Is Christianity a Political Movement? by PH

Is Christianity a Political Movement? By Paul Hayden


What do we think of the Crusades? I mean, those wars in the Middle Ages waged by various popes, supposedly in the name of “Christianity,” against Muslims and Jews. There was such a terrible, terrible slaughter amongst both those communities, just so that the pope could say he owned the “holy” sites in and around Jerusalem. If any of us are truly Christian at all, surely we should abhor the whole concept of all that. The Crusades are a total disgrace to the name of Christ, and a terrible witness to Him.

So many people are put off Christianity by what has happened in the name of Christ throughout history. The Spanish Inquisition. The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. All in the name of religion. All in the name of Jesus Christ. How can anyone even want to become a Christian if that’s all they see? 

These atrocities are the works of men. An army will fight better if you tell them that God is on their side. That’s why men always try to involve religion in their petty wars. Religion isn’t the problem, men are. Thankfully that’s not what Jesus Christ came to give the world. Christianity is altogether different from waging wars and persecuting those who don’t agree with us. But how do we get our unbelieving neighbours to understand that, in the light of what they read in their history books?

All we can do is point them to the Bible. There they can find out what Jesus Christ was really like:

Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

There they can read what Jesus Christ really taught:

Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Where is the warmonger here? Jesus Christ was the Prince of Peace:

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:14

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

But there are some verses in the Bible, which have been deliberately misinterpreted in an attempt to teach that Christ’s followers should physically fight for His cause:

Matthew 10:34-36

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

This is not Christ telling us to take up arms and fight for Him. God forbid! If that was the case, this passage would be teaching we should go to war against our own families. No. We’re told elsewhere that Christ came to bring peace between God and men. Here, He’s simply telling us that because some people won’t believe - maybe even some in our own families - there will inevitably be division:

Luke 12:51

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division....

But what about:

Revelation 19:11-16

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

This takes place at the end of time, showing Jesus Christ coming as the great judge of all the earth. He came the first time to this world in humility, to show us that the only way to the Father is through Him:

John 14:6

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Matthew 10:39

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Luke 14:11

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

What do we, today, think of Jesus Christ? What do we think of the idea of humility as the only way to the Father? Do we think of it as being weak and pathetic? Or do we think it’s beautiful? What we think of Christ in this world now, will determine where we’ll spend eternity. This picture of Christ as a judge and warrior, is here to show us that He is the One with whom we will all have to do:

2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Christians are never called to spread their faith at the point of a sword. No. No. No. It’s not possible anyway. Our faith is all about an internal change in the heart of each individual who embraces it, and we can’t make that happen, only the Lord can. We’re called to love our enemies:

Matthew 5:44-45

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

But here’s the next question. We’re agreed we shouldn’t go to war in Christ’s name, but can we set up a political movement in His name? Should we fight, by all legitimate, peaceful means possible, to change the government’s mind so that it more reflects “Christian” values?

I’m going to suggest the answer is, No. Otherwise Jesus Christ would have done that when He was on earth. He never came as a political leader. In fact, He said as much at His trial before Pontius Pilate:

John 18:36

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

We don’t fight, either physically or through any ballot box or protest movement. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. It’s spiritual, heavenly. Our weapons are not physical weapons, but spiritual ones:

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Ephesians 6:12-13

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

We don’t don physical armour to fight physical enemies, but spiritual armour to fight spiritual enemies:

Ephesians 6:14-17

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God....

And our best weapon of all is prayer:

Ephesians 6:18

....Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints....

That’s the Christian life. Fighting, either physically or politically, is the way the world operates, and we leave the world to it. No matter what men try to do, the Lord is in control of everything anyway, so we’ve no need to worry:

Psalm 118:6

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

We’re not here as a great social movement for change. An unbeliever being forced by law against his will to keep the Ten Commandments is still an unbeliever on his way to hell-fire. God isn’t going to be pleased with him. He needs Jesus Christ to come into his heart and change his life so that he’ll love the Ten Commandments and want to keep them from a willing heart. Then the Lord will delight in him, and he in the Lord:

Jeremiah 9:24

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.

Psalm 119:97

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

But what about people like William Wilberforce, who managed to get parliament to abolish slavery. That was a good thing, wasn’t it? Yes, but he was in a privileged position. Whenever we have influence, it’s right that we should use it for good. Like Queen Esther saving the Jews from destruction, or Joseph saving both Egypt and the Israelites from famine, for example. They were in the right place at the right time. They were doing the Lord’s will in the situation they found themselves in. They weren’t actively opposing or fighting any authority. 

Every weekend throughout the summer, there have been protests against the Chinese government in Hong Kong. The Chinese media make a point of telling us that the leaders of the protest movement are Christians. They go to church. They’re students at Christian colleges. Some of them are even pastors. Before every protest they hold prayer meetings. They sing hymns. Then they go out and fight the police. As a result, the Chinese government thinks, wrongly but understandably, that Christianity is a political movement. They see it as a destabilising “Western” influence, against themselves. But we’re nothing of the kind.

Jesus Christ Himself was not a Westerner. I currently attend a small fellowship containing Christians from four different continents. Christianity is international. Every tribe, tongue and nation is invited to embrace Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls:

Revelation 14:6

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people....

Christians are individuals who have been changed by God and are now living differently from the world. We’re no threat to any government. But, it only takes some people to raise opposition against a government in the name of Christianity, and all Christians will be tarred with the same brush. Ordinary Christians, who don’t oppose anybody, who are just trying to live their simple, Christian lives, are going to be regarded all together as enemies of the State.

Christians should always submit to whatever government is in charge. All governments have been put in place by God “for good”:

Romans 13:1-7

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Even the most wicked government that rises up, is ordained of God. And Christians should always obey. It’s never up to us to fight it, or try to replace it, otherwise we find ourselves fighting against God:

1 Samuel 15:23

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft....

Acts 5:39

....if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

There is only one exception to this rule, and that is when the government forces us to sin. Then, and then only, should we refuse. And even then, if caught, we mustn’t fight, but meekly take the (unjust) consequences.

So, if, for example, the Christian church is banned by the government, we still meet underground, and be prepared to take the appropriate punishment. Daniel didn’t even bother trying to be discreet about it:

Daniel 6:10

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

Consequently, he was thrown into a den of lions. And on another occasion, his three friends would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, and they told him exactly why:

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Submitting to all authorities that have been set over us - not only the government, but also our employer, and parents too - is part of our very witness to the world:

1 Peter 2:13-15

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men....

There is only one thing we are told to pray for with regards authorities, and that is to pray that they would allow us to be free to be able to live godly Christian lives:

1 Timothy 2:1-2

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Notice here that Paul didn’t say that the Christians should campaign to stop the Roman authority’s atrocities. The Romans were cruel. They were evil. But he didn’t suggest fighting the government, or demonstrating in the streets demanding change, or even trying to get Christians onto the Senate. Instead, Paul asked prayer for the authorities that the Christians “may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” 

Jeremiah told the exiles in Babylon to pray for a similar thing:

Jeremiah 29:7

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

Governments will try to make life difficult for us. If we do have any freedoms, we ought to be thankful for them. We should never pray either for or against a government. We never take sides. We only need pray that we may have the freedom to be able to live out our Christian lives without harassment. God will sort out the powers that be in His own good time:

Acts 17:26

[God] ....hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation....

Isaiah 40:15

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

Psalms 2:4-5

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

We are not to think, “If only we had a Christian government, wouldn’t it be wonderful.” Because it wouldn’t. If we had a “Christian” government enacting “Christian” laws, all the unbelievers would be out on the streets rioting and protesting that they couldn’t do what they want to do any more. It would be chaos. So we can’t win either way. Politics is a losing game. We’re not to get involved with any of it.

But aren’t we to be concerned with justice? Yes, of course. But personally, as individuals:

Micah 6:8

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee,

but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Our individual relationship with the Lord should be more important to us than anything:

James 1:27

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

The world will always be crooked. It’s unreformable:

Philippians 2:14-15

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world....

To politically fight for any cause in the name of Christ, is just as bad a witness to the world as to physically fight in the name of Christ, as in the Crusades. Fighting for any cause is not Christianity, whether physical or political. Christianity is altogether different. 

Let’s be finished with fighting, and concentrate on living holy, righteous and godly lives, which is in God’s sight of great price:

Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.