Christians in Public Service: Biblical Foundations, Lessons, and Dangers

In this article I intend to present:

  • Biblical foundations for political involvement
  • Examples of godly politicians in the Bible
  • A story of how I got involved in politics
  • Seven reasons why I am in politics
  • Seven lessons God has taught me while in politics
  • Dangers I see in politics
  • Practical advice for those who feel called into politics
  • Practical advice for Christians not involved in politics

Biblical Foundations
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.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Jesus has called us to be salt and light. But what is the function of salt and light in relation to the world?

  • Salt gives taste to food and serves as a conserver from decay and putrefaction.
  • Light helps us see direction and reveals things.

To be potent, salt has to be mixed with the material it needs to either give taste or conserve. Light needs to be put where there is darkness for there to be effect. One of my pastor friends once asked me, “Where is light most needed—the place full of light or the place full of darkness?” The answer was obvious.

This brings me to the second Bible passage: “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’” (Mark 16:15). This verse is classically understood as a command to go into all the geographical parts of the world and preach the good news. That is absolutely true. But it also means, “Go into every area of the world and be the good news, the testimony of what God has done for the world.” When I say, “area of the world,” I mean every aspect of the world, every strata of the world.

There are seven strategic areas of influence that God wants his children to bear Christ’s testimony. Some people call these the seven mountains of influence. These include:

  1. Arts and entertainment
  2. Business
  3. Education and research
  4. Family
  5. Politics
  6. Mass media
  7. Religion

 

Examples of Godly Politicians
There are many examples of godly men and women whom God used in the public sphere. In addition to the judges and kings of Israel who served under the theocratic system of Jewish government, there are examples of godly men and women who God thrust into politics.

  • Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, unfairly accused by Potiphar’s wife, and unjustly imprisoned. After thirteen years of such injustice, he was appointed prime minister of Egypt.

  • Esther won the beauty contest of Babylon. The king of Babylon, Xerxes, chose her as his wife. As the first lady for a world super power, God’s used her to save the Jews from the treacherous plans of Haman, one of the king’s closest deputies who wanted to exterminate the Jews. In the end, Haman was executed and Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, was promoted in his place.
  • Nehemiah was a royal cupbearer for Artaxerxes, the Persian king. Being a cupbearer was a position of great political influence. God later used Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It is important to note how his position as cupbearer aided the process of rebuilding the ruined walls of Jerusalem. He later was to serve as its governor.
  • Daniel was among the Jewish exiles during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. He excelled in his studies together with his three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were employed into the Babylonian civil service, and because of their excellence were constantly promoted. Daniel later became one of the most respected governors of one of the provinces of Bayblon. When Darius, king of Persia, conquered Babylon, Daniel continued his political career under the new regime as the first of the three presidents supervising the work of the 120 princes who ruled the kingdom of Persia. Daniel was also a man of prayer and had prophetic insight.

How I Got Involved
I served with the Nigerian IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) for five years (1988-1993) as a student leader and later as a traveling secretary before coming to Poland in 1993 as missionary with IFES. I served with IFES in Poland for another five years. In 1998, I felt called into church planting in areas of Poland where there were no Bible-based churches. So for five years we planted or facilitated the planting of five churches. In 2003, we felt it was time to move to Lodz, the second largest city in Poland. I began leading the first 24/7 prayer center in Poland.

We were also involved in a number of charity projects (e.g., distributing Christmas packages to the poor and giving scholarships to students through our language school). Many of our neighbours and people we worked with began to tell me that they thought I should run for elections.

I had never thought I would get involved in politics. After much prayer and consultation, I decided to run for the district council elections in 2005. Of the 107 candidates I received the highest number of votes to serve as one of the fifteen councilors in my district. I was also elected to serve as vice chairman. This was spectacular considering the fact that I was the only black person in a city known for its racial biases.

In 2006, I ran in the city council elections and came in third. Two councilors were chosen. In 2007, I ran in the Polish parliamentary elections and came in seventh. Five were chosen to serve as MPs (members of parliament). In 2008, one of the councilors chosen was appointed deputy mayor, opening the way for me to become a city councilor. I was the first black city councilor in Lodz. In 2009, one of the MPs became a member of the European parlament (MEP). I am number one on the reserve list to the Polish parliament. If that happens, I would be the first ever black MP in the history of Poland.

Reasons I Am in Politics

  1. I have been called to be salt and light in the world.

  2. There are examples in the Bible of people God used in the political arena.
  3. I feel I should be active in creating policies that determine the realities that we live in instead of being passive and bearing the consequences of policies created by others.
  4. The desire was aroused in me. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

  5. My involvement was confirmed by people from whom I sought counsel.
  6. I see the need to help people. I have consultations every week as councilor and there are always long queues of people who need help.
  7. It is a profession like any other (teacher, medical doctor, lawyer, engineer, publisher, etc.) and I am called to it.

Lessons
My involvement in politics has been a new adventure with God. It has not been easy. There are many things God has been teaching me. Here are seven.

  1. Do not seek how others can serve you; seek how you can serve others. Greatness is not achieved by seeking to be great. Greatness is achieved by helping others to achieve greatness (Luke 22:25-27).

  2. Do not reward evil with evil. Reward evil with good. God is the judge and rewarder (Romans 12:17-19).
  3. When attacked, do not defend yourself. God will be your defense (Matthew 5:38-42).
  4. Do not take the glory for successes. In humility, confess your dependence upon God’s grace (John 15:1-8).
  5. Every time you are oppressed, persecuted, and unjustly treated, rejoice because your promotion and advancement will follow (Exodus 1:12).
  6. Do not put your trust in humans; put your trust in God (Jeremiah 17:5-10).
  7. To leave a legacy, take your time and live rightly. It’s not about instant results.

Dangers
There are some dangers I have observed in getting involved in politics. But these dangers are also there in other facets of life:

  1. Political involvement can become an end in itself instead of a means to an end.

  2. People who are not well-grounded in Christ can easily fall when faced with temptation.
  3. Christian politicians become prime targets of the enemy because they are directly involved in an area that has been the devil’s domain. In Daniel we read of demonic princes responsible for nations and kingdoms. Light coming into this sphere of darkness will be noticed and reacted against.
  4. Politics demands a lot of work and may influence family relations.
  5. Evil companionship corrupts good manners. Be careful with whom we relate closely.

Practical Advice for Those in Politics
Start by giving all of your life to Jesus. Real service starts with giving our lives as living sacrifices to him—that he may do with us what he wills (see Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:15). Beyond that:

  1. Know your calling.

  2. Research and know your community. What are the greatest felt needs of the people? Do you have what it takes to meet these needs?
  3. Get involved; start somewhere.
  4. Begin with small steps and be faithful in “small” things.
  5. Learn, learn, learn. Be an example of excellence, good quality, and professionalism.
  6. Be informed. Politicans are people who have the latest information.
  7. Pray, pray, pray. Daniel prayed three times a day. Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance. Politics is like a minefield. Prayer will give you the spiritual glasses and discernment needed to know where to step on.

Practical Advice for Christians Not in Politics

  1. Appreciate, encourage, and support Christian politicians around you.

  2. Do not judge or condemn them because they are associated with a political party or group whose manifesto you consider to be un-Christian.
  3. Pray for other Christian politicians. Request prayers from them. Meet with them occasionally to pray for and with them.
  4. Do not exploit or take advantage of them for your own ends. Many Christians consider politicians as their source of financial support. This is unethical. If there are ways they can be of help to you, go through the normal administrative channel.
  5. Do not put them on a pedestal. They are normal, ordinary people. Give honor to whom honor is due but do not exaggerate. It could be embarrassing.

Summary
God is looking for people he can use as his vessels to reach out to the perishing world. Salt and light are useful only when they are in the right place fulfilling their functions of giving taste, conserving, revealing, and giving direction. God is still asking, “Whom shall I send? Who shall go for us?” Jesus is still commanding us to go into ALL the world and make disciples of all. The creation is groaning in expectation for the manifestation of the children of God. God wants to use you.


John Abraham Godson is a member of the Polish parliament. He came to Poland in 1993 as a missionary with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). He served as deputy chair of the Intercession Working Group of The Lausanne Movement between 2005 and 2010. He is married with four children. They make their home in Lodz, Central Poland.