In a few months, Kenyans will head to the polls to choose their leaders. A number of professing Christians are vying for leadership positions, a most notably renowned apologist Reuben Kigame being one of them. This has drawn varied reactions; some expressing scepticism over a Christian leader joining what is feared to be a ‘dirty game’, and others affirming the move as justifiable because Christians, like everyone else, feel the effect of poor leadership and governance.
Take the matatu industry, for example, where bribery is system-enabled. A Christian tout recently expressed frustration over the unjust cost borne by anyone who would commit to faithful living. Often they are forced to give handouts to cops, however law-abiding. Failure to do so would earn one appearance before a magistrate, where pleading guilty attracts a less severe consequence than upholding innocence.
We bear a Christian responsibility to condemn such vices because we believe in a God who cares about his world and how it is run (Romans 13:1-7). A Christian’s abstinence from politics is essentially a vote for the status quo. Yet we are, by no means, exempt from the effects of a bad economy or harsh policies. Conversely, the welfare of our earthly dwellings, however, secularised, is very much our own (Jeremiah 29:7).
Thus the Church would not be preaching the whole gospel if we didn’t emphasize righteousness in daily living through salvation found only in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 1:17; Psalm 82:3). A right hold on doctrine is seen in what we practise (Matthew 23:3; James 1:22), and practise we must; otherwise, our faith would be inconsequential to the society around us.
The Bible and Politics
The Bible is hugely political–it is about how God wants people to behave and act toward him, the government, and each other. God is said therein to be the one who removes and sets up kings (Daniel 2:21). Economics and civil law–crucial instruments in our pursuit of justice–are addressed therein.
The Word of God has something to say about all of life and is not restrained to what we might describe as ‘spiritual life’ only. Politics and governance concern God no less than family and church: the rules of the righteous and the unrighteous are contrasted in Proverbs 29:2; both Paul (Romans 13) and Peter (1 Peter 2) argue that the magistracy is established by God, and we are to obey those who govern as obedience to God.
Moreover, we have the mandate to hold magistrates to account, rebelling against anything we deem God dishonouring. Moses, for example, rebuked Pharaoh for mistreating God’s people. The Apostles defied the order not to preach salvation in Jesus’s name, saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Many first-century Christians preferred death to worship of the Emperor.
Christianity Touches All of Life
A narrow view of Christianity as detached from physical affairs would not have the support of history. The list of individuals who made significant political contributions owing to their Christian convictions is endless. William Beveridge, for example, designed the welfare system and the health service enjoyed in Britain today. William Wilberforce fought for the abolishment of slave trade. Lord Shaftesbury was an early proponent of the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land, providing the first proposal by a prominent politician to resettle Jews in Palestine. Elizabeth Fry is most remembered for her work helping people in prison. She visited prisons that were dark, dirty and dangerous. She believed that prisoners should be treated with kindness and dignity. She also set up places where the homeless could get food and a place to sleep. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for an equal and inclusive America.
These, and countless more, lived out their faith by pursuing good governance and fighting for human rights. Political involvement is often a path through which Christians could make immense contributions to the world.
Love for God, His People, and World
Christian involvement in politics, as with all else we do, hinges on the command to love God wholly and to love neighbour as self (Mark 12:30-31). The divisiveness of our politics can be turned into a unique opportunity to display gospel grace every election cycle, as did John Wesley in October 1774:
“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election and advised them;
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy;
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and;
3. To take care that their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
So vast is the Christian’s mission field, and quite innumerable his ministry opportunities. The Parliament, State House, County Office, etcetera, are very deserving of our attention. It is needful that our stewardship benefits humanity through political offices, and our integrity be displayed in the handling of the national resources in our care, and our compassion be experienced by the often marginalized (Matthew 25:31-46).
Orthodox without orthopraxis has no impact or influence on society. We are expected to walk the talk. We need not only to know what we believe but exercise the same in the market place which includes politics. Christians, then, should not shy from politics. We have a biblical mandate to serve humanity in this manner, among many others. The government derives its authority from God, with the sole aim that it would both promote good and restrain evil (Romans 13:1-7). So we must pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and be willing to be kings ourselves for the sake of harmony in God’s world if he were ever to be pleased to use us in that way.