Part of that broad view includes getting involved in government—because government invariably is involved with all of us.
"Being salt and light in this age means contending responsibly for godly standards wherever they are under assault," Tom Minnery writes. "There is no escaping the mixture of religion and politics, because nearly every law is the result of somebody’s judgment about what is good and what is bad."Minnery, Tom, Why You Can’t Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape Our Culture (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001), p. 65.
Some Christians are wary of involvement in politics and government, either because they don’t like the way some other Christians have done it or because they find politics to be corrupt. But the purpose of government, as God created it, is a noble one. As Chuck Colson writes in God and Government:
The state was instituted by God to restrain sin and promote a just social order. Western political thought often mistakenly assumes that the role of government is determined solely by the will of the people. The biblical reality is different. On the eve of His execution, Jesus told Pilate that he held his office of political authority only because it had been granted him by God. The apostle Paul spoke of civil authority as ‘God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.’ Peter used similar language, saying that governments were set by God to ‘punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right.’Colson, Charles, God and Government (Zondervan, 2007), pp. 101-102.
The state was created for limited purposes, of course. "While it cannot redeem the world or be used as a tool to establish the Kingdom of God, civil government does set the boundaries for human behavior," Colson says. "The state is not a remedy for sin, but a means to restrain it."Colson, p. 102.
Sometimes, though, the state doesn’t do its job. Worse, sometimes it does the opposite — promoting sin instead of restraining it, and actively undermining our social and moral foundations instead of supporting them. And at those times, especially, we have to pay attention to what government does, because we must live with the results of its actions.
"Political acts have profound human consequences," Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner write in City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era. "It makes a very great difference whether people live in freedom or servitude; whether government promotes a culture of life or a culture of death; whether the state is a guardian or an enemy of human dignity."Gerson, Michael and Peter Wehner, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (Moody Publishers, 2010), p. 24.
Gerson and Wehner go on:
Laws express moral beliefs and judgments. Like throwing a pebble into a pond, the waves ripple outward. They tell citizens what our society ought to value and condemn. … That is not all that laws do, but it is among the most important things that they do.
Suppose that, next year, all fifty states decide to legalize marijuana and cocaine use, prostitution and same-sex marriage. Regardless of where you stand on the issues, do you doubt that, if such laws stayed in effect for fifty years, they wouldn’t fundamentally alter our views, including our moral views, of these issues?Gerson and Wehner, p. 31.
Christians are anything but helpless in our country, however. We have a right to take action — and also, as Tom Minnery points out, a responsibility.
Unlike the Roman Empire in the first century, our country is a participatory republic. We have the obligation to make our voices heard and to get involved in dialogue. Our government asks us, as citizens, to participate, not merely to shut up and obey. In the United States, ‘We, the people’ means Christians as well as non-Christians. Submission in our political system includes being willing to contribute to the political process, not withdraw from it.Minnery, p. 100.