Philippine Navigators’ Position on Christians and Politics
Some guidelines for prayerful consideration
This is a statement from and for Navigators living in the Philippines, which is a democratic, pluralistic society, governed according to its own Constitution. This is markedly different to Israel’s theocracy in the Old Testament and the autocratic rule of Roman emperors in the New Testament. We must observe careful hermeneutical principles when applying biblical guidelines in a contextually appropriate manner concerning politics and the forthcoming presidential elections in the Philippines (e.g., we cannot expect to impose a theocracy). This is what we are called to do in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” The image here is of a laborer who expends energy and effort to understand and responsibly apply the Scriptures which are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) – which applies to all spheres of life, including the political, social, environmental, etc.
Our Primary Allegiance
We are, first and foremost, citizens of God’s Kingdom (Ephesians 2:19). Our primary allegiance is to Jesus Christ, our only Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 8:6). Our certain hope is in God alone and not in any political party or leader. He is the one who raises up rulers and nations according to His sovereign purpose (Daniel 4:17; Romans 13:1). All earthly rulers are in some ways beholden to the vested interest groups that put them in power, but God rules over all human governments to advance His good and loving purposes. We must never totally and unquestionably align ourselves as supporters and defenders of any political candidate, politician, or political party. Our political concerns must be to honor Christ and embody the values of God’s Kingdom. We must promote justice, love mercy, and walk in humble obedience with our Lord (Micah 6:8).
In loving obedience to God (John 14:23 and 1 John 5:3), we uphold the Bible as God’s word and as the highest authority in all matters of life and doctrine, including matters of church and state. We submit to its moral teaching on issues like abortion, prostitution, homosexuality, injustice, unlawful killing, financial and environmental stewardship, etc. We are called to respectfully submit to duly appointed governments (e.g., Romans 13, Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14) but where the demands of the government clashes with the clear teaching of the Scriptures and our obedience to God, we must obey God and resist all evil in God-honouring ways (e.g., Daniel 3:13-18 and 6:10; Acts 5:29; Acts 4:19).
Our Calling as Navigators
Our primary calling is to equip and empower disciples to proclaim the Gospel of God’s Kingdom as laborers in God’s harvest field (Matthew 9:38 and 28:18-20). However, we recognize that our personal and corporate calling to embody and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom does include our responsibility to not neglect the social implications of Christ’s lordship and redemptive mission, which makes no distinction between the secular/sacred and the spiritual/social (including the physical, political, ecological, etc.) dimensions of life. We do not believe that the woes and injustices of this world can be fully resolved and eliminated by merely political means and social reforms. We still eagerly await the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth, in all its fullness, as it is now in heaven (Matthew 6:10; Romans 8:18-25). Nevertheless, as we live as sojourners/exiles in the already/not-yet(i) tension of our fallen world, our embodiment and proclamation of the Kingdom of God include the social responsibility to seek the welfare (God’s shalom) of the people of the land in which God has providentially called us to live (1 Peter, Romans 13, and Jeremiah 29 shed light on what it means to be citizens [of heaven] living in exile).
We, The Navigators, as a corporate entity, will not intentionally campaign for or ‘endorse’ any political party/politician. We believe our collective calling is to be nonpartisan as we serve and minister to all, regardless of their political, social, and religious standing. However, we do encourage our individual constituents to exercise their personal civic duty by participating in the election process, and we offer this statement and biblical guidelines for prayerful consideration on how to vote responsibly.
We believe it is our duty to support, in so far as our biblically informed conscience permits, whoever is duly elected. We do so, trusting that the Lord has sovereignly chosen to allow the appointment of the person to the position of governing authority. However, supporting a duly elected leader does not mean approving every action, behavior, or policy decision. We should not, corporately or individually, turn a blind eye and support that which flagrantly ignores the Constitution, is evil, unjust, unwise, or morally questionable. Nathan rebuked David about his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12); John the Baptist rebuked Herod about his relationship with Herodias (Luke 3:19). We need to be prepared, especially as spiritual leaders, to acknowledge and reject what is wrong and evil in our political leaders, without rationalisation or excuse. For if we are blind to these, how can we lead as shepherds of the flock in our God-given care? Remember God’s stern rebuke of Israel’s shepherds who failed to deal with injustice and corruption (e.g., Ezekiel 34:2).
Our Unity in Christ
When it comes to differences in our political discussions and choices, we need to remember that we are all one in Christ and bound together in loving obedience to Him by the Holy Spirit. We must respect each other and entrust each other to the Lord to follow the dictates of our conscience before God and in submission to the Scriptures. Where we differ in our understanding and application of biblical truths, we need to be respectful, quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19). We have to seek to understand the point of view of others, cultivate a willingness to humbly review our opinions, and intentionally study the Scriptures together in the pursuit of truth (Acts 17:11). If necessary, personally/privately connect with the person to clarify the issue. This will, at times, require a willingness to be challenged, admonished, shown any error in our own thinking and mindset, as we relate in love and in truth with each other. We need each other in the manner that iron sharpens iron! We need God’s help to persevere with each other in love in all things, even in matters of politics (Ephesians 4).(ii)
Our Commitment to Prayer
We need to remember that the concerns which confront us are not merely political/social but a spiritual one! We should be mindful and vigilant, recognizing that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-17). Prayer is an essential component and expression of our life of faithful discipleship and loving obedience to our Lord. Corporate and personal prayer for our government and leaders should inform and undergird our political concerns and desire to respond to the challenges in biblically faithful ways.
The Apostle Paul writes:
I urge, then, first of all, 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. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Notice how God’s people are urged to pray for those in authority (v.1-2a), with the result that ‘we’ (the church) can continue living peaceful, godly, and holy lives (v.2b). This, Paul says, brings pleasure to God who wants all people to be saved (v.3-4). This suggests that a good government can provide a conducive environment for the church to be godly and for God’s evangelistic concerns for the Gospel to be fulfilled. But notice, this does not merely come about by means of a political process but through prayer. (iii)
Our Commitment to the Priority of Love
All our political discussions and deliberations, including how we cast our vote, should be shaped by the two great commandments articulated by our Lord Jesus: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:38-39). Our political thinking and actions should honor God and demonstrate love for our neighbor.
A Christian vote, in loving submission to God, is essentially a vote for others, not just for us. It is directed in love towards God and the well-being and good of others before ourselves. As Christians, we are called to honor one another above ourselves (Romans 12:10) and in humility to consider others better than ourselves, looking out not for our own interests, but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).(iv)
In the political realm, we should use what influence and opportunity God grants us, including casting a vote, to contribute towards the well-being of our neighbors and for the public good. This is a neglected concept in much political thinking and voting habits. Typically, people tend to vote for candidates and parties which will serve their own interest, family tradition, and situation. People tend to favor the party which will maximize their opportunities and serve their own economic well-being. While such considerations are not necessarily wrong, they are inadequate from the perspective of the call to love one’s neighbor – which includes the biblical mandate to care and advocate for the poor, the disadvantaged, the socially marginalized, the powerless, and the victims of abuse and injustice.” (Psalm 82:3-4; Proverbs 14:31; James 1:27).
We are called to follow the example of Christ, who emptied himself of His rights and privileges for us. This requires putting aside our private interests and seeking instead to serve the wider community by carefully examining the policies of the government, and all political candidates, making every effort to avoid the temptation to only endorse and support that which benefits us (our family, our situation, our interests, our way of life, our region). We must consider the well-being of the whole community and the interest of others. In your vote, ‘value others above yourselves.’
Our Commitment to Biblical Guidelines
Along with our common commitment to the priority of love, we believe the following biblical guidelines should inform our political choices and deliberations:
- The Scriptures is quite consistent in the expectation that political authorities are to serve with justice and righteousness those under their care. Their failure to do so draws strong condemnation and judgment (Jeremiah 23:1; Ezekiel 34). This involves protecting everyone’s rightful place in God’s world (Psalm 72:1-4). The apostles expressed this as rightly rewarding good and judiciously condemning evil (Romans 13:1-8; 1 Peter 2:13-14). A major element of doing justice is defending and caring for the poor, the widows, and the orphans (Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 10:7, 18; Psalm 72). The Scriptures also stresses that governing authorities should be impartial in resolving conflicts (e.g., between Israelites and strangers, Exodus 23:12; Deuteronomy 10:17-19). They should provide for the safety of those in their care (Jeremiah 23:3). This implies that even those with whom we disagree and, yes, even our ‘enemies,’ should be dealt with fairly. No group should expect, or be granted, undue favors or privileges from those in authority.
- Political rulers and authorities cannot claim and should not be granted unquestionable allegiance. In doing so, they cease being servants of the people and become idols, taking over God’s place and authority. While Paul affirms that those in political authority are providentially God’s servants for the good of all (Romans 13:1-8), Peter makes it clear that our priority must be to “obey God rather than men” where the demands of the government conflict with obedience to God (Acts 5:29; see also 4:19 and 1 Peter 2:13-14). These two emphases are combined in Jesus’ admonition to give to God the things that are God’s and to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Mark 12:13-17). However, no one, neither a president nor a legislature nor a court nor a Constitution, can claim to be the final authority (e.g., this includes pastors, employers, teachers, and parents).
Our Commendation of the Lausanne Covenant for prayerful study (v)
In the time leading up to the presidential election, we commend the Lausanne Covenant for prayerful study and discussion. The Lausanne Covenant is widely regarded as one of the most significant documents in modern church history. Emerging from the First Lausanne Congress in 1974, it served as a great rallying call to the evangelical Church around the world. It was a gathering of some 2700 Christian leaders from 150 countries, all committed to the authority of the Scriptures and the priority of evangelism, called together by the late Billy Graham, to consider the implications of the Gospel, evangelism, and Christian social responsibility. It challenged Christians to work together to make Jesus Christ known throughout the world.
Of particular relevance to the issue of politics and our social responsibility is Point 5 of the Covenant:
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression. Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex, or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbor and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ, they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.(vi)
We also commend for prayerful study and discussion the Lausanne Occasional Paper 21: Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment, (vii) a joint publication resulting from the International Consultation on the Relationship between Evangelism and Social Responsibility, held at Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 19-25, 1982. It was drafted by members of the Consultation, the Drafting Committee being under the chairmanship of the Rev. John Stott, who was also responsible for the final editing. The Consultation was sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and the World Evangelical Fellowship.
Heavenly Father, please help us make every effort to embody the truths we all affirm about our common allegiance to Christ our Lord and Savior. May we, even in our differences, express in love and truth the bond of fellowship we share in the Spirit. May our shared adoption, as beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, shape and govern our motivation and behavior (in thought, word, and deed) when it comes to the way we deal with our differences on all matters of life, including politics. Guard us from becoming stumbling blocks to one another. This we pray in name of the Lord Jesus, our King. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria
(i) Already/not yet’ describes the tension of living in the ‘in-between time’ of Jesus’ first and second coming. It refers to the benefits and promises of redemption the Christian has already experienced in Christ and those which await the coming in fullness of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is now in heaven. For example, the Christian will not see the full reality of what it means to be a new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) until the last day (1 John 3:2). Though the Christian already has eternal life, they have not yet been resurrected (John 5:24).
This tension of the Kingdom of God can be approached from the perspective of: (1) its inauguration in Christ; (2) its continuation in the church; and (3) its consummation of all things at the end of this age.
Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of God in his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. He is already King of his Kingdom. However, while Jesus is already crowned with glory, everything is not yet subjected fully unto him yet (Hebrews 2:7-9). Rather, his Kingdom is continuing throughout the church age and its absolute fulness will be observed and perfectly established on the last day when he returns in glory.
(ii) Brothers and sisters. Let’s persevere with each other in love, forgiveness, and humility. Let’s guard against cynicism. Let’s not let our disagreements and differences cause us to lose heart, withdraw from fellowship, or seek solace in the safety of a merely private, pietistic mindset which is disengaged from being salt and light in the world. Remember that the conflicts and disagreements we are experiencing are a symptom of the fact that we are allbrothers and sisters who are in the processof being renewed and transformed into the likeness of Christ. We are all under construction and the Lord has not finished His sanctifying work in each of us.
We currently live in the tension of the already/not-yet age in which we are still susceptible to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are all awaiting the final redemption in which we, with all of creation, will finally be set free from the corrupting effects of our fallen world, including injustice, oppression, political corruption, and abuse of power. And so, in the meantime, let’s seek to live moment by moment trusting in the Lord, relying on the Holy Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh, and living in love for God and for one another.
Our struggle to live in love, to forgive our grievances, and to avoid conflict is not unique to our network of Christian relationship as Navigators. We can be thankful that the Lord has, in His infinite wisdom, seen fit to inspire and providentially preserve for us New Testament letters which address numerous matters of disunity, disagreements, and lack of love amongst Christian brothers and sisters. For example, think of the Corinthian church, the dispute between Barnabas and Paul (regarding John Mark) in the book of Acts, the tribalism which manifested itself in the Galatian church between Jewish and Gentile Christians (which even entrapped the Apostle Peter!), and the very public conflict between Euodia and Syntyche recorded for perpetuity in the letter to the Philippians.
All this should help us to be on guard against being unrealistically pessimistic or unduly optimistic about the nature of Christian fellowship. Remember that, on the one hand, we are still part of the fallen world, but on the other hand, we are being renewed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We will have to deal with the struggles of Christian fellowship and conflict with brothers and sisters, but with God’s help, we can do better. This should drive us to continual prayer, asking the Lord, by His indwelling and empowering presence, to help each of us embody and put into practise the numerous warnings and encouragement about how we should love one another, forgive one another, admonish one another, etc. The ‘one-another’ passages in the New Testament were inspired as much as for us as it was when first written to them. They remain relevant and especially applicable to our current struggles and inability to address some of our political differences, manner of speech, and interaction. Let us take to heart Ephesians 4, where Paul encourages us to: Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. … Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. … Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
(iii) An insight from Point 5 of John Dickson’s How to Vote Christianly! Social Issues Briefing 028, Social Issues Committee, Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The whole document is worth reading and helpfully addresses the questions of both ‘How NOT to vote’ and ‘How to Vote’. Link: http://socialissues.org.au/issues/how_to_vote_christianly/
(iv) Adapted from Point 1, How to Vote Christianly!
(vi) See especially the Exposition and Commentary on Point 5 of the agreed Covenant by the late John Stott:https://lausanne.wpengine.com/content/lop/lop-3#5