To be spiritually minded is godly yet to be socially active is equally important. Social activities involve relating with other members for smooth progress of society. To consolidate the development, growth and progress of any society, the need for every stratum of such society to contribute its quota cannot be over-emphasized. Therefore, effective human administration is the solution. To provide effective administration for such society, there must be a governance system that features all strata, protect interests and give specific level playing ground for representation.
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher argued that the foundation of the state was the greatest of benefactions because only within a state can human beings fulfil their potential. To this end, from the family, the nucleus of the society to the religious organisations, age groups and other groups that made up the society must be represented. For them to be represented, they must be politically active and participate in the processes and operations that determine who represents the group.
The apathy of any group to political participation and election is unconsciously denial of best representation. This is what Christians in Nigeria have been doing to themselves all this while. Christians have hibernated their participation in politics and left it for the ungodly to determine the way life is led.
For K. Cooper, the Bible paints the picture that the world system and its principles are opposed to God. He said that Christians have been saved out of the world and that the Cross separates them from the world. “We are therefore called to be distinct from the world (2 Cor. 6.17; Rom. 12.2). The Christian is a citizen of heaven (Phil 3.20). Our interests should be in heavenly things for we have an elevated place (Eph 2.6) and a heavenly object (Col 3.2).
Making reference to John 15:19, he said that Christians have responsibilities in the world and cannot ignore the political climate in which we live. Christians should be an influence for good in the world. “It is important, therefore, to have a clear understanding of our responsibilities to the ‘powers that be’ (Rom 13.1) and the extent to which we should be involved in the political life of our country.”
Christians who are opposed to engaging in politics have argued that preaching the gospel and teaching of the Bible are the explicit responsibilities of the Christian. Anything short of that is a distraction from the mission of the church.
But, realizing the importance of Christians in political offices, Christian leaders of all denominations have taken the responsibility of challenging Christians to go into politics and also mobilise them to vote during elections.
Dr. James Bayo Owoyemi, the General Overseer of the United Apostolic Church of Christ (UACC) charged Christians to stop their nonchalant attitudes to active politics and get involved ahead of the 2023 election.
As far as Owoyemi is concerned, to lead a country like Nigeria demands the fear of God considering how the economy has been mismanaged by past and present leaders. Speaking at the church’s national convention in Akure in November 2021 he said, “Christians should gear up to vie for elective positions in the coming dispensation. We need politicians with the fear of God to come to the 2023 election if we are to move forward.
“The call became necessary because if God-fearing people stayed away from politics, the wicked would continue to rule the nation. Christians have roles to play in nation-building. Christians must be involved in politics. It is in the Bible that we should obey the people in authority. If Christians run away from politics, then they cannot be voted for and whoever gets there, we will be subjected to them.”
He charged Christians occupying political offices to always play to please God and not man noting that they would give an account of their stewardship to their creator. “Let Christians occupying political offices do things according to God’s order and they should remember that they are representatives of God and the people would be expecting them to exude godly dispositions in their manner of operations.
He further challenged them to make service to humanity their priority and not how to corner for themselves and family members what’s meant for the generality of the people. “There should be a distinct difference between those of us called Christians and others. Our ways of life while holding political positions should be worthy of emulation. We’re not expected to join the bandwagons.”
For must Christians that abscond from voting or participating in electioneering activities, they see such moves as worldly and departure from the Great Commission. To them participating actively in politics and electioneering is a sin.
However, for Pastor Nathan White of Christ Reformed Baptist Church, participating in politics in itself is no sin, what could however make such act sinful is doing it with a wrong reason. He believes that Christian must take responsibility for their vote.
“Voting for the right candidate for the wrong reasons is sin, just as voting for the wrong candidate for the right reasons is not a sin. Do we intend to further an evil agenda with our vote? Does our vote represent an indifference to the suffering and plight of others who will be hurt by the policies of that candidate? Do we vote and then just walk away, thinking that we have no other responsibility to love our neighbors in this regard? If we want to know if and when voting becomes a sin, we must take pains to examine the motivations of our hearts.”
Jordan Kellicut of Oakland Drive Christian Church, said when voting, God’s concern for the people must be considered. Vote must be cast for the right person who would not lead the people in hardship and through austerity, Prov.29:2. “I am uncomfortable calling any vote a “sin,” since the Bible never mentions voting. It does warn that ‘when the wicked rule, the people groan’ (Prov. 29:2). So, if I were voting, I might consider first God’s concern for the people groaning.
“Scripture offers this instruction from beginning to end. The wisdom tradition tells us to ‘Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy’ (Prov. 31:8–9, ESV). And our King Jesus said that his rule is good news because it sets the oppressed free and proclaims justice for the poor. As we follow Jesus, that seems like it should be our priority.”
What these imply is that Christians must vote according to their conscience. In doing this, while the world is concerned about horse trading, political cross-carpeting and other politicking, Christians must prayerfully seek God’s counsel in order to discern who would uphold truth, justice and lead the country in the fear of God. It is therefore a sin for Christians to vote for any candidate who is morally deficient and whose character falls below God’s standard. For every election, Christians must take responsibility of the outcome.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have from time to time charged their followers to ensure that they participate fully in deciding who becomes what in public offices. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) the umbrella body for all Pentecostal churches and denominations in the country, under its former national President, Reverend Felix Omobude, during a visit to Umuahia, the Abia state capital, charged church leaders to encourage their congregation of voting age, to be card-carrying members of registered political parties.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not count prayers, they count votes,” he said.
He advised the church to encourage those who showed interest in politics, stating that “We should support our own. We should encourage our members to get registered, arm themselves with voter cards, so that by the time we need to speak, we will speak correctly.
“The church needs to speak with one voice. The beauty of democracy is that it gives opportunity to voters to elect those that will lead them for the next four years. So, PFN must use their votes correctly.”
Years after this call, the PFN under the leadership of Bishop Francis Oke, in 2021 established the National Directorate of Politics and Governance to enlighten and encourage Christians in the country to actively participate in politics and also during elections. The Directorate is headed by the Senior pastor of the Living Spring Chapel International, Pastor Femi Emmanuel.
Since the PFN has established the Department, denominations under the fellowship have been urged to replicate the same directorate in their various mission. Earlier in the year, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) also set up a department on politics and governance.
The church said the newly established Office of Directorate of Politics and Governance will help to muster support for members with political ambitions. All regions, provinces and other levels of the church have been directed to appoint officers for the new department.
A memo circulated to that effect which was signed by the Continental Overseer/Assistant General Overseer on Administration and Personnel, Pastor J. F. Odesola, said, “You are kindly requested to appoint with immediate effect a Provincial officer for your Province and also ensure that the same is done at all levels of the Church- Zone, Area and Parish. The essence of this Directorate is to help coordinate the engagement of our people who are willing to be involved in politics as well as mobilise support for them when required.
“Kindly send to the office the undersigned details of your Regional and Provinces Coordinators within the next two weeks of receiving this letter.”
Although, many have said the move by the church was to coordinate support for the Vice President of the country, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who is a senior pastor of the Church and who is being speculated to be interested in succeeding his principal in 2023.
As the 2023 elections draw closer, Christians must understand that, while election into public offices was not recorded in the Bible, Jesus acknowledges that since there is civil government, citizens have civic responsibilities. That was why he said, “render to Caesar that which is Caesars, and to God, the things that are Gods.”
Instead of having ungodly political leaders imposed upon Christians, that opportunity to select leaders must be seized with both hands. When Christians go out massively to cast their votes for godly candidates, they are assured of security and reduction in unwholesome and antisocial practices. The likes of abortion, same-sex marriages and the destruction of biblical principles would not be smuggled into legislation.
It therefore means that Christians must be at the vanguard of selecting leaders who will govern according to God’s principles and will formulate policies more likely to attract God’s favour.