, it makes us different.
We are heavenly citizens
1 Peter 2:11 begins by describing Christians as foreigners and exiles. We are outsiders. We don’t belong. We don’t quite fit the mould.
Just a few verses before Peter reveals Christians’ true home...
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
We are God’s chosen people, his representatives, his nation. We are not identified as Tories, or Socialists, Liberals, environmentalists, campaigners, justice warriors. We are called foreigners and exiles.
I’m sure we feel that. We love politics, we like being involved but we feel a tension, we feel some pressure. Just think about some of the questions at play in society:
- What does it mean to be human?
- What does human flourishing look like?
- Where does life begin/end?
- What is true justice and equality?
On all these questions we will have different responses to the world around us. Our faith determines that we are foreigners and exiles. We are reading from a different script. We are wearing a different kit.
Here we come to our second point – our status as foreigners and exiles not only gives us a different identity but demands different behaviour and so we…
We have a heavenly calling
There are typically two responses to being an outsider – get stuck in and seek to assimilate to the dominant culture or withdraw and keep your distance. Which of these two does our identity demand?
I’m sure we have all had conversations where we have been encouraged to do one or the other… (for example we hear calls to modernise the gospel, or discouragement that we can’t speak of Christian principles, or we can’t get involved it’s too tricky, politics isn’t legitimate for Christians).
Yet the Bible gives us a unique calling! We are to get stuck in and yet we are to be wary of the dangers. We neither assimilate nor withdraw but instead undertake our unique calling as heavenly citizens to serve society with distinction. Look at some of the commands in this section…
V11 - Abstain from sinful desires that wage war against your soul
V12 - Live such good lives AMONG the pagans …
V13 - Submit yourselves to EVERY human authority
V16 - Live as free people – not as a cover for evil but for good
V17 - Show proper respect to everyone
V17 - Love the Church
V17 - Fear God
V17 - Honour the Emperor
Our Christian calling to be different and distinct does not demand withdrawal, nor encourage embarrassment at our outsider status. No, we are to be both distinct and involved.
Ultimately, the Christian is to be someone who does good (v12, v15) and submits to authority (vv13-14). Think about how radical that is – to do good and humbly/submissively work in the public square.
Consider the impact we could have in an age of Twitterstorms and online abuse. Consider how different this is in an age where we routinely undermine or demean those in authority. Consider how beautiful this is in an age where everyone loves to complain and moan but has no hope and no good to offer instead. Consider how radical this is in an age where we call evil good and good evil.
We see this clearly throughout the Bible. God tells the prophet, Jeremiah, to urge the exiles of Israel (in exile in Babylon) to seek the peace and prosperity of the city, and to pray for it (Jeremiah 29:7) by so doing they will both flourish. They have a heavenly calling to seek the good of the communities in which they reside with distinction – to be a light to the nations...
‘that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’
In doing good we point to the goodness of God and in submitting we celebrate the systems of order and justice God has put in place for our good (vv13-14). Yet this is not just for our good or even the good of the society around us. The Bible provides this pattern for political engagement because it is the one that most glorifies God.
So that we might glorify God
Notice the reasons Peter gives for getting involved in the world around us…
V12 – that they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us
V13 – submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake
V15 – for it is God’s will that by doing good you will silence the ignorant talk of the world
Pursuing our heavenly calling in line with our heavenly citizenship brings God glory. It pleases him, and it gives reasons for the world around us to see the good God we serve and glorify him too. Our political activity can be pleasing to God. It can be a source of good for the society around us and it gives opportunities to talk about the wonderful Lord and King whom we serve.
At the Politics Network, we find this is incredibly good news. Fantastic that we can follow our political passions for we are called to get involved in the world. Fantastic that by so doing we can glorify God. Fantastic that this gives us opportunities to tell our friends and communities about Jesus and serve them in their physical needs too!
In all we do, we seek to hold these truths tightly – we are heavenly citizens with a heavenly calling, that we might glorify God.