I have to admit right from the top that I’m a huge fan of politics. I love following sports, and to me, the political game is the biggest sport in America. As such, it’s always interesting to follow the fan-like allegiances of my friends and family as they root on their favorite candidates and ballot measures. But as I observe this game play out on social media, I’ve found it interesting to see how Christians have approached these issues and races.

As with so many things in life, there are wrong ways and right ways to handle political involvement, particularly as it pertains to being a Christian. Without diving too deeply into the details of different approaches to government and elections, I want to look at two wrong ways Christians view politics, and what I propose is the right way. Take a look at the three views, and feel free to leave your opinion in the comment section.

“Politics are everything”

There are those who will tell you that not voting is a sin, and though I used to be in their camp, I’ve yet to find scriptural backing for such an idea. I worry that we often talk about voting as though it’s the most important thing Christians can do to make a difference in this world. In fact, many conversations make it sound like Christians are helpless should the results of our voting not turn out favorably. The New Testament is quite clear that Christians have been called to be salt and light (Matthew 5) daily, not just one day every 2-4 years. We have to be very careful not to put too much faith in the political system to bring about change in the world. True change comes through the knowledge of Christ. At times I’ve been guilty of talking to my friends more about my favorite candidate than about Christ, and I know I’m not alone in that. Whenever that’s the case, we need to stop and reevaluate the place we’ve given politics in our lives.

“Politics are worthless”

In response to the belief discussed above, some have fallen victim to the pendulum effect, swinging too far in the opposite direction. “I don’t vote, I vote for Jesus,” they’ll say. I’ve literally had more than one Christian tell me, “I don’t have time for politics, I prefer to evangelize instead.” That’s a great sentiment, if you’re literally using all of your spare time to evangelize. But the second you stop to watch a movie or play a video game, hypocrisy (and dishonesty) comes glaring through. Just because political involvement doesn’t solve everything doesn’t mean it isn’t important or that it doesn’t have any value. Just because it isn’t as important as evangelism doesn’t mean it isn’t worth our time. That’s such an obvious false dichotomy, it almost isn’t worth refuting. Voting does afford us a chance to do some good, and to arbitrarily decide that God wouldn’t want us to use that opportunity is just strange.

So how do we properly view the role of politics in the life of a Christian? Allow me to offer an analogy.

Politics are a bandage

Why are politics a bandage? Because just like bandages, politics are not a permanent fix. A legal, political victory is never a permanent fix if hearts haven’t been won. Instead, political victories should buy us time to work on people’s hearts and minds rather than allow us to become complacent. As I wrote in a previous FPBlog article – “If we think that voting for the right people will put an end to abortion, homosexuality, drug use, or anything else and yet the moral foundation of the nation continues to erode, we’re hopelessly naïve. If we don’t start bringing our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, and even those who don’t like us to a knowledge of Christ, we can only patch up the problem so many times before the inevitable happens, just as it did in Rome, Greece, Babylon, Egypt, and everywhere else.” So, we should look at elections as opportunities to buy more time to work on people. Vote against abortion, but help people in your community see why abortion is wrong, or else the victory will be short-lived. Vote for the politicians who will uphold religious liberty, but don’t stop there. The war of ideas and principles will rage on long after election day.

Our American citizenship has offered us an opportunity that those in New Testament times couldn’t even dream of having, and with that comes these unique challenges and responsibilities. No, voting isn’t the only thing we can do, nor is it the most important thing we can do, but it is something we can do. Paul gave us the goal we should have in mind for politics in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Though he urged that we pray for those in authority, what we see about Paul’s character elsewhere tells us that, if given the opportunity to couple prayer with action, he most certainly would have. We’ve been given that opportunity, and so we should continue to pray and use our rights to try to ensure that quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. Once we have that, we’re free not to simply enjoy our quiet and peaceable lives, but to use them to try to help all men find their way to salvation and a knowledge of the truth.

May we always strive to keep politics in their proper place – not as too important, not as unimportant, but as a valuable tool that helps open the door to greater service to God.

By Jack Wilkie

Jack Wilkie is the author of “Failure: What Christian Parents Need to Know About American Education” and is the speaker for Focus Press’s “The Lost Generation” seminar. To schedule a seminar at your church, contact jack@tampaseo.expert.