This guest post was written by Tim Chastain.
This is not a partisan political article; it promotes no political party and no candidate at any level. Rather, it raises the question of how our being part of the kingdom of God influences our voting and political participation and whether being part of the kingdom of God should even matter in our positions on political issues.
It is about five weeks until the polls close on the the national, state, and local elections in the United States. We will be voting to place persons in important decision-making positions, and many of us will vote on state and local initiatives as well.
As we move toward this event, we all know our personal opinions on candidates and issues. The question is: do believers approach issues in the same way as other citizens do, or are there principles of the kingdom that cause us to be different in any way?
I believe there is a difference. However, I can only speak for myself; I cannot dictate to anyone else.
The Two Kingdoms
Believers are members of two kingdoms at the same time. Secondly (first comes later), we are citizens of the United States of America (or another country)—equal to all other citizens of our country. As such, I think we have a responsibility to be good citizens—no, we should be model citizens! We should do our part to help the nation to be successful and to become better in its responsibilities. Yet, as people of the kingdom of God, I don’t think we can give national concerns our first priority.
Our ultimate allegiance is to the kingdom of God and its principles; so we are, first, citizens of the kingdom. The goals and objectives of the two kingdoms are not the same. While the nation has a duty to keep order and use its power to develop and enforce laws to further the interests of the nation and its citizens, the kingdom of God promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation (with people, with God, and within ourselves) on an individual level. And it does so without coercion and without any force or political power at all.
Sometimes the interests of the nation and the kingdom conflict, and when they do we must follow the principles of the kingdom. Fortunately, in many of today’s societies our religious commitments are protected. But in other societies, both today (think of China) and particularly in the past (think of the Roman Empire), these conflicts often result in severe persecution and martyrdom.
3 Ways Kingdom Principles Impact My Political Participation
Identifying with the kingdom of God and its principles should impact our voting and political participation. For me, this means:
Treating my opponents with respect
Citizens of the kingdom of God should follow peace, justice, and reconciliation. A major way we do this is to love other people—all other people. We should treat everyone with empathy, compassion, and care. This applies even to those who oppose our positions; rather than demeaning those with whom we disagree, we should treat them as people whom the Father loves—because He does.
While we can disagree and point out problems with opposing viewpoints, believers shouldn’t participate in castigation and hatred. Our opponents are not our enemies; they are fellow humans and fellow citizens.
Following policies of peace, justice, and reconciliation
Our nation is a nation of peace and justice. However, we are far from providing peace and justice to all citizens. There remains a tribalism among us that wishes to elevate our own group above other groups and to deny justice and rights to those who are not of our tribe.
Supporting the rights of all people is important to me. No racial, religious, or political group in America should restrict the rights of others. We should support others and be reconciled with them so far as it is within our ability.
Refusing to impose my religious beliefs on others
The kingdom of God does not impose itself on others by force. The kingdom expands all over the world person by person. Identification with the kingdom is totally voluntary. Even if believers are in the majority, it is an atrocity to impose kingdom principles and interests on others. This runs counter to the entire teaching and practice of Jesus.
We cannot impose our beliefs or our ethics on others.
So Which Party Best Aligns with the Kingdom of God?
No party represents kingdom principles. Every party has the same goal: to further its own interests and gain the power to impose it on the rest of the nation. The national and secular objectives of political parties are different from those of the kingdom and involve many issues that are of no concern, or very secondary concern, to the kingdom.
As a citizen of the United States, I have an interest in the well-being and justice of the nation; but I cannot subscribe to the platform of any party because they cannot reflect the priorities of the kingdom. I participate and vote because I am allowed to in this nation, but if that were ever taken away I would accept it—that is how it has usually been for believers in the world.
So, I have a question for you: How does being part of the kingdom of God affect your voting and political participation?
Photo by Dan Wilkinson.
About Tim Chastain
Tim Chastain posts at JesusWithoutBaggage.com: For those attracted to Jesus but not to the baggage often attached to his message.