Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: August, 2019
Kolawole Oladotun Paul
Department of Religious Studies, Olabisi Onabanjo University
Journal Full Text PDF: The Ministers and Politics: A Cross Examination.
If there is anything that will spark a spontaneous debate, if not an outright argument, it is a discussion involving politics, even among believers. The attitude of citizens of nation to the leadership sphere (politics) matters a lot, even as followers of Christ. Several people are of the opinion that “religion and politics don’t mix, can this assertion be true? Can there political views outside the considerations of Christian faith? God’s first purpose for making man in his own image and according to his own likeness; was for man “Rule” over all the creatures Gen 1:26. This purpose was repeated often in the creation account; even though evil men abuse political power, using it for evil, God meant it for good. Therefore, this research discourse on the connection between ministers and politics is relevant.
Keywords: Religion, politics, research discourse, ministers and politics.
The involvement of Ministers of God is a vital tool for the desired change in our society today. The society needs honest personalities that will represent them in the political arena. Our society needs leaders with godly and principled ideas, whose integrity cannot be questioned nor be found mudding the political climate in our society. On this note, Ministers of the gospel are relevant.
Politics is the right vested on the individual or a group of people to enjoy the benefits of the nation be it material or intellectual. A right is a power enforced by public trust. Nevertheless, a right is really an institution brought around by public trust, past, present or future. The growth of knowledge is the key to the history of a nation. The more man becomes knowledgeable of what is going on around him, be it physical or intellectual, the more it is appropriated. A leadership position in the society is a platform meant to be occupied by pious individuals in other to enhance the growth and development of the community. Thus, a clear understanding of this truth will help see that politics is one of the methods God uses to accomplish His will.
2. The Minister of God: Identification
The understanding of the identity of a Christian is needful; because a pastor is first a Christian before becoming a minister at some point or the other. A Christian would be something similar to “a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus.” While this is a good starting point, like many dictionary definitions, Smith argues that the explanation falls somewhat short of really communicating the biblical truth of what it means to be a Christian. The word “Christian” has its roots from the name “Christ’ and it is used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ. The word “Christian” literally means, “Belonging to the party of Christ” or a “follower of Christ.”
According to Peter Olanrewaju Awojobi, “A minister of the gospel is that person who had received a definite call from God to do a specific work for God.” He is a servant of God because he did not receive his ministry from man he continued. 1st Timothy 3:1 says that if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desire a noble task. The role of a gospel minister is one of the utmost importances, with a special responsibility for the winning of souls of men and women. It is not merely a job on a par with other forms of employment, but a particular calling which encompasses the whole life of the man involved. A minister goes beyond a preacher.
J. J. Isaac defines a minister as “a man, woman whom God has given grace, a special person favored in a special way and has link with the Divine” He goes further to see a minister of the gospel as one a little lower than God, one distinct among others. A minister is one called by God to administer, oversee the vineyard of God until Christ return. From the above, one can see that a minister of the gospel is a special individual among the multitude of people giving a divine assignment to carry here on earth.
3. Politics: A Lucid Perspective
Politics is simply the science of government. James Hastings argued that “it is used to refer both to administration and legislation.” In legislation it emphasizes the process of decision making about public action and good, that is what is done and who gets what. He goes further to say that administration or government on the other hand stresses the result of these processes and the self-control of the community whether city, state or nation. Politics is therefore, the making of decision by public means, such as law court judgment, administrative regulations, election referenda and decision making.
Politics is the right vested on the individual or a group of people to enjoy the benefit of the nation be it material or intellectual. A right is a power enforced by public trust sometimes it happens that the exercise of right is really an institution brought around by public trust, past, present and future.
4. The Nature of Politics: An Interface with Nigeria
The great C. H. Spurgeon once had the following remarks to make about political involvement of Pastors; “Even in the pursuit of really good matter of policy, do you know any Christian or pastor who goes into politics who is the better for it? If I find such a man, I will have him stuffed if I can, for I have never seen such a specimen yet.”
From the above statement, it does not mean pastors should not attend to politics, but do not let politicians spot you. It is a well used statement that politics is a dirty game. This is for an individual to judge. Conscience and principle often are of little importance in comparison with what is judged to be politically expedient or beneficial to self. Loyalty, honesty and decency are scarce in politics and even those who enter into political life with good intention can easily become tainted by it. However, this is not to say that no pastor or Christian should ever be involved in politics, but it is to warn against doing so lightly and without thought for the danger which it present later.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Nigeria Vice-President elect who, had resigned as pastor of Redeemed Christian Church of God, told his colleagues that “he could not continue as a pastor because of the nature of his work and the kind of assignment his superior (President) send him to execute. He further explained that he would not want any of his action in office to dent the image of the church and stain the reputation of the General Overseer.” He added, no politician serving in Nigeria today has clean hands and a pure heart therefore urging true men of God to disengage themselves from politics if they truly want to make heaven. The researcher is of the feeling that the Professor OsinbajoYemi has fallen in love with the devil himself, otherwise, it is expected that he should have resign as the Vice-President but he chose to resign as a pastor. May God help us all.
With the level of corruption, occult activities engaged by virtually every politician in Nigeria, how spiritually safe it is for a pastor or gospel minister to be involved in politics without been corrupted spiritually? Will a gospel minister be elected as a governor, senator or house of representative member still have time to shepherd the flock of God. Would he not abandon this calling for his new political calling? Is the dirty world of politics really something too which a pastor need too expose himself? Should the man who has responsibility for the spiritual needs of his congregation be so closely associated with an occupation which is so consistently, shown in an unfavourable light? Although, some may do their work honestly, there is no doubt that many politicians will betray principles and indeed one another for their own end and in such an environment a gospel minister can easily become just like them. The question now is, will he then be able to go into his pulpit without bringing that manner with him? Will he have his congregation listen and belief him anymore? These and many more questions to answer. The particular calling of the gospel minister means that he has been set apart from for the study and preaching of God’s word. How much more difficult that becomes if he has spent his week in the world of politics?
In view of this, many have come up to say that politics is a dirty game. Meanwhile, the game is not dirty but it is made so by those who are playing it. Politics determines what governance means. Far beyond the role of government, at any level, politics determines how we manage human world is managed. Politics is trying to make meaning out of the confusion of living. Politics is important because man must govern himself somehow. Meanwhile, politics should not be seen as a ticket for fame and wealth, but as a medium of leading God’s people.
5. Biblical Perspective on Politics
Many pastors have approached politics as if it lies outside their primary realm of responsibility. Politics is often viewed as part of the “word” that we ought not to love. Often times our pastors life becomes confined to personal godliness, to church activities, to attending liturgies, youth meetings, and Bible study. From this point of view, a pastor’s involvement in politics is seen as a step into the secular world. From the Biblical point of view, this dualistic distinction between church and world between the sacred and the secular is mistaken.
According to James Hastings, “politics is the science of government; it is both administration and legislation.” The purpose of government is to enforce law. This means “Government is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.” So Government is an institution designed by God, like marriage. A pastor who is the servant of God set apart by God needs power to exercise godly authority. This is because the powerless are always dismayed and fearful. “Then the philistine said, this day I defy the ranks of Israelites! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the philistine words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. The ministers of God will find it difficult to uphold what God has given him when he is not in position of power in the government. “Then he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, this is what Ben-Hadad says; your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine. The king of Israel answered, just as you say, my lord king I and all I have are yours.” Ministers of the gospel cannot ask for the right of Christians without being harassed when they are powerless. “Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.”
Apart from the fact that the powerless are oppressed, God desire that his children will be people of godly power. That explains why he gave Adam and Even dominion over the entire creation after he created them. It is with this same understanding that pastors should be involved in politics.
Jesus and Politics:
Christianity in itself is nothing but politics in all its ramification. “If Christianity is the religion based on the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and belief that he, Jesus, is the son of God, it boils down to the fact that Jesus was a great politician of his time.” And if it is belief that Jesus Christ is one with God as God’s son, it therefore, becomes obvious that God is the greatest politician ever” and undoubtedly, the author of politics” It therefore means that a minister of the gospel who is called and set apart by God should be involved in politics.
The Hebrew Bible known to us as the Holy Bible contains a complex chronicles of kings of Israel and Judah. Written over many generations whose relationships and intimacy with the rules of the several kingdoms fluctuate widely in both intimacy and respect. Some historical passages of the Bible contain intimate betrayals of the inner workings of the royal household of Soul, David and Solomon; the accounts of subsequent Monarchs are frequently begin with the judgment that the Monarchs did evil in the sight of the Lord.
The Christian new testament, instead begins with the story of Jesus crucified who had offended both the Jews Priesthood and Roman imperial authority; at least, to outward appearance, Jesus was at the periphery of political life and power in the Roman Province of Judea. Nevertheless, a number of political statements appear in the New Testament writings. The political statement of Jesus Christ, “Give to Caesar what belong to Caesar’s and to God, what belongs to God” is a political statement which the three synoptic Gospels portray clearly as stated in Mathew 22:21,, Mark 12;17, and Luke 20:25.
Another political statement made by Jesus when he responded to Pontius Pilate about the nature of his Kingdom when he said; “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.”
The nature of the first set of Christians who had all things in common as described in the Acts of the Apostles is evident that Christianity is politics. As described in the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christians communities were organized along the principle of communal ownership of goods (Acts 2: 44-45; 4: 32-37). Here, all the early Christians were together; had all things in common, sold their possessions and goods, and gave them to all men as every man had need.
Apostle Paul was renowned Pharisee before his conversion to Christianity. He was vast in the Law (Torah), and he was a Roman citizen who was law abiding to the core. This is clearly seen in his administration on Christians and civil authority which is a center of controversy for generations. Paul had a teaching on the relationship of Christians and civil authority which the church should study with keen interest to fulfill our obligation to God and the society. It is therefore, true that politics cannot truly be kept out of the church and the Minister who is the shepherd of the congregation. We cannot detach or hide the church of God and the Minister of God from politics.
From the foregoing discussion, the researcher has the opinion that a minister of God is a citizen of two kingdoms. One temporal and earth, the other eternal and heavenly; He is to participate in both the culture and politics of the city of man, as this world was called by Augustine, while primarily focusing on the city of God. While the pastor focus his heart and be directed to where his bridegroom is (Heaven), he cannot neglect that he do have a role in the world. He is called by the Lord Jesus to be preserving salt and illuminating light in the world. “For our citizenship is in Heaven” “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
6. The Minister and Politics
The relationship between the minister and politics is a historical complex subject and a frequent source of disagreement throughout the history of Christianity, as well as in modern politics whether Christians or a pastor should be involved in politics. There have been wide divergent views in which people have conceived of the relationship between Minister of God and Politics and Christians generally. With many arguing that Minister of God should not be involved in active politics. Others believe that ministers of the gospels should have little involvement or participation in politics or government.
Those who express the view that ministers of God should stay away from politics say so on the strength of the dirty nature of politics. See the dirty nature of politics on page three. But God has called him to be the salt and light of the world as stated in Mathew 5:13-16. So let the minister shine as the scripture recommended him to be a person to provide the cure and healing to the world. Jonathan’s chaplain would have this to say, as quoted by Emmanuel O. Malomo, in his book, Christianity and Politics in Nigeria concept, pages 112-113. “Christ redemption is seen as embracing all aspects of human culture, including government and politics. Since redemption reaches all of creation, Christians should seek a Christians, one motivated by the redemptive purpose of God”. A minister going into politics should not borrow his basic political conviction of life, nor seek a synthesis of Christians and other elements but rather develop a biblically inspired frame work of which to do politics.
In a discussion between Malomo and Dr. Steven Damiyan on 14th October, 2009 at ECWA Plateau Church Jos, Nigeria, as reported in Christian and politics in Nigeria context, page 113, Damiyan is of the opinion that “the church should inject its citizens into the different aspects of society and allow fruits of righteousness to be physically felt and seen. The involvement of Ministers of the gospel and Christians in general into politics and in civil government is a serious matter of concern, it is a controversial issue as already mention elsewhere, but it should be seen from the light of the Bible.
7. Nigerian Ministers and Politics: Meeting Point
Politics has to do with governance and stewardship, which connotes leadership and followership. Many issues have sprang up in the church today concerning politics ranging from one denomination to another, some of which had led to internal faction and schism even within the church.
The two fields of religion and politics have been interlinked from the discourse and in some other parts of the world, and many questions asked about what relationship they should have with each other. One question which has been raised is whether a minister of God and Christians generally should be involved in partisan politics and hold political office. The researcher is of the opinion that the minister’s political involvement is a vital tool for the development of a godly society. The society that has good and God fearing people representing them in the political circle can experience development and growth. “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice, when the wicked rule, the people groan”. This is why, Ministers of God should get involve in political practices with a very meticulous care and concern for godly governance and not to allow themselves to be filled with the love of the world to the neglect of righteousness.
The research explains that ministers of God and Christians in general should have a re-think on the political activities to stand up and face the reality and become active in politics for it is only through the political system one can get into the civil government, it is only by that we can save ourselves from the hands of the world. For Jesus says in Mathew 5:15 “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your father in heaven, how can the light of God in us shine if Ministers of God abstain themselves from the political activities. We all know that justice, fairness, accountability and above all honesty, godliness are needed in the political circle.
Danladi Musa further stated that “it is now generally accepted that one of the main ways that Christians can positively influence the society and make a difference when ministers of God are involved in politics. By so doing Christians will truly become the light and salt of the world. If this is to be achieved for the good of the church and the society at large then it is necessary for Ministers of God to get directly involve in the politics. And this should be with the sole purpose of giving better leadership and beneficial governmental activities done in a godly manner and direction.
The Minister of God going into politics should be aware of the strongholds. The devil has dominated the polity for years. He has a team and networks that have seen the political terrain as their own inheritance. Therefore, Minister of gospel in polities must be armed with the armor of God. He should put on the full armor of God so that he can take his stand against the devil’s schemes. To be able to fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm, or else he will see himself bowing down to worship the devil.
The Bible says in Matthew 5:13-16 that we are the Salt and the light of the world, therefore the minister of the gospel in politics should shine that light so that the world will know that he is an ambassador of Jesus Christ here on earth. Working from the premise that we are all participants, political involvement is not a matter of seeking “power.” It is a matter of being fairly represented as we participate in government. As a minister participates, he has the opportunity of voting for our elected officials and ensuring adequate choices as he votes. If he truly believed our government was divinely ordained and instituted, this luxury and opportunity should be enjoyed and exercised by gospel ministers.
8. Duties of Ministers to Politics
The Minister of God also has duty to the politics of his nation besides being partisan. He should pray for the Government of the day. Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanks giving be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
A minister going into politics should be able men, such that fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness and who would always stand for the truth.
Why should a Minister of God enter into Politics? As it has already been said in this paper, the subject of minister of God and politics has been seen by some quarters as odd. Politics has been portrayed in a very negative way especially these days. Politics is seen in such a bad light that the word itself has become synonymous with that which evil, corrupt, deceptive and ocultic in nature as mentioned on page four. While admitting that this perception to some extent is true, we must also acknowledge that the word “politics” comes from the Greek word “politics” meaning, of a citizen”.
The word “politikos” refers to the science and art of civil government. The word democracy means “the rule of the people”. When one put all of this together in the context of our country Nigeria, we find out that what we have is called a democratic republic. This means that our country is running a system of government based upon a written constitution which guarantees that our God given unalienable rights are to be protected by godly representatives that are democratically elected by its citizens. These representatives are elected by popular vote and they legislate by majority vote.
In the light of these definitions and what the Bible says, we should see politics from a different angle than what is perceived today. For instance, in proverbs 29:2 it reads, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked is on throne, the people mourn. So, since this verse is true, then what makes “politics” good or evil is determined by the caliber of people who get involved in it. If the righteous are involve the people the citizens will rejoice, if the wicked are more involved the citizens will mourn. And who are the righteous people? To my mind is the minister of God and of course Christians in general. Edmund Burke asserted “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.
The minister has beside spiritual obligation, the social obligation to the society. His social obligation to the society is to be a good citizen. And for him to be good citizen required that he gets involved and willing to run for public office. The minister has moral obligation to say the truth. His moral obligation is when he run for public office he must stand for the truth. He should be a “statesman” it is only in the pursuit of truth that any society can have the kind of values that makes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness worth living for.
The minister has eternal obligation to righteousness. Ministers of God, more than any other people, have an eternal obligation to righteousness that transcends this earthly life into eternity itself. Minister of God must realize that it is never wrong to do what is right, even if he do not see the immediate results. It is about other generations and it is ultimately about having to stand before God in eternity and give account to God.
Ministers of God should not shy away from politics, the need power to exercise right, administer governance and create godly policies, procedures and processes in the nation. These national policies must be crafted in ways that they will bless the church and destroy the antics of the selfish, narrow-minded and short-sighted players. Imagine how short-sighted a corrupt politician can be. He amasses billions of cash for himself and his family. He launders the money abroad for the foreigners to build their own economies. In his neighborhood are millions of hungry, devastated, unemployed youth. He could not see beyond himself and his immediate family’s needs for underserved comfort. This kind of short-sighted, foolish psychopathic personalities would be flushed out when the righteous practitioners arise.
Ministers of the gospel should wake up to their responsibilities to promote the kingdom of Jesus Christ and consolidate strategic power moves under the leadership of the Captain of the Lord’s host to wage war against the kingdom of darkness. We already have the winning Captain and winning assurance that the gates of hell will not prevail. However, we must arise and take power, authority and dominion under the leadership of our Mighty God, King and the Great Commander of the Army.
Ministers of God must wake up and administer the governments of our earthly nations too because:
a. God in the book of Genesis (chapter one) gave man the dominion to govern and rule.
b. Governing is listed as a gift of the spirit in 1st Corth 12:28.
c. The Bible records God’s appointment and approval of many political practitioners in the Bible: Joseph, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Zerubabel, Joshua and Moses.
d. Jesus revered the earthly political offices and the scriptures encourage Christians and Ministers to revere and uphold such offices (Matt 10:18, Rom 13:1, 1st Pet 2:14)
Any minster of God going into politics should be aware of the strongholds in politics. The devil has dominated the polity for years. He has a team and networks that have seen the political terrain as their own inheritance. Imagine Satan telling Jesus that he will give him the world.
Again, the Devil took him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And the Devil said to Jesus “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me” (Mathew 4:8-9) so, a minister of God going into politics must be prayerful and depend on God and he will brake the stronghold.
In the light of the important issues facing our Nigeria as a nation today, it is increasingly critical for Christians to let their voices be hard. As people of faith prepare vote, it is vital for ministers to take a stand and be ready with all the tools legally available to them to further the moral principles created by God. You, as a minister, should be equipped to educate your congregation on what a church body can do to support particular legislation and viewpoints.
Political participation is a duty for ministers of God because that is where they can shine and give their salting test. The world needs change and only the elect (those who are called) that can bring about that needed change. Ministers and Christians in general are the custodians of the truth, we are to stand up and rule so that we can rescue the world from total decay.