This article is about politics. Moreover, it is about South African politics, although the principles will apply to Christians living in any democratic country. The last time I wrote about our national situation we were at a distinct inflection point moving closer and closer to the edge of a Failed State abyss… and here we are again, teetering on the crumbling edge of that same abyss.
Politics is a word that describes the governance of a country, or any organised group for that matter. At a national, provincial, and municipal level, it is about the rules that prescribe how we all live together, the financial and administrative aspects of national life, and so on. It is a vitally important subject, yet so many Christians avoid it as somehow unchristian or irrelevant. Perhaps this is because Jesus did not teach anything directly related to politics or because church leaders have aligned themselves and their churches with particular political parties that have brought the Gospel into disrepute. Perhaps it is also because so many of today’s politicians are incompetent, corrupt, and self-serving.
Urgent Call to Action
In South Africa, we are balancing precariously on the rim of the Failed State abyss.
In the main they are Marxists who have adopted some elements of capitalism in order to grow rich and powerful. Over three decades, they have attained this ignoble goal but in the process have left the people they govern in a generally worse condition than they were in under the previous regime. If we do not democratically remove this government from power in the soon-coming general elections, then almost everyone, except them, fears that we will plunge over the edge of the abyss into the horror of a Failed State. All citizens of South Africa, whether Christians or not, need to vote. However, time is so short that we need to do more than this: we need to get involved in ‘politics’ at one level or another. It is urgent!
What Did Jesus Say?
It is true that Jesus did not seem to concern himself with the politics of his day, but he did have something to say that points us in the right direction today. Peter and Paul then expanded on this in their letters.
Luke 20: 20-26 (Matthew 22 and Mark 12) records one of the best-known sayings of the Lord Jesus. The Pharisees tried to trap him by asking if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asked for a Roman coin that bore Caesar’s image and said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. The Creator made man in his own image, and so Jesus was saying that humans should give themselves to God whose image we bare. However, Caesar’s image was on the coin and so they should give that to him. A brilliant response indeed, but we should not focus on his allusion to the image of God to the extent that we miss the implication that Jesus was endorsing the Roman governmental right to what it was due.
Paul wrote that ‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities…’ (Romans 13:1). He then explained why and added, ‘Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour’. (Romans 13:7). He also wrote to Titus instructing him to, ‘Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.’ (Titus 3:1).
Peter’s teaching on the subject is probably the most succinct of all: ‘Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king’. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
The Lord Jesus, Paul, and Peter were positively interacting with the subject of politics and by so doing were giving us direction as we too interact with the politics of our nation today.
We cannot claim to have a biblical attitude towards government without engaging with the politics of our nation. This holds true even more when our nation is on life-support, as it is now.
How we can Respond
Our political response to the urgency of our times is:
- To pray. Paul wrote, ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’. (1 Timothy 2:1-2) So, we need to pray urgently and persistently.
- To be good citizens. Good citizens do not overthrow by force. Good citizens vote! Good citizens abstain from violent revolt but they do not abstain from the democratic obligation to vote.
- To be influencers. We all have circles of influence and can communicate positively with people who perhaps do not know what to do in our time of national distress. We can point them to Jesus, speak words of hope, help them to evaluate the options before them at this time, pray for them, and influence them by living out a Christian political resolve.
The Political Options Before Us
There are three ways set before us as we approach the 2024 elections:
- Support, finance, and vote for the party currently in power that has proven itself over three decades to be dominated by corrupt, self-serving, law-breaking, and incompetent plunderers.
- Support, finance, and vote for the more extreme parties that pose an even greater threat to our national life than does the ruling party.
- Support, finance, and vote for the emerging multiparty coalition of opposition parties that in its charter appear more in line with biblical values and in the main consist of God-fearing non-Marxist people of integrity and goodwill.
Of the three options, I know that only the third will even come close to satisfying my need to be governed by men and women who most closely conform to biblical values, principles, and priorities. I also feel strongly that only the third option will lead us into a time of peace and general well-being.
Without such conditions, we will not be able to exist and thrive as people of the book, Christians, and Jesus-followers.
By the way, political parties cannot be Jesus-followers no matter what they call themselves because they do not have spiritual life. However, their individual members can be, and often are, Jesus-followers.
The Nascent Opposition Coalition
Seven political parties have recently met to agree on a way forward and will be opening membership to all parties prepared to subscribe fully to their shared mission and governing principles. The big idea is to form a coalition government in waiting. We will all then be able to vote for any member party in the knowledge that it will be part of the post-2024 government. Together they will act, from now through to the elections, to reach the millions of citizens who have stopped voting because of disillusionment and hopelessness, and the millions who have not ever voted.
The new coalition government will govern in accordance with shared governing principles, which they list as a commitment to:
- The South African Constitution, the rule of law, and equality before the law.
- Decentralising power to the lowest effective level of government.
- Accountable, transparent government with zero tolerance for corruption.
- A capable government that spends public money efficiently to deliver quality services to all.
- A caring government that puts people first and prioritises the poor.
- An open market economy.
- Policies guided by evidence that they produce positive results for society.
- Redress our unjust past by promoting non-racialism and unity in our diversity.
In addition to these principles, they have established the following eight priorities:
- Growing the economy and creating jobs.
- Ending load shedding and achieving energy security.
- Achieving law and order that combats crime, corruption, and drugs.
- Ensuring quality education that delivers opportunities for all.
- Delivering basic services to all through high-quality infrastructure.
- Building a professional public service that delivers to all and ending cadre deployment.
- Ensuring quality healthcare for all within a caring healthcare system.
- Building a social relief framework for South African households living in poverty.
Now these principles and priorities are not uniquely Christian or biblical, but they do not contradict a biblical Christian view. We have to concede that Jesus-followers do not constitute the majority of citizens in our country and that constitutionally we are a secular state. I would dearly love to see our constitution changed back to its original preface, ‘In humble submission to almighty God, we the people of South Africa…’ and I believe that this might well be possible under the proposed coalition government. I also believe that if people of integrity, goodwill, and intelligence governed us, we would see many godly changes coming into our national life.
Read HERE for the contract signed by the seven founding parties to the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa.
You might be tempted to think that all we need to do is pitch up at the voting station and make our marks against a coalition partner organisation. However, it may not even get that far, or it may not be as effective as hoped for, if we do not act now.
Each of us needs to pray for and support the coalition and we may even need to volunteer our services and financial support to the political party of our choice within the coalition. How are they going to reach the millions of non-voters without our help? How are they going to withstand the fury of the godless without our prayer and encouragement?
The matter is urgent, the times are critical and every one of us needs to arise from our complacency or fear-induced slumber and act! May Almighty God give us resolve, perseverance, and success. May He have mercy on us!