I find it difficult to be a Christ-follower in a democratic nation.
In the first place, the entire history of God's people, as recorded in the Jewish and Christian Bibles, is one of strangers in a foreign land, most often oppressed by the ruling nation. The people of God were not involved with the politics of their countries ~ as far as I can tell ~ because they were not permitted to be. As a result, the Bible is relatively silent on how to be a responsible, involved, citizen.
Additionally, Jesus was apolitical. He criticized religious leaders, and he had a lot to say about individual relationships, but he stayed out of the political realm. He was once asked about the fairness of paying taxes, and he upheld the law; when (unfairly) persecuted, he did not resist the Roman process. He (and subsequently, his followers) repeatedly taught that this world is not our home, and that we should treat it as a temporary residence.
Fast forward twenty centuries, and the people of God, in the U.S.A., are some of the wealthiest people in the world. We can and do hold positions of incredible power. We have the right to vote on our leaders and often the policies of our nation. But how do we balance the high standard that God has on us, as followers and imitators of him, and the laws of our secular society? In other words, how would Jesus vote on issues of education, on health insurance, on the institution of marriage, on abortion, on war?
I believe that I know how Jesus feels about (most of) these issues. I believe that I know how he wants me to act with regard to them and how he would lead this country. But the United States doesn't worship Jesus. He isn't the ruler of this nation. So is Jesus more concerned with me, as a Christian citizen in a secular society, using my voice to try and bring his standards into the earthly government - or - would he rather that I use my spiritual authority to act wherever I can as a representative of his kingdom, my true home? In other words, do I vote to uphold the laws of heaven (how the country would look if it were run by Jesus) or do I vote with the heart of heaven towards the people of earth?
For example, I believe that God designed, intends, and desires marriage to be between a man and a woman. But I cannot find a secular (non-Judeo-Christian) reason to only support heterosexual marriage. I also believe that God is both merciful and just. So when I consider this society, which does not recognize God's design for marriage, I wonder if I should have the merciful and just heart of God with regard to the issue of gay marriage. It seems very unmerciful and unjust - in a secular nation - for committed gay couples to be unable to become citizens of the U.S. (when one partner is a foreigner), or to be unable to adopt children, or to not share health insurance, or any other right which a married couple enjoys. Even though I believe that, in God's kingdom, gay couples would not be married, do I work to bring heaven to earth by upholding the law or by acting in grace?
The tension increases for those Christians who are politicians. Just as a Christian doctor would choose not to perform an abortion, should Christian politicians only vote according to biblical standards? I do see a difference between acting as a citizen in this nation versus as a legal representative, because I believe that leaders will be held to a higher account for their influential decisions. So I pray for our leaders, Christian and non, because I know I would not be able to walk that line with confidence.
In the end, I am ultimately thankful that I am not looking to the government to solve the world's ills or save society; my trust rests solely in a God who can change hearts and bring peace. And I have hope that whatever choices I make come election time, God is more concerned with my heart towards him and my life of praise, rather than the outcome of specific political battles.
*This post will be one in a series of political topics. I intend to discuss the tension I feel as a Christian in a non-Christian society, rather than put forth specific political ideals or uphold certain political parties. Because I believe that Jesus - and, therefore, the church at large - is apolitical, I struggle to know my role in this democracy.