Increasing numbers of people feel misled, disillusioned, or apathetic about politics. Others argue that faith and politics should not mix, which leaves us questioning what our position on voting and public life should be.
But faith can’t just be a private endeavour; Jesus urged His disciples to “let [their] light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. And it’s hard to argue that good deeds can’t be done in politics.
Despite this, the record of Christian engagement in public and political life is not an unblemished one. But just like my all-too- often messy kitchen, if I just stand outside complaining about it, it will never get clean – I have to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in. After all, Jesus’ brother James wrote that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”. So what on earth are we to do?
Here are three things I’d start with.
My Grandfather has been sending me newspaper cuttings since I was a teenager as a way of encouraging me to take an active interest in the world around me, and refuse ambivalence or apathy. A couple of weeks’ ago, I asked him why he votes in elections. He used one word: freedom. He explained that he believes that he has been set free through Jesus and called to use his freedom to serve others (Galatians 5). He pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people in the world still don’t have the right to vote, so he sees it as a privilege not to be taken for granted.
Furthermore, by voting we publicly recognise that we submit to the authority of the political system in our nation as established by God (Romans 13:1-17). Voting also has biblical precedence; Acts 14:23 describes how the early Church elected elders by voting. Plus, it’s one way that we can obey God’s command to seek the good of those around us and our nation as a whole (Jeremiah 29:5-6).
Yet, voting is the very least we can do – we can seek God’s reign on earth every day, not just one day every five years.
One way of doing this is to pray for our leaders on a regular basis. Paul encouraged Timothy “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
The Bible is full of accounts of “those in authority”; from Kings, to Judges, to religious leaders. The accompanying stories describe the reasons why they all needed prayerful support from those around them. Being a leader in any context is hard work.
So how should we pray for our leaders? Whether or not they are Christians, we should pray that God will guide them as they guide us, and pray for wisdom, discernment and protection. Plus, we should extend the notion of “those in authority” beyond politics to other leaders in the Church, voluntary sector, public service, and business. There are an overwhelming number of leaders in society, so choose two or three individuals or groups to pray for, and uphold them regularly.
3. Make your voice heard
Thirdly and finally, if you want to go one step further and become an influencer yourself, you can make your voice heard on the issues that matter to God and to you. Patrick Regan, founder and CEO of youth work charity XLP argues that social transformation is possible because God is working restoration and redemption in communities. But it also requires us to put our feet on the ground.
Proverbs exhorts us to give voice to the voiceless, Paul implores to help those in need (Ephesians 4:28), and to act because of the hope that we have in Jesus (Romans 8:18-30).
So how can you be a voice for the voiceless?
1. Build relationships with local politicians; write to them about causes that matter to you and invite them to speak or debate at events. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to care.
2. Sign petitions on those causes.
3. Get your feet on the ground, get local and start working for transformation by volunteering for a local charity or your church. Whatever you decide to do with your vote, prayers and time; God has given us a world to engage with so that we might become servants of society who reflect God’s grace and mercy.
For more information and resources, visit the websites below or talk to your church/charity about engaging in public life: http://www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/ and http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/.
Lucy lives in North London, goes to St Luke’s in Kentish Town, and works as a Civil Servant in central government. When she isn’t working, Lucy can be found running on Hampstead Heath, escaping to Norfolk to visit her family, helping to organise a big summer Christian youth festival, and practicing making a wedding cake for one of her housemates!