Facing the General Election
ADVISORIES on how to pray for the election and how to vote have been issued by the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Prayer United and by NECF Malaysia. Christians are by now well-aware of their role in nation-building and of their duty to cast their votes as part of biblical stewardship over the earth.
However, there are certain views on the relationship between the church and politics, and the view that the church must remain 'apolitical'. NECF does not endorse any particular party or candidate but we wish to share a general framework to guide Christians on such views.
Firstly, the church is not a political entity but the body of Christ. As such, her engagement is informed by Scripture. A faithful reading of Scripture would show that the truth of the Gospel must speak to every area of life. Genesis carries the divine mandate to humanity to rule and be stewards of God's earth and everything in it. This includes upholding justice for the common good of all human beings as creations made in the image of God and who are invested with dignity.
As stewards of God's creation, Christians are commanded to be a blessing to the nation and the world. We are also to be the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5: 13-16). We are reminded that we are not to conform to the world but to be a positive influence. We require our leaders to be just (Exodus 18: 19-21) and we hold them to the standards God places on earthly rulers.
If the church as salt and light is to influence the world, calls for the church to be apolitical are then self-contradictory. The meaning of "apolitical" is to be completely uninterested in politics, which cannot be if the church is to bring blessing upon the nation and fulfil her responsibilities in the interest of the common good.
To fulfil this mandate, what the church should be is non-partisan but must speak on moral and spiritual issues affecting the nation. The words of the Evangelical theologian, Carl Henry, are instructive, that the Church is "obliged to declare the criteria by which the nation will be ultimately judged and [the] divine standards to which man and society must conform if civilization is to endure". In the Bible, we see that this is what the Old Testament prophets did when speaking truth to power to sinful nations, including the leaders of Israel and Judah.
Religion, as part of Malaysian politics, has been politicised, abused and misused as an election strategy. Let the church have no part in that but let this not deter her either, from her mandate of speaking God's truth to our nation and leaders.
For this season where our nation is at the crossroads, let us as Christians engage one another, our fellow citizens and leaders with grace, compassion and mercy alongside the truth founded on Biblical principles that speak of God's heart for justice and righteousness