In many cases people who oppose Christian involvement in politics say that politics, in a way, fixes peoples’ eyes on ‘temporary things’ instead of on eternal things. My question is: what if the ‘temporary things’ lead to people having a different and distorted view of God? Many atheists are people who have roots in Christianity, but the church’s continuous neglect of dealing with society’s injustices may have led them to walk away from a God who they believe does not care about the suffering of the world. They are like the prodigal son of the New Testament.
Every prodigal son is drawn back to the father’s bosom as they see the goodness of the father. As they see that there is no father’s servant or son that sleeps without food. As they see that there is no lack in their father’s house. As long as the church acts with the status quo the prodigals will never return to the house of the father, for the father is malevolent. Anything that has the potential of painting God in a way other than who He really is sounds the bell for the Christian to speak up, act, change and transform. And so it is for politics.
We have to be clear that there is no apolitical being; we are all involved in politics whether consciously or unconsciously. The most unfortunate part is that those who are unconsciously involved in politics are unconsciously part of the status quo. Therefore, if there is oppression in the system they are siding with those who oppress (often unaware of their complicity). Most of those who are consciously involved are against the status quo because they get to see that the ‘norm’ is unacceptable.
With all of the above said, we have the great commission which has been turned into a vision of many churches. My own church put it like this: “His last command is our first concern”. But the question is: have we truly seen what is entailed in that great commission? The great commission tells us that “as we go we disciple, as we go we teach and as we go we baptise”- Matthew 28. This means that the evangelism of the nations is not an event for a Christian (like evangelism in Khayelitsha, for example), but it is the life of a believer. Therefore, how you spend your money is evangelism, how you treat your workers is evangelism, how you live your life is evangelism, how you treat the next person you see is evangelism. That is why Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
In the gospel of Matthew it is said “Let your light shine before all men, so that people may see your good works and give honour to your father in heaven”. This verse in simple terms says that in our daily social and public lives, we are to be the model of what God intended for people in the beginning. It is in them (the people who are seeing the good works) seeing what God had always intended for them that they will be transformed and come to know the Lord Jesus.
The mere point of politics has always been about the question of ownership. Now is the bible quiet about this? The question that is asked in politics is often related to who owns and runs the means of production. The church is called to model and proclaim who should own the means of production. Our proclamation is our speaking of the truth to power, and our modelling is found in the book of acts where it says of the church, “No one was lacking amongst them”. Why is it so easy for our church to speak against abortion, to speak against or stand for same-sex marriage but yet we fail to speak against policies that continue to side-line the majority of our people in South Afrika? Just as no one was lacking amongst them, so it is our church that will demonstrate that there is a possibility of no lack in our churches today (Acts 2). Politics is Zaccheus being reconciled with God and also reconciled with his own community through the act of restitution. The Church’s core mission is the ministry of reconciliation (Luke 19, 2 Corinthians 5) – politics, again.
In anything that concerns humanity, God is involved. Anything that concerns the “neighbour” is an area in which the Christian should be involved. May we stop side-lining God in His own affairs! The church is the opinion of God in all matters of life.
By Nkosi Gola