Does God care about politics? If you are like the majority of believers, the answer is a big no. For many believers, there is a direct dichotomy between politics and the word of God. But is that realty the case? If the Bible is God's instruction book for mankind, wouldn't He at least be interested in how we go about our national life?
Sure enough, that is how the situation is. At first glance, though, this is not easily discernible from the scriptures.
Christ bluntly told Pilate, the Roman governor, at His trial: "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). By this statement alone, it is tempting to conclude that God is not remotely interested in politics.
But again, is that really the case? What did Christ mean by the statement? Did He mean that as believers we should withdraw totally from the affairs of this world?
Christ by this declaration stated clearly that the world political systems, with all their imperfections, did not originate with him; the best government man will ever have will have to be installed by Him (Isa 11:1-9).
But Christ was never oblivious of the obvious: While His Kingdom tarries, His people would have to remain part of the world community.
In John 17:15-16, Jesus staled to the effect that although His disciples arc in this world, they are not of the world. And while they are in the world, they are the light of the world, just as He was whilst on earth (Matt. 5:14, John 9: 5; Php 2:15).
In Matt 5:13 Christ spoke of His Church thus:
"You are the salt of the earth, But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men" (NIV)
As the salt of the earth, the seasoning and preservation Christians provide is vital for society's good. While the Church must steer clear of the evil systems of the world, she must nevertheless seek to exert godly influence on society in whatever way she can.
God rules in the Kingdom of men (Dan 4:25). If so, where else to shine the light of His truth as it relates to leadership but in the field of contemporary politics?
Because God is interested in seeing His people live in peace, He is not only interested in how societies are run but also how His people could contribute to building peaceful and orderly communities.
Through the Prophet Jeremiah, He urged the Jewish exiles in Babylon:
"And seek the peace of the city (of Babylon) 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" (Jer.29:7KJV)
Moreover, He tells us in 1 Tim. 2:1-4:
"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.”
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior”,
"Who will have all men lo be saved, and to come unto die knowledge of the truth" (KJV).
If peace and development will come to characterize the nation, godly leadership is essential. The Lord tells us in Prov. 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace lo any people" (NIV).
Again He tells us in Prov. 29:2,
"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people moum. (or go into hiding or exile as stated in Prov. 28:28).”
Much of the suffering in the world today – the scourge of war, poverty and the phenomenon of failed states – can be put down to the lack of godly leadership.
Because God values good leadership, He has set out in His Word the criteria for choosing the right kind of people into leadership positions in the nation. He lists a set of core leadership qualities to look for in selecting national leaders.
The first of these guidelines is found in Ex. 18:21. They formed part of the advice and recommendation given by Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, to Moses as he sought a more systematic way to administer the new nation of Israel-Taken one by one, each leadership quality mentioned by Jethro, the priest, carries its own weight – each important to achieving effective godly leadership.
Here is Jethro's advice containing the all-important criteria for choosing national leaders:
"Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain, and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens" (EX 18:21 NAS).
Without doubt, this is a yardstick which, when used in electing our national leaders, would ensure not only the peace of the nation but also its overall development.
God wants us to choose leaders who measure up to the task – capable, competent men; leaders who fear Him; leaders who cherish honesty and justice, and leaders who shun dishonest gain which is what makes people susceptible to bribery and corruption.
Exodus 23:8 warns: "Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who sec and twist the words of the righteous" (NIV).
Apart from Jethro's recommendation, a second set of Biblical criteria for choosing national leaders is found in Deut. 17:15-20. While they serve as evergreen guidelines for all public office-holders, these apply particularly to the office of the head of state or king as prevailed in Biblical times.
The Bible, in what appears to be in advance of its time, lays down a set of ethical rules for the head of state designed to promote the rule of law, check abuse of office and ensure public accountability.
The Bible, the Living Word of God, has never been behind in knowledge as far as the advancement of the human society is concerned.
The Creator asks;
"Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor?"
"Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?" (Isa 40:13-14)
Oh, how the Almighty wished we would obey Him in all aspects of life for our own good;
"Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always so (hat it might go well with them and their children forever" (Deut 5: 29 NIV)
Now let's take a closer look at Deut 17:14-20:
"When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a King over us like all the nations around us, be sure to appoint over you the King God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite"
"The King, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again”.
"He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold."
"When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites."
"It is to be with him, and he is 10 read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law – and these decrees."
"and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel" (NIV).
Would anyone dare say that the standards of behaviour enjoined on the Israelite King are not the ideals on which any democratic society is supposed to be built?
The head of state must be of unquestionable nationality; he must have the mandate of the people; he must not amass wealth at the expense of his people; he must uphold the rule of law; and he must respect the principle of equality before the law.
The common strand running through both sets of criteria enshrined in the Bible is righteousness – doing what is right and treating the citizenry fairly and justly.
If any society would be established, and if any government would thrive, righteousness is the key. The following scriptures testify:
"When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy",
"Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed" (Prov. 11:10-11 NIV)
"Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness (Prov, 16:12)
In the end, doing right is everybody's business and for our common good.
For ordinary citizens, public education plays a vital role in fulfilling our civic responsibilities. And it is not a concept alien to the Bible. Rom. 10; 14 asks: "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
Realizing the importance of public education, the God-fearing King, Jehoshaphat, in his days as King of Judah, sent teachers throughout his kingdom to teach the people their civic obligations defined in the law:
"In the third year of his reign he sent his officials Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah to teach in the towns of Judah."
"They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the LORD; they went around all the towns of Judah and taught the people"
"The fear of the LORD fell on all the Kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not make war with Jehoshapat" (2 Chron. 17:7,9-10 NIV).
Who told you the work of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) is only a recent invention?
When people are taught their civic responsibilities peace reigns, but when they are less informed chaos and insecurity result. (Sec 2 Chron. 15:3-5)
How true the Word of the Lord rings, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea4:6).
All true knowledge proceeds from God. With the superior knowledge such as provided in God's Word, we should be able to lay a solid foundation of peace, justice and prosperity for our nation.
The theocratic rule of the prophet Samuel was established on such foundation. As he handed over the affairs of the nation to the newly inaugurated King Saul, he asked the people:
"Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hands have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have any of these, 1 will make it right"
"You have not cheated or oppressed us", the people replied. "You have not taken anything from anyone's hand" (1 Sam, 12:3-4)
I wonder how many of our public office seekers can pose the same question today/ How many will survive such rigorous public scrutiny?
Democracy is not a perfect form of government and no form of human government will ever be. But righteousness and democracy are no mismatch.
In fact, the form of government foretold in Bible prophecy for restored Israel, on her return from the dispersion, is unmistakably parliamentary democracy;
"Their leader will be one of their own; their ruler will arise from among them" (Jer. 30:21 NIV).
Bui don't ever think God doesn't vote! He has the biggest say in whether a government comes or goes (Dan. 2:21,4:25,35; Rom. 13:1 ).
On 7th December, 2008 all eligible Ghanaians will have their own “little’ say in what political party they would like to come to power. (Sec 1 Pet 2:13). In doing so, believers especially must keep in mind that God wants us to elect leaders who are capable. God-fearing, honest and selfless.
This is how God wants us to vote; it is His blue-print for a prosperous and equitable in society in which incompetent leaders will not steer the ship of state aground, the resources of the state will not be dissipated, and selfish gain will not become a political virtue.
By voting in accordance with God's instructions, His righteous will being done in heaven will partly be done on earth. (Mali 6:9-10).
It's God's will that we prosper in all things even as our souls prosper (3 John 1:2). God wants us to emerge from the elections as a more unified and prosperous nation,
His guidelines for choosing national leaders will play a major role; so will the vigilance and effective work of institutions like the police and the Electoral Commission in particular.
No less important is the culture of peace we must foster as election day approaches. God bless Ghana and make His face shine on us. Amen!