Last Tuesday one of my fellow pastors and I were talking about the relationship between the church and politics, and how Christians should rightly envision the relationship between the two. We didn't come to any revolutionary conclusions but we did agree on the proper order of operations, and we did agree that this order matters very much. Just as it is in mathematics, the algebraic expression "4 x 5 + 2" equals 22 not 28 because the order of operations requires that we perform multiplication before addition. When we get the order of operations wrong, we get the answer wrong, which means that the order is of utmost importance.
This same principle holds true for the relationship between the church and politics. My fellow pastor expressed the order like this:
Gospel before government; discipleship before citzenship; transformation before legislation.
In other words, we who believe in Jesus Christ are first Christians so that we put our hope in the Kingdom of God which is not of this world. Indeed, as Paul said in Philippians 3:20-4:1, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved."
Then, with our hope set firmly in heaven, we are able to be salt and light in the earth without becoming unnecessarily entangled in the affairs of the earth. We are able to preach the gospel, care for the weak and the poor, follow our Lord into a variety of endeavors as he guides us along the way, encourage our fellow believers to vote and otherwise engage in the political realm as the Lord leads them to do so, and rejoice no matter which way the political winds blow because we know that our King is on the throne and that his reign will never come up for a vote--he is the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords, and he will rule forever!
We acknowledge that this simple equation doesn't automatically solve hosts of problems related to the issue of the church and politics, but we do think that it's a necessary starting point. What do you think?