So, if we are not meant to simply apply the Old Testament Laws that applied to the Nation of Israel to modern day states, what is the interaction between Church and State, Christians and politics, the Bible and Government.
I want to suggest 3 ways that we can engage.
1. First and foremost, our responsibility as churches is to preach the Gospel. The reality is that no political solution is ever going to truly deal with the problems that our world faces. That’s because the root cause of every trouble in our world is Sin. When Jesus came to earth, his objective was not to set up a system of government. He specifically came to die in our place for our sin and rise so that we can know new and eternal life with him. When political parties rise and fall, when policies succeed for a time and then fail, our responsibility is to keep pointing people to the sure and certain hope they have in Jesus. This includes pointing people forward to the day when Christ will return to judge and all sin, sickness and suffering will be banished for ever.
2. Secondly, God’s people live as an alternative community in the midst of society. We are to be in the World but not of it. Indeed, this is what Israel was meant to do before Christ. As a nation, she was meant to be different from the nations around her. We do this when we live by God’s values. This means that people should see in the Church a community characterised by love and humility. It means that we should model servant hearted leadership instead of seeking power for personal gain. It means that our gatherings should be places of welcome. It means that those who are weak, vulnerable and poor should be looked after. It means that people from every class and ethnicity should all be one in Christ Jesus. People should be able to see that what we believe affects how we live. The message should be that God’s Grace makes this possible
– Past grace -we have been saved by grace for works of service. We live differently in response to being forgiven.
– Present Grace – we have the Holy Spirit in us and He enables us to live differently to this World’s values
– Future Grace – we look forward to Christ’s return and our “alternative communities” should start, even imperfectly, to give a little foretaste of what life will be like when he returns.
3. Because we are in, but not of this World, we are called to live as good citizens. Our concern to see truth and justice is an act of neighbourliness. Whilst the Covenants, Laws and Institutions of the Old Testament were intended for the nation of Israel, they still reflect God’s character and priorities. They are good things. Here are some examples of the good things that the Bible gives us
– It forbids theft, violence and murder. People are valued and protected.
– It expresses concern for the vulnerable including the poor, widows, immigrants and even the unborn child
– It encourages honesty and integrity in business transactions
– It values faithfulness particularly in the family. This is both between husbands and wives and between parents and children.
Whilst we may not be expected to try and enact the Old Testament as is and whilst some things may not be appropriate to a modern context in practice, these principles are good underlying values and when acted on provide examples of common grace. We are good citizens when we speak, vote and act in favour of these things. It is right then to participate in the life of the society in which we find ourselves. For most of us this will primarily be through
– Writing to our councillors and MPs
– Participating in positive aspects of community life
For some, there will be the opportunity to participate by standing for election or being appointed to public office. There are great examples of role models who did this in the Bible, even when they were serving rulers who did not follow the True and Living God. Two particular examples of this are Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon.
We also participate by taking time to pray for our leaders -both those we agree with and those we disagree with. Finally, we obviously participate when we are obedient to the Law in so far as it does not go against God’s Law.