Whether or not Christians should run for political office is one of those “hot-button” issues that provoke strong responses on both sides of the question. There are no direct references in the Bible to Christians running for political office. But there are Christian principles we can bring to bear on the decision whether or not to seek political office. Anyone considering running for office would do well to consider these principles and prayerfully seek God’s will for his/her own life.
There is no doubt that countries where political officials are elected by the citizens are countries that promote freedom. Christians in many countries in this world are oppressed and persecuted, suffering under governments they are powerless to change and governments that hate their faith and silence their voices. These believers preach the gospel of Jesus Christ at risk of their own lives. In the U.S.A., Christians have been blessed with the right to speak about and choose their leaders without fearing for themselves or their families.
The leaders we elect have great influence on our freedoms. They can choose to protect our right to worship and spread the gospel, or they can restrict those rights. They can lead our nation toward righteousness or toward moral disaster. Clearly, the more committed Christians that are part of government—whether at the local, state, or federal level—the more our religious freedoms will be guarded. Christians in politics can effect desperately needed changes in the culture. A prime example is William Wilberforce, a 19th-century English politician who campaigned for decades to end the abominable slave trade that flourished at that time. His campaign was eventually successful, and he is lauded today for his courage and commitment to Christian principles.
At the same time, there is an old saying: “politics is a dirty business.” Politicians, even those with the best of motives, are in danger of being corrupted by a system that deals in power. Those in political office, especially at the federal level, are courted by those who hope to gain favor in an effort to advance their own agendas. Wherever money and power are concentrated, greed and covetousness are always nearby. There is great danger for Christians who are involved in worldly political systems, and great care must be taken to be in that world, but not of it. Perhaps nowhere in life is it more true that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33) than in the seats of political power.
Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). The kingdom of Christ is not connected with earthly political systems or national governments, all of which are in rebellion against God. The world Christians are to be concerned with is the spiritual realm, not the temporal. There is nothing wrong with Christians being involved in politics, as long as they remember that we are to be ambassadors for Christ on earth. That is our primary job description, and our goal is to appeal to others to be reconciled to God through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20).
So should a Christian run for political office? For some Christians, the answer is a definite no; for others, a definite yes. This is a personal decision that requires prayer and the wisdom only God can provide and which He promises to grant to those who truly seek it (James 1:5). Christian politicians must remember that their duty to the Lord must take precedence over the duties of their office. Paul tells us that whatever we do, we are to do it for the glory of the Lord, not our own (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). If a Christian does seek office, it should only be if he/she can faithfully execute the duties of that office to the glory of God and without compromising Christian principles.