We live in a nation (and largely a world) consumed by politics. In our 24/7 news cycle, we’re constantly getting analysis on the parties, elected officials, candidates, and issues. To be fair, they are important parts of our society and are something God wants us to be praying about (1 Timothy 2:1-2). But what happens far too often – both to those whoa re Christians and those who aren’t – is that politics become a god in our lives. When our trust is in our parties and candidates and when our happiness is based in what happens in the political realm, we are assigning those things a role that is only reserved for God.
This only makes sense for the world, as they don’t entrust God with handling the rise and fall of nations and world leaders. But for Christians, this must not be so. Our witness is greatly damaged when we show the world that politics are more important to us than our God. Last year’s election and the reactions to it showed us that this is the case far too often among Christians.
Not sure whether this is a problem for you or not? Consider these four signs that politics may have become an idol in your life.
Politics are an idol if they cause you to sin. The Bible is very clear about how Christians should respond to our government. Romans 13 tells us that every one of us is subject to the governing authorities and that the power they have was given to them by God. Therefore, to resist their authority is to oppose God. Yet when both Barack Obama and Donald Trump were elected there were thousands of people saying #NotMyPresident. To reject an official’s authority in that way, to mock them, or even hope for their assassination (a wish I’ve heard and you probably have to) is unequivocally a sin.
That doesn’t mean we have to agree with them or can’t speak when an official supports something the Bible calls evil. But it does mean we have to subject ourselves. Even as Saul was trying to kill David, David remained respectful of Saul as the Lord’s anointed. That’s the attitude we must have, regardless of how we feel about those who are in power.
Politics are an idol if they cause you to abandon your morals. When I root for my favorite sports teams, I’m not a very objective guy. My team’s players are good guys, the opponents are evil. The calls against their team are always right, the calls against my team are always wrong. That’s fine for something as trivial as sports, but when it comes to politics it shows an imbalance and makes us hypocrites. If I’m drawn to defend my favorite politician or the party with which I identify when they do something wrong because I don’t want to concede a point to my political opponents, my politics have outweighed my morals. Or, if I pass off one candidate or party’s misdeeds because “the other side did the same thing,” I’ve shown that I don’t really care about what’s right.
Instead Christians should be the “referees” in this illustration. We have the rule book (the Bible). Our loyalty is to it and not to a team. Therefore, when the Republicans do something wrong, we call it wrong. When Democrats do something wrong, we call it wrong. When Obama, Trump, Bush, Clinton, or anybody else does something wrong, we call it wrong and don’t worry about covering for one political party or vilifying the other. When we fail in this area, we tell the world that our party or candidate is more important to us than the Bible. If your politics undermine your allegiance to God’s word, they are certainly an idol.
Politics are an idol if they are more important to us than souls. God made a powerful point in Jonah chapter 4 when he showed that Jonah cared more about a plant than he did about the souls in the massive city of Nineveh. He wanted to see his country’s enemies destroyed, not saved. Contrast that with Jesus who was willing to die that His enemies be saved. Which one are we reflecting?
Statistics show that people are more divided than ever in this country. People view each other as enemies rather than friends with whom we disagree. They post things online with captions like “I don’t care who it offends!” or, “If you disagree, unfriend me!” People boycott companies because they support Trump, and others boycott companies because they don’t. People stand up for very divisive matters of opinion like the Confederate flag knowing full well that many will disagree with them. Christians, let’s not add to this division. Is it really worth losing a friend over these things? Of course not. So, we must strive to not give offense. There’s no need to put out every thought you have on every issue on social media and drive people away. On the other side of things, don’t take offense. Political disagreement is no reason to cut someone out of your life. People’s souls are too important.
Politics are an idol if we trust them more than God. On every election night you have people on one side or the other basically saying that the sky is falling and that America’s demise is only months away. And yet here we are. If your happiness and sense of security is in politics and your favorite candidates more than God, two things are true. First, you don’t have a biblical understanding of God’s control. Nothing happens in global politics without God letting it happen and being in control the whole time. Just read the book of Daniel to see how God used Babylon to punish Judah’s sins and used the Medes and the Persians to overtake Babylon, and how He had already planned to use Greece and Rome centuries before their time.
Second, you’ve lost your sense of purpose. We are here to spread the Gospel, regardless of who is in office. The early church was far more committed to evangelism than we are despite the fact that they were under heavy persecution from both the Jews and the Romans. When we have that purpose as first and foremost, like them we will see that it doesn’t matter who’s in office and how friendly or hostile they are to our cause. Our lives don’t change with the man or woman that’s elected.
The world has so much panic and division over politics because they view them as life and death matters. And it may be true that they are. But to the Christian, life and death is a win-win (Philippians 1:21). By showing them that we aren’t panicked, we show them that our God is greater than their god. Their god can change in the course of one election. Our God never does. Think about the kind of testimony it makes when we show them that we aren’t worried. Then think about how it undermines us when we are just as panicked as they are. Where does your trust lie?
As I said at the beginning, political matters are important, and they aren’t inherently bad. But we have to be very careful not to place undue importance on them. Let God be God, and let everything else fall under His rule and authority. If politics are an idol in your life, destroy it and put God back on the throne. Show the world the difference in the heart of someone who, though “the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea,” can continue to “be still, and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:2, 10)