Six Biblical Reasons to Avoid Politics Amidst a Divisive New Christian Activism in the Philippines
- Christians are set-apart.
- Politics divides people.
- Pastors should not entangle themselves in civilian affairs.
- Jesus took the separation of church and state seriously.
- God doesn’t call Christian leaders to meddle in politics.
- A Christian’s mandate is to disciple others.
1. Church leaders are set-apart to minister to God’s people
Sweeping political reforms such as women’s suffrage, labor, and slavery were pushed by Christians at a time when governments were taking shape. At the same time, preachers and church leaders led a great spiritual revival because God has always set apart church leaders for His people—not the changing of a government.
In the United States, Christian leaders made significant efforts to maintain their traditions within the government system.
Numerous church leaders seem to have lost sight of their mandate from heaven, which has nothing to do with bipartisan support and politics.
In the USA, the decline of church membership is blamed on Christians because of political bickering precisely what Satan wants.
Perhaps spiritual leaders meddling in politics should reflect on walking on Manila’s street with sackcloth and ashes on their forehead—as the Kings of Israel did when God judged their nation.
2. Political discussion can cause division and flawed testimony
Council of Churches in the Philippines tagged a communist front
In 2019, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) was labeled a terrorist because they openly criticized the government. That is not a good testimony; no wonder the apostles urged us to live a peaceable life.
Evangelical leaders supporting Justice Sereno
On May 11, 2018, some pastors and members from Christ Commission Fellowship (CCF) gathered for a peaceful protest to support the ousted Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. The church leaders called it their “Jericho March” before the Supreme Court.
Sereno, who identifies as a Christian, has transformed into a political activist. At the height of anti-Duterte sentiments, Sereno slammed those who were silent on how Duterte ran the government. She expressed the same sentiment should Marcos Jr. win.
A fighter, she has threatened a netizen with libel for his unkind comment on her post—and this is part of her unfortunate testimony.
Pastor’s wives face backlash over a political post
In April 2022, a pastor’s wife posted an alleged “joke” about a candidate who was a “thief” on social media. Another pastor’s wife claimed BBM cheated his way to winning, triggering an unhealthy debate (and unfriending) among pro and anti-Marcos.
The “unfriending” among CCF members began when President Rodrigo Duterte ran for President. Recently, the divide has moved onto the presidency of President Bong Bong Marcos Jr. (BBM), who won against the opposition’s Leni Robredo.
CCF deacons and wives of its elders openly endorsed Robredo on their Facebook accounts. Their social media have become a sea of pink while the other half was “red and green” for BBM.
Christian Values Movement
In 2021, CCF established CVM (Christian Values Movement), which promoted three out of five presidential candidates. CCF members rooted openly for Leni Robredo, who was a Catholic.
Robredo ran for office to prevent Marcos Jr. from winning, and certain CCF leaders urged people to pray that “wicked leaders” would not be elected but rather exposed for their offenses.
CCF did not endorse Marcos Jr. and his running mate Sarah Duterte due to Marcos Jr.’s family history of corruption and Sarah Duterte’s association with her father’s administration. Therefore, the decision was clearly bipartisan.
At the height of the 2022 election campaign, CCF senior Pastor Peter Tan Chi said, “Politics does not divide… instead should be discussed.”
This inspired numerous CCF members to engage in political discussions, particularly on social media platforms, which turned into an unhealthy debate for the most part. [Work to make a difference]
Conflict and dissension
The outcome was evident: there was no progress, only conflict, fragmentation, and noise. Duterte remained in power, and despite the opposition from some CCF leaders and their spouses, Marcos Jr. emerged victorious. However, at what cost?
1 Timothy 2:1-2
First, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, kings and all those in authority, so we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
3. Pastors should not entangle themselves in civilian affairs
The Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches
Since the Marcos era, the Catholic clergy has politicized the church. In 2005, Bishop Ephraim Tendero of the Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) was invited by President Corazon Aquino to be part of a commission to review the 1987 constitution.
Since then, PCEC has taken a particular political stand on government policies like the SOGIE Bill and peace talks, among a long list of (unsolicited) political statements.
2 Timothy 2 1
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since he aims to please the one who enlisted him.
The fear of Christians of not doing anything
Some Christians fear that silence means enabling unrighteousness and immorality to dominate, and similar messages dominated the social media accounts of CCF members pushing for presidential candidate Leni Robredo.
Pastor Jonathan Fenix, one of the many outspoken anti-Marcos and Duterte leadership styles, encouraged other Christians to “stand up” against such a regime.
These Christians put their faith in God for the formation and structure of their government, believing that it would be according to His will and plan.
What Jesus did and did not
Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of “religious leaders,” not the Emperor. “He never spoke out—not even once—against the injustices of the corrupt Roman civil authority.
Jesus rebuked religious leaders, not the Emperor.
4. Jesus took the separation of church and state seriously
There are no Biblical accounts of Jesus speaking out against any political issues. Neither He nor the apostles said anything about how the Roman government should be run. Jesus never encouraged the Jews to protest or rally but told His disciples to submit to authority.
The Jews observed a Judeo-decentralized government system, the antecedent of the separation of church and state. They operated within their own (theocratic) government and a “supreme court” that governed the people with justice (Deuteronomy 16:18).
Separation of church and State in the Bible
The Bible describes a “decentralized governmental system” and a jurisdictional separation between Church and State. Here are examples of “Biblical Jurisdictional Separation” in the Old Testament:
- King Saul served as a civil official, while Ahimelech ministered as the chief ecclesiastical leader in the nation (1 Sam. 10 and 21).
- David was king, while Abiathar carried out the duties of a priest (1 Chronicle 15:11).
- David’s son Solomon ruled as a civil officer while Zadok pursued ecclesiastical obligations (1 Kings 1:45).
- King Joash and Jehoiada, the priest (2 Kings 11), King Josiah, and the priest Hilkiah (2 Kings 22:4) maintained jurisdictional separation.
- Church and state as parallel institutions operated with Governor Nehemiah (Neh. 7) and Priest Ezra (Neh. 8).
5. Don’t assume it’s God calling you to meddle in politics
Pastors often use the examples of Nehemiah, Wilberforce, and Bonhoeffer to justify political discussion in the pulpits. In the Bible, there is no example, not even one, of Jesus or His disciples, entangling themselves in political opposition.
Nehemiah rebuked religious elites, not King Artaxerxes I
Nehemiah is the most popular Bible character that “Christians in politics” often use to defend their advocacy. In modern history, they always drop the names of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
But they fail to say that Nehemiah, who the “great protest” of the Bible, did it against religious leaders—not King Artaxerxes.
Nehemiah rebuked the Jewish elites and religious leaders. Likewise, Esther exposed evil, too—but she never criticized King Ahasuerus. [Examples of submission to authority]
Differentiating Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, and the Ten Booms
Many use William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to justify criticizing the government, but it is difficult to draw between exposing or criticizing evil.
- Wilberforce was not fighting against the monarchy but against slavery, and rightly so.
- Before being part of Hitler’s assassination plot, Bonhoeffer was silent until he saw proof of Jewish atrocity.
While Bonhoeffer is seen as a Christian hero, the end does not justify the means. As a result, he lost his opportunity to preach to the lost and became a dissident. His views on theological and political issues were complex, and some of his ideas could be seen as dangerously liberal.
One thing is sure, the Ten Booms’ silent voice was heard loud and clear when they opened their home to save many Jews.
Christians wage an invisible battle
- God raised prophets in the past to rebuke kings (Acts 22-24)
- Church leaders are tasked to make disciples. (Matthew 28:18)
- God can raise unbelievers to accomplish His will. (Acts 2:23)
- Evil will slay the wicked, and they will be condemned. (Psalm 34:21)
In God’s time, rulers are replaced, unbelievers take them out if necessary.
5. A Christian’s mandate is to disciple others
Don’t confuse “exposing evil” with “bipartisan politics”
The Bible mandates Christians to “expose evil.” However, Jesus, despite knowing the evil of the Roman government, avoided political discussions, nor did He expose them. Instead, He told His disciples to preach.
Christians must expose and take no part in evil, such as false doctrine, paganism, and witchery (See Ephesians 5:11 commentary). These are the works of the devil, but God is the one who appoints kings.
God is raising preachers, not political activists
God used “evil kings” to judge a nation to cause repentance in the past. He also “raised prophets” to rebuke leaders. Today, God uses unbelievers to expose evil and Christians to disciple others, for that matters most.
We need Bible-believing Filipinos in the judicial, legislative, and executive branches. However, only the Gospel can transform the government and the people. The reason God is raising preachers—not Christian activists.
The bottom line, there will never be social justice until Jesus returns
Social injustice won’t be served until Jesus returns. In the meantime, “Your job is to share the Gospel, not to change the government,” As Carey Nieuwhof puts it. In the meantime, Christians should model the kindness and humility of Jesus.
Your job is to share the Gospel, not to change the government