Christian Living

Two Common Mistakes Christians Make about Government

Author Robby Lashua Published on 03/08/2024

Dread: terror or apprehension towards something coming in the future. Are you ready to feel some dread? It’s an election year! Don’t stop reading. I want to help you have a biblical perspective on the Christian view of government and how to do good in society as Christ followers.

If you’re already dreading what’s coming this election year, take heart. The Bible gives us great perspective on how to view government and our role within it.

There are two common mistakes Christians make about government.

The first is the “Government as Societal Scoundrel” mistake. This mistake happens on both sides of the political spectrum. “The government is corrupt.” True. “Many politicians are only looking out for themselves, not us.” Also true. “There is no need for Christians to involve themselves in politics. Our job is to just preach the gospel.” Whoa, hold on. This is not true. Sadly, many Christians adopt this mistaken view.

Scripture is clear: Christians are supposed to be a societal force for good.

The statement of Jesus that we are salt and light still applies today (Matt. 5:13–14). Back when Jesus made this statement, salt wasn’t only used to make food tastier. It was used to preserve meat from rotting. Fish and beef would be packed in salt to keep them fresh. Remember, Jesus and Peter didn’t have refrigerators. The analogy of salt is meant to show that followers of Jesus preserve society and keep things from completely rotting.

We are also bluntly told, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). It’s unloving to your neighbor to let politics rot. It’s unloving to your neighbor to allow laws and policies to be passed that harm your neighbor. Because of this, we should be involved in voting for things that help protect our neighbors, our children, and all citizens of the United States.

Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” One of the ways we do good to all people is by participating in government to make biblical, positive changes that help people.

Let’s move on to the second mistake: “Government as Societal Savior.” This perspective is mistaken because it views the government as the only sphere of influence that can remedy societal issues. This mistake happens on both sides of the political spectrum as well.

Biblically, there are three specific spheres of influence in society: the family, the church, and the government. Each of these spheres has a different function and role to play in a healthy society. Whenever one of these spheres takes on the role of another sphere, things get weird.

For instance, if a family decided to take up arms and wage war against Canada, that would be a huge mistake. It’s the government’s role to bear the sword (Rom. 13:4), not the family’s. Likewise, if the church gained political power and passed a law forcing everyone to attend Sunday morning Christian church services, that would be stepping beyond its sphere.

In the same way, government can overstep its bounds. Biblically, the role of government is protection and justice for its citizens (Rom. 13:1–6, 1 Pet. 2:13–15)—protection from those who would harm them, protection of property rights, finances, contracts, etc. The government is also in the business of justice (in the biblical sense of the word), ruling fairly on behalf of all its citizens. But when the government takes on issues that are properly addressed by the family, the church, and other voluntary associations and charities (such as poverty, education, etc.), it ends up compromising on justice and protection in order to use its resources to fix societal problems it’s not best equipped to fix.

So, what do we do? We love our neighbor, which means voting for laws that will help our neighbors by ensuring their justice and protection. We also love our neighbors through benevolence, which means personally helping the poor, homeless, and immigrant. And we seek the spiritual good of our neighbors through the church.

We can vote for good laws and candidates that make our country a just and safe place for our neighbors, and we can still care for those in need. It’s not either-or; it’s both-and.

When we understand these three spheres of cultural influence, and we know what each sphere is responsible to do, we can be salt and light in our communities.

Don’t fall for the lie that the government is the only hope we have to fix society. Don’t fall for the lie that you shouldn’t be involved in politics because the institution is corrupt. As ambassadors for Jesus, we need to follow his commands to love our neighbors as ourselves, to take care of the destitute, and to share the gospel with a world that desperately needs a real Savior.