A new wave of Christian activism is causing more division than unity; the Bible has clear instructions for church leaders, priests, and pastors to avoid it
Sweeping political reforms such as the rights to vote, protection of labor, and slavery were pushed by Christians. These were rare occurrences because God rarely calls His people to politics but sets them apart for a higher purpose.
Christians in the United States have worked hard to ensure Christian prayers were incorporated into public schools. A few decades after, the Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional.
Likewise, the church fought to preserve traditional marriage but failed in 2015 when same-sex marriage was made constitutional.
Recently, evangelicals, again, are up and arms to repeal Roe vs. Wade as well as the Gender Equality Act because these bills, in a nutshell, promote immorality. In the meantime, church membership is rapidly declining in the country.
Justifying political activism because it’s a Biblical moral issue
Today, a growing number of pastors assume God calls them to meddle in politics, endorse a candidate, or decry government leaders. Unfortunately, it ends up dividing the body of Christ.
These Christian leaders in politics justify their engagement because they are fighting for a “biblical-moral position” to achieve a “moral objective.”
However, Jesus did not bother Himself to raise these issues with the government. Likewise, the apostles stayed away from politics.
- Pastors in a contentious political debate can cause division and a bad testimony.
- Pastors should not entangle themselves in civilian affairs.
- Jesus took the separation of church and state seriously.
- Rarely does God call Christian leaders in politics.
- A Christian’s mandate is to disciple others.
1. Political discussion can cause division and a bad testimony
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
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.
Pastors of Christ Commission Fellowship in politics
On May 11, 2018, CCF pastors and members gathered for a peaceful protest to support the ousted Cheif Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. The church leaders called it their “Jericho March” in front of the Supreme Court.
While the intention was noble, there were CCF members who favored the impeachment of the former Chief Justice. As a professing Christian, Sereno is also a political activist who openly criticized former President Duterte, who these members support.
The case of the Christian Values Movement
At the height of the 2022 presidential election campaign, Christ Commission Fellowship (CCF) senior Pastor Peter Tan Chi said, “Politics does not divide… instead should be discussed.” [Work to make a difference]
The church also established CVM (Christian Values Movement), which promoted three out of five presidential candidates. CCF members rooted openly for Leni Robredo, a Catholic, more than Manny Pacquiao, a born-again Christian.
Robredo ran to stop Bongbong Marcos Jr. (BBM) from winning. CCF leaders prayed for “evil leaders” not to be elected but exposed for their crimes. BBM was not included in CCF’s list of recommended candidates.
Several CCF members, pastors, and their wives, openly rooted for the opposition’s bet, Leni Robredo. Some of them criticized other CCF members who supported Bongbong Marcos Jr. They were labeled “brainwashed” and “deceived,” given that Marcos Sr. was listed as the world’s greatest thief.
In April 2022, an alleged “joke” about a candidate who was a “thief” was posted on social media by a pastor’s wife. Another pastor’s wife claimed BBM cheated his way to winning, triggering an unhealthy debate among pro and anti-Marcos.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
2. 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 certain political stand on government policies like the SOGIE Bill and peace talks, among a long list of political statements.
The fear of Christian leaders of not doing anything
May Christians assume that by keeping silent, unrighteous laws would be passed and put Christianity and its values in harm’s way.
The same fear was evident during Biblical times, yet the apostles never meddled in government affairs. They trusted God for whatever and however He chose to form their government.
2 Timothy 2 1
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since he aims to please the one who enlisted him.
How Jesus and the apostles dealt with politics and government
- Jesus never incited people against the Roman government. (Luke 23:5)
- Jesus refused to get entangled in political debate. (Matthew 22:15-22)
- Jesus was busy preaching or praying alone. (Matthew 5:1)
- Jesus surrendered his rights.
- The Apostles Paul and Peter gave instructions to submit to civil authorities.
- The Apostles focused on preaching and church planting. (Acts 8:4)
- The Apostles rebuked “religious church leaders.” (Acts 4-6)
- The only time the Apostles disobeyed authority was when they were asked to stop preaching Jesus. We must obey God rather than men; that is a given.
What Paul and Peter said in matters of submission
- Apostle Paul willingly submitted to divine imprisonment without grumbling.
- He was respectful to the commander and Governor Felix, who, in turn, gave favor and protection. (Philippians 2:14-15; Read commentary; C. Swindol)
- Peter said, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13). We do it for Jesus’ sake because He demonstrated it Himself.
- We submit to every human authority for the Lord’s sake: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority. (1 Peter 2:15)
- The Roman Emperors during this time, like, Nero, were wicked leaders. Yet Peter writes, “Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)
Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of “religious leaders,” “He never spoke out—not even once—against the injustices of the corrupt Roman civil authority. There is NO example of political activism advocated by God’s people in the Scriptures. [Read commentary by Dave Hunt]
Jesus rebuked “religious leaders, not the Emperor”
3. 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 Chron. 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).
4. Rarely does God call Christian leaders in politics
Nehemiah rebuked religious elites, not King Artaxerxes I
Christian activists often use Nehemiah as an example to protest civil authority. He led the “great protest” of the Bible 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, 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.
To begin with, Wilberforce wasn’t against the monarchy but with slavery, and rightly so. Before being part of Hitler’s assassination plot, Bonhoeffer was silent until he saw proof of Jewish atrocity.
While he is a hero, the end does not justify the means. As a result, he lost his opportunity to preach to the lost and became a dissident.
One thing is sure, the Ten Booms’ silent voice was heard loud and clear when they opened their home to save many Jews.
God raised prophets in the past to rebuke kings (Romans 13, Acts 22-24 commentary), but church leaders are tasked to make disciples. Don’t fall for Satan’s smokescreen to distract you.
In God’s time, rulers are replaced, unbelievers take them out if necessary.
5. A Christian’s mandate is to disciple others
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 is what 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
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.
Your job is to share the Gospel, not to change the government