The election campaigning is finally over, and it’s reminded me once more that Australians are extremely cynical of politicians. While some are deeply passionate about a particular political party, it’s not the norm. We complain about our politicians, doubt their motives, and tune out when they speak.
Even Christians have bought into this attitude. Like other Australians we’re passionate about some issues, but when it comes to the politicians themselves, we treat them with contempt (except if they’re agreeing with our deeply held opinions on an issue). We’ve mimicked our culture, like American Christians have mimicked theirs. From the outside, it seems as though Americans have the opposite problem to us, believing their political leaders to either be the Christ or Anti-Christ, depending on whether they’re Republican or Democrat.
But Christians shouldn’t merely mimic our culture, should we? We’re not supposed to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). So how is a Christian supposed to respond to politics in general and politicians in particular? What does the Spirit tell us through His word?
Romans 13:1-7 is particularly important for the renewing of our minds in this area. We’re called to ‘pay to all what is owed to them … respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed’ (verse 7).
The tragedy is that so many of us have bought the lie that our leaders aren’t worthy of respect or honour. We see some of those personalities who espouse such disappointing views, who reject God’s ways, reject love and mercy and truth, and we buy into the views of the media and our friends on Facebook that these people are deserving of ridicule and disgust.
How quick we are in other situations to assert that it’s possible to disagree with respect and love, that disagreement does not necessarily mean hatred or disgust, but then refuse to demonstrate it towards politicians. I’ve been shocked at the attitudes expressed by Christians about our political leaders. The memes or various other statements that have been shared on Facebook (if I may say, particularly against Julia Gillard, but not exclusively against her) have shown that, rather than being transformed by the renewing of our minds in the area of politics, we are being conformed to the pattern of this world.
Does this mean we never say anything negative in the political arena? Of course not. We live in a democracy and have the right to speak out. But we need to think about our method. Are we mocking and belittling those God has placed over us? What are we attacking: people or ideas? Are we being graceful and full of love?
There is no absolute rule with all this. There may be times when wickedness will need to be shown to be wicked. It is possible that the sharp word may be the most appropriate in a particular situation (Jesus did, after all, declare the Pharisees to be a ‘brood of vipers’). But, in my opinion, we far too quickly jump to that language and those methods. In the political sphere, we far too often look like everyone else, using the same methods and adopting the same attitudes.
As the election results are finalised, let’s examine our hearts. Let’s not only pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2), but pray for ourselves, that we would honour Christ as we submit and relate to those he has placed over us. This may be just the light our society needs to see.
Jesse Walz is married to Bec, and they have a four-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl. They attend Surrey Hills Presbyterian Church. Jesse is studying theology at PTC, and Bec is a stay-at-home mum.