From the moment the first British settlers came to Kenya, a Bible in hand and dedicated the land to “the glory of God, and the Propagation of the Christian Faith,” the Christian Church has played a central role in shaping the governmental structure of our nation.
In this election year and facing the unprecedented judicial Presidential election nullification based on vague “illegalities and irregularities”, it is timely to look at what God’s Word says about civil government, and how Christians are to relate to secular authority. The Bible says more about this issue than you may realize.
Sadly, Christians who are involved in the political process are often derided as being some sort of fringe group, the “radical Christian right.” However, the critics often overlook the fact that Christians have been on the cutting edge of some of the greatest reforms in history, including the development of many hospitals, charities, and in recent years some of our colleges and universities. From the day Kenya attained independence to the struggle for reforms against single party rule of the 1980s, Christians have been on the front lines of making Kenya a better place for all.
Much is said about the “separation of Church and State.” While discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this Sermon, there are a number of Scriptural principles that should be examined. It is true that the Bible teaches that spiritual government (Church) and political government (State) are two separate institutions, however, they must function in ways that are complimentary to each other.
Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta captured the intricate relationship between the two in a socio-political context that baffle many. While the early missionaries introduced Christianity to the African Continent, they paved the way for colonial settlement and administration in Kenya that led to a government imposed upon the African who did not fully understand both invasion into their lives.
The Bible explains how it worked in ancient Israel. Moses was the political leader (Exodus 18:15-16), while his brother Aaron served in the Priesthood as the spiritual leader (Exodus 28-29) A similar relationship is seen between King Josiah and Hilkiah the Priest (2 Kings 22.) Another example would be Nehemiah the Governor (Nehemiah 7:1-7,) and Ezra the Scribe (Nehemiah 8:1-8.) Above all, the highest law is God’s Law, and He expects all human governments to be subject to it (Psalm 2:10-12; Isaiah 8:20.).
Kindly understand, I am not “preaching politics.” Ultimately, genuine change comes through change of our hearts, which only occurs as people respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, we do still live in a fallen, sinful world, and as we will see, God has ordained the system of civil government to protect the innocent, and to maintain proper order. The Christian life carries a prophetic voice that calls us to shine light into dark places.
Be the salt and light to a dying world
Jesus’ call for His people to be salt and light to a dying world covers every aspect of life (Matthew 5:13-14,) including how we vote and relate to our government. Christians are to be peaceful, law abiding citizens, (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-15.) We are to pray for and honour our government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3,) faithfully pay our taxes (Matthew 22:21,) and to work for the highest good of all people (Proverbs 3:27; Galatians 6:10.) This includes working to promote Godly principles in politics and government (Proverbs 29:2.)
The Romans 13:1-7 Scripture, is a key text in understanding what the Scriptures say about the relation of civil and spiritual authority. In this passage, we see that civil government is ordained by God to punish evil, and preserve the peace in a society. It even goes as far as to call government servants ministers of God! (Obviously, many don’t always live up to it, but that is God’s ideal nonetheless.) In light of this, the Bible calls us to obey all civil laws, unless these laws are in direct violation to the laws and commandments of God (see Acts 4:19.)
There are a number of people in the Bible that God specifically called to work for change in the political and governmental arena. This includes men and women such as Joseph (Genesis 41:39-41), Deborah (Judges 5:1-7), Gideon (Judges 6:11-14), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-19), David (1 Samuel 16:1-13), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1-11), and Daniel (Daniel 1:4-6; 18-21)(5).
In our day and age, there are a number of avenues through which we can work for change in civil authority. One important avenue we should avail ourselves of is Election Day; the God given privilege of voting is something we should never take for granted. Keep in mind that following Jesus transcends blind loyalty to political parties and there is room among Christians for some honest difference of opinion in regard to politics. Nevertheless, there are some Biblical principles that God requires us all to follow when it comes to the stands we take.
These Biblically mandated issues include:
- Speaking out for innocent life (Proverbs 31:8.) This includes unborn children and school children (Psalm 139:13-16; Isaiah 44:2, 24; 49:1-5; Jeremiah 1:5)
- Confronting sin and moral decay like corruption (Proverbs 14:34; Isaiah 5:20; Jonah 1:2)
- Defending the poor and oppressed (Psalm 10:2; Isaiah 10:1-2; Amos 2:6-7)
- Working toward the peace and blessing of Israel (Genesis 12:3; 27:29; Psalm 122:6)
Secondly, contrary to popular belief, character DOES count when choosing our leaders. Exodus 18:21-22 gives us a good model to follow. These passages show us that civil leaders are to be “…able men who fear God…men of truth, hating covetousness (greed)”. If our country had always followed these common sense guidelines when casting our votes, we would be a much stronger nation today.
The Bible describes leadership as being a sacred trust, and placing a person in such a position is a very serious thing. For example, in 1 Timothy 5:22, Paul instructs the young Pastor Timothy to “Lay hands suddenly on no man (to ordain him into the ministry,) neither be partaker of other men’s sins” In other words, if we hastily put a person into leadership who is not worthy of it, we risk bearing the guilt of that person’s sin.
What does this have to do with voting?
As pointed out earlier, the Bible also describes government leaders as being ministers of God. In this case, we “ordain” our leaders by our votes, support, and influence. If we support politicians who support ungodly causes, or promote immoral behaviour, God holds us responsible for that. To bid a person “Godspeed” in their sin is to become an accomplice of that same sin (2 John 11.) – a very sobering thought.
Finally, we can never fall into the trap of substituting political involvement for the Gospel. We must recognize that politics can never be an instrument of salvation. While we can and should work for positive change, this is, at best, a public service solution. At their root, a nation’s problems are always spiritual in nature.
When it comes to eternal issues, simply “moralizing” our ethnicity or culture is not enough. Winning people to our political causes is not enough. People can embrace all of the “Christianized” cultural influences in the world, but without a personal relationship with God, they are still be totally lost.
It has to start with each of us as individuals. God gives us the wonderful promise that “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
We can all start right where we are.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” (Psalms 33:12).
Every Kenyan owns his or her motherland in equal terms before God. Whatever ethnic, educational, religious or financial or land ownership status, we are all equal before God. We must all humble ourselves, be honest to ourselves and work for the good of each one of us and our Nation.
Greed for power, money and all other earthly pleasures and desires are driven by evil spirits. Driven by such greed, some false prophets emerge promising Heaven but delivering their followers to hell.
I invite you to ponder over the following about false prophets.
In religion, a false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or who uses that gift for evil ends. Often, someone who is considered a “true prophet” by some people is simultaneously considered a “false prophet” by others, even within the same religion as the “prophet” in question. The term is sometimes applied outside religion to describe someone who fervently promotes a theory that the speaker thinks is false.
Throughout the New Testament, there are warnings of both false prophets and false Messiahs, and believers are adjured to be vigilant. The following verses (Matthew 7:15–23) are from the Sermon on the Mount:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
The New Testament addresses the same point of a false prophet predicting correctly and Jesus predicted the future appearance of false Christs and false prophets, affirming that they can perform great signs and miracles. The following verses (;24) are from the Olivet Discourse:
“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. . . . For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matthew ;24 NIV).
That is a perfect description of what Kenya elections have become characterized by a deluge of false promises, false prophets and intense hate that need never be part of the electoral process.