Continuing with his 2-part pre-election teaching series on “The Sword and the Keys” Port Elizabeth pastor Daan Botha stressed that the right to vote is a privilege that should not be taken for granted — and that for Christians, prayerfully exercising that right is a biblical responsibility.
Botha, who is a member of the Nelson Mandela Bay Church Leaders Network and a pastor at Harvest Christian Church, noted that at South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 86% of eligible citizens voted. However, by 2014 , apathy had set in and the voter turnout halved to 43%.
Referring to the words of Jesus in Mark 12:17 when He said: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” Botha reaffirmed the point he made in part 1 of his talk — that God himself had established all civil authority and given the sword of civil authority to the state.
Christian thus live in the tension between the God-ordained sword of the state and the keys of the kingdom — the spiritual authority given by God to the Church (Matthew 16:19). Christians are to be model citizens, respecting the authority of the state, while remaining answerable to the highest authority, God.
“What happens when the two worlds collide?” Botha asked.
He referred to biblical examples of when Ceasar (the state) issued commands that were forbidden by God. Once such instance is found in the book of Exodus, where Hebrew midwives who feared God were instructed by Pharoah to kill all the baby boys born to Hebrew women. Because they were loyal to God the women did not carry out Paharoah’s command.
Likewise, when Caesar forbids what God commands (e.g. prayer), Caesar’s command will always bow the knee to God’s command, he said.
The Church must remain as the conscience of government, speaking up against corruption, injustice, oppression and social ills and participating in legal civil protest if necessary. Therefore the sword of civil authority and the keys of the kingdom of God should never be confused or merged, he said.
He said opinions may differ on whether the church as an institution should involve itself in politics but it should, at least pray and speak into issues of justice and the challenges that citizens face daily.
And each individual Christian should be informed about their political party choices, and go to their prayer closet and their Bibles before casting their vote according to their conscience.