A Wilderness Temptation for Evangelical Voters

barren desert wilderness temptation evangelicals politics

With the first votes for president being cast in less than a week, the candidates are in full campaign mode—stating their positions and making promises to potential voters in Iowa and across the country.

In attempting to woo Christian voters, many candidates talk up their religious backgrounds and how their values best line up with a biblical faith. In addition to those pitches, others also promise to dole out more power to Christians during their future administrations.

While such statements are meant to persuade voters like myself, they worry me as much or more than any other political speech. In fact, they terrify me. Those promises place Christians in a political wilderness facing a formidable temptation.

I am wary of any politician who promises to give the church more power because I believe such temptations could undermine our faith far worse than any antagonistic politician. The danger to soul from compromise within is much more likely (and deadly) than the danger from oppression without.

There are two main reasons Christians should dismiss any candidate who attempts to win our votes through promises of additional political power.

Political power is a temptation Christ already rejected.

In His temptation in the wilderness, a weakened, hungry Jesus faced a choice between good and God. Satan wasn’t asking Christ to murder thousands of innocents. He was offering Jesus the wrong means to the right ends. Satan placed before Christ food for His body, worship for His ministry, and authority for His kingdom.

There is nothing wrong with Jesus receiving satisfaction, praise, and power. Those are all due Him anyway, but they will come to Him completely in the right time. The wilderness was not the right time. Before He went out to seek and save the lost. Before He healed the sick and raised the dead. Before He donned the servant’s towel and pick up the sinner’s cross. Before He humbled Himself and died on the cross. And before His resurrection and return.

In the wilderness, Satan offered Jesus something that belongs to Christ inherently—political power to rule the nations. But the devil’s temptation was for Jesus to take His right at the wrong time. There could be no shortcut to the goal. It had to come through God’s appointed method. Only His timetable would achieve His triumph. The same is true for His church.

Changing cultures and reaching individuals takes time. It requires long, difficult, intensive labor. The New Testament church turned the Roman Empire upside down and reoriented their entire value system, but they lived as a persecuted, but faithful minority for hundreds of years first.

If we truly want to see America embrace a more Christlike perspective, we must put in the work. There is no shortcut solution. It takes sacrificial efforts for the good of our cities and the glory of our Christ. We must live out the message in our churches, our homes, ourselves before we can call on the culture and government to embrace it.

By accepting a promise of political power in exchange for our votes, we are demonstrating our lack of faith in God’s plan and ability to work through the weak and lowly. We are trading an eternal birthright as sons and daughters of the King for a bowl of microwaved political soup.

But not only is this type of political power a temptation Christ has already rejected, it’s actually a promise that Christ has already fulfilled. We have all the power we need.

Political power is an idol Christ already rendered pointless.

I understand politicians dangling power like a carrot in front of various voting blocs. Numerous factions want to be a part of the Washington DC machine and have the ability to shape laws according to their values.

I understand that for virtually every group of voters except Christians. We are being offered a cheap substitute to what we already have, what Christ has already promised and given us.

The church does not need any more power, political or otherwise. In Acts 1:7, Christ promised we, through the Holy Spirit, would get all the power we needed to be His witnesses to the entire world. Power offered by a politician trying to garner votes pales in comparison to the power of the Holy Spirit to make disciples.

Thinking clearly, no one trades the real thing they already have for a fake thing someone promises to give them later. Yet, so many Christians stop thinking clearly when it comes to our political engagement.

Be involved in politics. Steward well your vote. Champion biblical values in the public square. Even run for public office, serve others, and seek to bring Christ’s lordship to bear in that realm. But do not mistake political power for true, lasting, biblical power. Never assume that Christ needs a certain politician in the White House or Congress to give Christians the power we need to accomplish His goals.

In this election, Christians not only face a choice between various candidates, we face a choice between succumbing to our own wilderness temptation and embracing an idol of political power or using the true power we have been granted in Christ to take the difficult, narrow, but correct path. That is the only way out of the wilderness. That is the only way to true victory.

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