“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.” (Daniel 1:8,9)
The “new order of the ages” which the American political experiment represents is based on the idea of a people banded together by political, economic, cultural, and even spiritual ties for the sake of advancing individual opportunity and the common weal. Ours was never intended to be a government by aristocrats only, much less by a divine right monarch; rather, the American Constitution declares from the first words that it is a people’s document for a people’s republic and, as such, must be administered and preserved by the very people whose lives it orders.
“We the people” therefore must be ready, as the opportunity arises, to serve in the work of governing our neighbors and ourselves. There is no “ruling class” from which to fill the ranks of government from the local to the federal levels. That duty falls to qualified citizens who are burdened by the needs of the larger community and willing to engage the political process in public service.
This, of course, includes the followers of Jesus Christ. Christians are not exempt from the duty and privilege of serving in government. Every legitimate vocation is open to the followers of Christ, and this includes working in government. Believers must be ready like any other citizen to fulfill their civic duty and serve in whatever roles or opportunities the political process and work of government might require or afford.
This begins, of course, with being an informed citizen and faithfully attending to our duty to vote, as well as, when called upon, to serve on a jury of our peers. If we do not fulfill these most fundamental responsibilities, we fail in our civic duty as stewards of the common weal. Moreover, the door to additional areas of service will most likely be closed to any aspirants who will not fulfill these basic obligations.
But in whatever arena or level of government or politics we may be inclined to serve our fellow citizens, believers must be careful to fulfill their callings in a way that honors God. As believers ponder entering the arena of politics and government, to fulfill in part what they owe to Caesar, they would do well to consider the example of Daniel and to follow in the footsteps of this great servant of God.
From Daniel we can learn eight essential principles for serving God in the realm of politics and government—principles that will allow us, when called upon, to fulfill this part of Caesar’s due in a manner consistent with our biblical worldview.
NO COMPROMISES First, like Daniel, we must resolve that we will not compromise our fundamental beliefs and convictions as the followers of Jesus Christ (Daniel 1:8; 6:6-10). This is a heart decision that every believer must resolve before taking the first step toward public service. Without this conviction in place from the beginning of the process, the door will be open to whatever pragmatic compromises may appear to advance political aspirations.
This commitment should be taken consciously before God and communicated to other believers who will be able to support the aspirant to public office in prayer and with encouragement and counsel.
FULL DISCLOSURE Also like Daniel, we must be upfront and clear about our most basic convictions (Daniel 1:9-13; 2:27,28). There are several reasons why we might not do this. We might be afraid of being stereotyped by the media or others. We might be afraid of being exposed as a hypocrite at some point, due to some previous shortcoming or inconsistency. Or we might be afraid of not being able consistently to connect our spiritual convictions with our political intentions. The only way to overcome these fears is to face them by being completely honest about our faith and seeking whatever help we can gain from counselors and colleagues to help us in preparing for these and other obstacles to office.
COURAGE IN CRISIS Courage in the face of crisis shows up by being willing to lead when everyone else is fumbling, fretting, or fleeing (Daniel 2:15-23). Difficult times often require bold political solutions, solutions that can involve risk to a politician’s career. Those from the Christian community who serve in the public realm must not be reluctant to recommend and take the lead in offering biblically-based initiatives to overcome systemic evils and alleviate unforeseen emergencies.
This is not to say that Christians in public service must preach their way into leadership. It is enough if we recommend actions consistent with the biblical worldview and lead the way to making them work.
A good example of this is the faith-based initiative movement that has been gathering momentum for a couple of decades. Getting churches and religious groups more involved in mitigating certain social crises is a biblical idea; the courage of those who have promoted faith-based initiatives is in being willing to call on government to help in such efforts without intruding on the religious values of those ministries to whose aid they come. Another example is the work of Justice Fellowship in promoting biblical justice in prisons and in the larger community.
THIN-ENTERING WEDGES Christians in public service must be willing to bide their time and be patient, waiting for any opportunity to initiate the slightest turn toward a more biblical policy in any given area (Daniel 2:26-30). Daniel did not try to overhaul all of Nebuchadnezzar’s policies; instead, he stepped forward boldly at a moment of crisis and addressed one situation in a way that both resolved the king’s consternation and put him in the best possible light. At the same time, Daniel used that opportunity to point the king beyond his own finitude to a transcendent realm where God makes decisions and takes actions affecting men and history.
Christians in public service should be alert to such opportunities and seek ways of engaging their colleagues in taking actions consistent with a Biblical worldview, making sure that all who are involved are given proper credit for their contribution, and without using every such situation as a religious soapbox. More opportunities will come the way of those who make the most of even the smallest that God drops in their laps.
PRIVATE CONFRONTATIONS Christians in public service must not shy away from private confrontations on matters of social policy, moral practice, or spiritual concern (Daniel 4). Daniel earned the right to speak to Nebuchadnezzar in the manner he did concerning his own heinous policies; however, he was careful to do so in the privacy of the king’s private chambers, and not in a public hearing or by way of the media. The king did not listen to Daniel’s warning at the time; however, his explicit prophetic word rang in the king’s ears during his time of duress and was critical in bringing Nebuchadnezzar to a new view of God and the requirements of kings.
PUBLIC EXPOSURE There are times, however, when public confrontations are inescapable (Daniel 5). In debates on the campaign trail, in committee sessions, during public hearings, or in response to direct questions from the media, Christians must be prepared to speak to the deficiencies of policy and character that are obvious to all but addressed by none. As in Daniel’s case, we would expect such times to be few and far between. However, the Christian in public service must not shy away from commenting on the moral or ethical nature of certain policies and public actions. To back away from such prophetic obligations would not be an act of graciousness, but of condoning.
EXCELLENCE IN ALL THINGS Christians serving in the public square must make sure that everything they do reflects their commitment to God, His truth, and the forms of goodness, excellence, and wisdom that political leadership requires. Daniel “became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him” (6:3). He worked hard and he worked well; thus, Daniel consistently gained more responsibility and power. In the same way believers serving in the public square must labor to do the best possible job for their constituencies and for the truth of God.
UNSHAKEABLE FOUNDATIONS Finally, believers in public service must make sure their foundations in God’s grace and truth are sure and firmly anchored. They must be diligent in prayer and in reading and meditating on God’s Word (Daniel 9:1-3). They should link up with other believers in the public square, for mutual encouragement and accountability (Daniel 2:17,18). And they must make sure to bathe all their work in public service in prayer, seeking the Lord and His will for their constituents and the community and nation in all they do (Daniel 2:19-23).
Daniel provides an excellent example for believers thinking about entering into public service as part of what they owe to the government for which we are all ultimately responsible. By studying carefully and meditating at length on Daniel’s career, believers in public service might become better fitted to serve the needs of Caesar and to bring honor and glory to God in that crucial arena.
FOR REFLECTION Do you know any believers who are serving in the public square at this time? Why not forward this essay to them and, at the same time, commit yourself to more faithful prayer on their behalf?
T. M. Moore is dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. Sign up at his website to receive his daily email devotional Crosfigell, reflections on Scripture and the Celtic Christian tradition, or sign up at WilberforceProject.com to receive his daily study, ViewPoint, studies in Christian worldview living. T. M. and his wife and editor, Susie, make their home in Hamilton, Va.
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