For decades, Christians have been reluctant to get involved in politics. These Christians either don’t vote or when they do vote they do so in terms of what government can do for them. The government is seen as their earthly savior. They are more concerned about where their next flu shot is coming from rather than the appointment of judges who with one vote can turn the Constitution on its head.
There are many more Christians who had given up on politics after the election of Ronald Reagan didn’t bring in the millennium. And when Bill Clinton got elected twice, hopelessness set in. George W. Bush was a big disappointment. Barack Obama was a disaster.
All that work, and for what? Christians who are experiencing political remorse are suffering from a case of faulty theology. Life is hard … There’s evil in the world … We must be faithful … We must be diligent to overturn evil with good.
Here we are in 2020 about to re-elect Pres. Trump or elect Joe Biden who will empower a government that will bring devastation to the United States that could set our nation back decades from which we may not recover.
After reading one of my articles about the seriousness of this election, I received this well-intentioned response:
I am with your reasoning but are we focusing more on voting than praying? We know that God will decide about coming peace or riots or hanging chads or voter fraud. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:16–18).
Both are necessary. We can’t pray our way out of something that requires action on our part. A student can’t pray to do well on a test if he or she didn’t study for it. Praying is not going to help if you plan to do stupid stuff.
We can “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) while we act on what we’re praying about. Prayer is not a substitute for action when something can and needs to be done.
Prayer and repentance are not to be dismissed. They are the first steps in a longer process. Before the events in Elijah’s day, Joshua went through an experience that resulted in a military defeat when he expected a victory. Israel won its first encounter with Jericho without a casualty. Why should the battle with Ai be any different? The spies thought Ai was weak enough that only “two or three thousand men need go up” (Josh. 7:3). Thirty-six Israelites were killed, and the rest were pursued and assaulted by the men of Ai with the result that “the hearts of the people melted and became as water” (7:5).
You know what the Israelites were thinking. “Maybe we should have stayed out of this political thing. We were at least safe when we were ghettoized beyond the Jordan and could follow our privatized and quietist faith.” There was even fear that things would get a lot worse once the “Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land” heard about the defeat (7:9). Joshua, voicing these concerns to God, did what many Christians have concluded is the only action that should be taken. “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell on the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until evening, both he and the elders of Israel” (7:7). In a word, they prayed … hard.
What did God tell him to do? “So the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them’” (7:11). In effect, God told Joshua to stop praying and act on the evil that brought them the defeat!
Prayer is not a magical formula, an incantation that brings forth God like a genie from a bottle. Prayer is an admission of weakness. It is in weakness that God can best use us (2 Cor. 12:9–10). But true faith and trust are not exercised if we do not act on the belief that God will work for us even in our weakness. Prayer is not the end but the beginning of the work God has called us to do, and in many cases, it is not a substitute for action. J. I. Packer says it this way:
The Spirit does what he does. His supernaturalizing of our lives enables Christians, as a matter of fact, to do much for the Lord that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. That’s the whole doctrine of gifts and ministry. It’s my part to see what God calls me to do, to ask the Lord to enable me to do it, then to get up off my knees and go confidently into action, watching to see what help I shall be given, and finally to give thanks for what the Spirit did in and through me. ((J.I. Packer, “The Holy Spirit at Work,” Christianity Today (March 19, 1990). Emphasis added.))
There is sin in the Christian camp. Entire denominations support abortion and homosexuality or remain silent which is the same as giving support. Politicians, many who claim to be Christians, maintain that abortion should be a protected right. They’re “personally opposed” to abortion, but they can’t impose their morality on others. Are they personally opposed to slavery and racial discrimination? Sure they are. Would they vote for laws to stop them? Sure they would. If someone is personally opposed to abortion because abortion takes a human life, then a law prohibiting abortion is a moral necessity.
The sins of Achan—“the mantle of Shinar” (humanism) and “silver and gold” (mammon)—are the sins of the church. Many pastors are afraid to lose members and their money if they teach what the Bible says about certain sins. Their sermons are humanistic in that they cater to fallen men and women and their needs rather than God and His laws. We will not change things at the top until we change things at the bottom.
Prayer is a good and necessary practice. But after we fall on our face, let’s be careful not to cover our ears, shut our eyes, and bind our feet. We might just hear God’s voice say, “Rise up! Get up and vote! Get your mother to vote! Get your pastor to vote and to tell the congregation to vote! Vote in terms of what the Bible says about these issues. Vote as a son of Issachar would vote: ‘Men who understood the times with knowledge of what Israel should do’” (1 Chron. 12:32). This means being an informed voter.