Over the years, I have advocated a position that I call Prophetic vs. Political when it comes to a Christian's relationship with the political realm. What I have meant by that is that Christians should not be beholden to a political party or be involved in grasping after power on this earth, even if they think that they can use it for good purposes. Having worldly power in the temporal sphere almost always happens through worldly means and eventually, corruption is the result. The Christian siding with one political party or another is eventually led down the road of compromise as his allegiance is used for whatever the Party wants to do. So, I have advocated a Prophetic stance. What I mean by that is that Christians should affirm righteousness wherever it is found and should denounce evil and injustice wherever it is found - no matter which party is doing either right or wrong. We see this when John the Baptist denounced Herod's immorality and when the prophets of Israel called the Hebrew Kings to account for the evil that they tolerated and promoted in turning against God and oppressing the poor and powerless. The Church is to be Salt and Light (Matthew 5:13-16) and we do that best when we are independent of political party allegiances, but we are engaging our Prophetic role.
But, I want to revise this a bit. Being Prophetic does not mean that we eschew the Political arena. "Politics" comes from the Greek word "Politikos" and it means, "of, or relating to citizens" and it applies to the art or science of running government. Politics is simply how a society organizes and governs itself. It involves how a society makes decisions, what it declares to be right and wrong, how it takes care of its members, and how it develops a vision of who/what it is and what the future will look like. Politics involves decisions on justice and economics and how the poor and vulnerable will be treated and how order will be created and preserved in society. These are all important issues and they are all things that are addressed in Scripture. Christians should be a part of making these decisions and, even though we live in a society that does not recognize Biblical truth as authoritative, we should be "Salt and Light" and work to bring the ethics of the Kingdom of God into every area of life, leavening the loaf with the yeast of God's Truth, as it were (Matt. 13:33). Salt gives flavor and preserves meat, keeping it from decay. Light illuminates so we can see where we are going and so we do not wander around in darkness. Christians are to give flavor, to preserve and keep from decay, and to guide the way into the right direction. We are not to dominate or coerce or force our views upon others - rather, we are to be ambassadors another Kingdom - the Kingdom of God which is not of this world (John 18:36).
The way of Jesus is the Way of the Cross. This means that we are willing to suffer and die and lay down our lives for others. We are not trying to grasp power so we can use it to force others to do what we think they should do. Jesus could have taken over the world with a snap of his fingers and turned us all into robots. But, He did not. He came and suffered and died for us, taking the place of a servant, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death on a Cross (Phil. 2:5-8) so He could be our salvation. So, the way of Jesus is the way that we are to represent Him in the world. In this, we are called to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). We are to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ, which involves not only how we get to heaven when we die, but also involves how we live here on earth (see Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount for starters). The political arena is a place where we can witness to the truth of Jesus and where we display where our hope lies. Politics is where we talk about life and death and everything in between and Jesus has something to say about that. He is not just concerned with life eternal, but He also speaks into how we can live life now, and Christians have a prophetic role in witnessing to society the character of God as sovereign over all things. But, we must tread carefully.
We must do this without thinking that getting society to reflect Godly priniciples is going to solve things. We cannot get the Kingdom to come by force or by getting a law passed or by cleaning up corruption. We stand for justice and peace because that is how we witness to who Jesus is. As Stanley Hauerwas once said, as His followers, we can imagine no other way to live. He is the God of Justice. He is the Prince of Peace. But, we know that the heart is wicked and we know what is in a man. We know that we cannot "reclaim America for God" through the political sphere because only when a man's heart is transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ can anyone be changed. Law does not bring change. It only reveals and punishes sin and shows us what righteousness is. We still need the Gospel to bring real change and the proclamation of the Gospel is our great mandate. Salvation only comes through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, not in establishing moral law.
But, as Christians who are also citizens, we have a role to play in our society. We reflect Godly ways and we bring fairness and ethics and justice with us wherever we go. We reflect mercy and humility and we care for the poor and the weak and the oppressed (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 58; Matthew 25:31-46). In our role as citizens, we witness to the ethic of Jesus' Kingdom and we call upon our social, political, and economic structures to reflect this reality - not because we think that we can usher in some kind of utopia, but because this is part of how we witness to who God is. How does the world know that God is a God of Justice who cares for the poor and punishes the corrupt and the evil doer? Not just because we read those passages in the Bible, but because we, as His people, reflect this attitude in society now and the political realm is one place that we can reflect God's character because it is the place that we all decide together how we are going to live.
Political discussions are ultimately spiritual discussions because they deal with meaning and how we best live life on this planet. Every time we talk or think about politics, we are talking about truth and justice and how we live and organize ourselves. Christians should speak into this with great hope and imagination. All people everywhere are asking the worldview quesitons of who/what is ultimate reality, who/what is man, what is wrong with the world, and how do we fix it? These spiritual questions are what world religions seek to answer, but they are also the questions that we try to answer through our politics. Christians know how to answer these questions. The political realm is just one more arena to witness to the truth of God and we should not shy away from it even when we place no faith in it at all - even when we are persecuted for doing so, because when we are persecuted for righteousness' sake, we are also blessed (Matthew 5:10-12).