What Christians should do on election day (and a Christian approach to government)

25 Oct

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What should Christians do on voting day?

Vote.

That may seem simple.  But before we assume that is the only obvious answer, let’s ask another question: to vote or not to vote?  Is it ever wrong to not vote?  Many frustrated people have said that they are not going to vote.  Many do not.

This comic tells a great story.  Image result for majority doesn't vote

But in recent years, this comic is actually wrong.  Look at the comic and you get the impression that voter turnout is less than 50%.  The actual percentage in the last four elections is 58.6%.  And in none of the four has voter turnout been less than 50%.  But there is still a really good point to be made.  An average of more than 40% of eligible voters in our nation have not voted in recent elections!  Is it possible that the 40% could make an impact on the election?  You bet!

So we need to see voting as an amazing privilege of every citizen.  It is a way, an important way, that we can influence our nation.  And as Christians we should want to influence our nation based on the principles of the Kingdom of God.

If we are to vote based on the principles of the Kingdom of God, who are we to vote for?  Before we answer the question of “Who?”, though, we need to ask “How should I vote?”  When we ask the question “How should I vote?” we are really asking what principles should I use when I vote?

I’d like to share a number of principles that I’m going to ask you to consider and apply to all of the candidates.  Before a Christian goes to the voting booth, we should first considered these principles and spend time trying to apply them to the candidates.

Obviously, the United States and our voting system came into existence millennia after the Bible was completed.  That means these principles apply to many different cultures and situations.  They relate to a lot more than just the USA Presidential election in 2016.  I say that because I want it to be clear that my goal is teach biblical principles, not promote a certain candidate or party.   You will likely find that one principle leads you in the direction of voting for one candidate, and another principle leads you in the direction of another!

That’s why the first principle is so important.

Voting principle #1 – First and foremost, Pray for wisdom.

In James 1:5 we read “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  I know so many of you are frustrated like me.   You just want God to intervene.  Do a miracle, and give us all new candidates.  Surely there has to be better options than this, right?  Well, that miraculous intervention might not happen, and so we need to pray for wisdom.  Or maybe you have had your candidate picked out long ago, and you haven’t prayed for wisdom.  Maybe you haven’t sought to apply the values of God’s Kingdom to the election.

A very legitimate concern some Christian thinkers have suggested is that Christians place their political values ahead of the values of God’s Kingdom.  In other words, those Christians are so committed to a certain political party that they don’t seek wisdom from God.

Have you been praying for God to give you wisdom as you vote?

Voting principle #2a – Vote for the candidate who will be the best leader.

When you consider this principle you are considering which candidate could govern American the best.  Who will be the best leader for the good of the nation and the world?   Jesus once told his disciples in Mark 10:42 “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

There are different kinds of leaders, right?  Some with little experience, some with lots.  And they lead with different styles.  With different personalities.  Jesus is saying that leaders should be humble, teachable, servant leaders.  Obviously, he is speaking to his disciples about leadership in his Kingdom, not leadership in a nation.  But an important principle is embedded in his teaching.  Who will be a good leader?  Who will govern the best?

Voting Principle #2b – Pick the candidate who is, in their personal and professional life, the most in line with Christ-like character.

Where 2a focuses outwardly, or who can do the best job as president, 2b focuses inwardly, or who has the best character.  I brought this up in the sermon on ethnicity recently and it applies here too.  When God asked Samuel to pick the next king of Israel, he told Samuel that he should focus on the heart.  Who is the leader that best displays ethical character?

Voting Principle #3 – Vote for the candidate who policies are most in line with Kingdom values.

This one is similar to the “lesser of two evils” approach.  (Or as John Oliver said about this election, the lesser of four evils, because the third party candidates are pretty much as distasteful as the major party candidates.)  Which candidate’s policies are most attempting to promote the good things of God’s Kingdom?

This approach admits that there will never be a candidate from any party in any election that people agree with 100%.  But the lesser of evils approach says that we should vote for the one who will enact policies that are the most in line with the Kingdom of God.  In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to seek first his Kingdom.  I admit that this one is very hard to determine.  But have you considered which candidate will most support policies that would advance the Kingdom of God?  You might find that each candidate is 50/50 on this one.

Voting Principle #4 – Vote systemic change against injustice.

One of the things this election is teaching us is that elements of our electoral system might need to change because the system is not just.  So a final principle to consider then, is to use your vote to try to encourage change in the future so that the system becomes more just.  God’s heart for justice is abundantly clear, in hundreds of places in the Bible.  Take Amos 5:24 for example, “Let justice roll like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”  We Christians should strive to promote God’s heart for justice.  But how do we do this by voting?

One way is that you might pick a third party to support larger political change in the life of our nation, moving us away from two major parties, even if it takes decades.  If you believe that there should be more serious choices than just two, then perhaps you want to vote for a third party candidate.  But, some ask, won’t a vote for a third party vote take away a vote from one of the major parties?  Obviously, it will.   If you prefer the lesser of evils approach, you will likely disagree with principle #4.  But if you are frustrated enough with our current system, you might say that it is worth it for the major party you most closely align with to lose, in order for a third party which you align with even more, to have your vote.  Even if just a little, you are strengthening that third party by one vote.

These are some principles to consider when you vote.  I encourage you especially to focus on that first one, and pray for wisdom.  Then you might also make a list of the candidates, detailing their pros and cons based on these biblical principles.  Remember that there is no perfect candidate.  I see the posts on Facebook that say “Vote for Jesus”.  Well, in the event that he doesn’t come again before November 8th, we’ll have to vote for one of the imperfect candidates.  I hope these principles can help you a bit.

But voting is not the only way to that we Christians can make our voice be heard.  Our American system includes the amazing ability to get involved in government.  Those in government have the opportunity to use power for change.  That word “power” can sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

In 2010 a group of us spent a week in Chicago serving with and learning from our sister church in Chicago, Kimball Avenue Church.  It was an eye-opening, brain-twisting, impactful week.  I’ll never forget sitting in a bank boardroom one day.  We were there because that particular bank had a great community reputation for loaning money to low income families.  Many banks won’t touch that.  While we were at the bank, we heard a presentation from a lady talking about getting involved in government and the use of power.  I was sitting there feeling more and more uncomfortable as her talk went on.  Use of power?  I’m thinking, no way, power is dangerous, I want to steer clear of that.  I’ve seen how people in government abuse power.  No way, not for me.  So I raised my hand and said this to her.

She responded with “Well, why did you become a pastor?  As pastor don’t you have a certain amount of influence to work for good?”

I sat there quietly, thinking, that got turned around pretty quick.  She’s right.  I want to use my role as pastor, call it “my power” if you like (not much power…but you get the idea!), for good.  And I knew where she was going with this.  No doubt, power is, well, powerful.  That means it can be hard to control, and we have seen people use power very badly, allowing it to get out of hand and do lots of damage.  But that doesn’t mean power is inherently bad.  Power can and should be used for good.  That is what Romans 13 is talking about.

We Christians should consider getting involved in government.  Whether it is on the local school board, or the PTA at school, or running for office. We should take those opportunities seriously and consider signing up.  Some of us at Faith Church regularly joke about writing each others’ names on the ballot.  I regularly write in some of my Faith Church family for local offices!  They haven’t won though…  On a serious note, we can and should consider the various ways to get involved in government offices.  How often have we complained about the people holding office?  How often have we remarked that we need better people in office, people that will promote the values and principles of God’s Kingdom?  Faith Church, that may be you!

That’s one reason why I’m excited that our local CV Ministerium is working on an idea to create a justice watch group in CV.  You remember the babies in the water story?  If you see a baby floating downriver, you rescue it!  That is mercy.  Mercy is needed and good.  That’s why we’re involved so heavily with CVCCS, providing mercy to people in our area in need of food and clothing.  But there is another question that is so often missed, and that is “why in the world would there be a baby floating down a river?”  Especially when it’s not just one baby but many that keep coming down the river! The question then becomes not “How do we rescue all these babies?”, though rescuing them is needed. The question is, “What are we going to do to go upstream and stop whoever is throwing babies in the water?”  That’s justice.  Justice seeks to find the root of the problem and address it.  Why are people in our community struggling with lack of food and housing?  What is the root cause?  How can we wield governmental power to help deal with the root issue?  The Ministerium is working on creating a consortium with members from the police, local government, the school district, the churches, and more to address root causes.  We need people, Kingdom-minded disciples of Jesus on all those levels to wield power in a God-honoring, humble way to eradicate the root causes of injustice.

A few final thoughts when it comes to politics and government.  This election will be over soon.

Pray for leaders no matter who is in office.  In 1 Tim 2:1-3 Paul said to Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Guess who the Roman Emperor was at this time? Nero, a maniac.  He was a Christian killer.  He tied Christians up to posts, stuck them in his gardens, and lit them on fire so he could see at nighttime.  Pray for him?  God wants him saved?

Honestly, how many of you struggle to pray for your leaders because they are so distasteful to you?  We need to pray for them.

  1. Pray that they will govern wisely.
  2. Pray that they will surround themselves with wise counsel, and that they listen to it.
  3. Pray that, if they are not already, they become people who seek God for wisdom.

Much of what has made this election so frustrating is the question: “What is the future of America?”   I remember some people thinking that the USA would implode if Obama became President.  It will be many years before we get a clearer picture of the success or failure of these past eight years, but it seems pretty clear we haven’t imploded.

When we ask the question “What is the future of America?” I suspect that underneath the question is fear.  Fear that we will lose our standard of living.  Fear that we might lose freedom.  Fear that life will be harder than it is now.  Fear that we might be persecuted.

So I want to remind you of something important: Remember that we citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven first.  God’s Kingdom did just fine for centuries before America started, and God’s Kingdom will do just fine after America goes away.  Seek first his Kingdom, Jesus says.

And pray for America, that we will be good.  America has surely not been perfect, but we have desired for centuries to be a good nation.  Pray that our leaders will lead us to be good!

Pray for revival.  Pray that God’s Spirit will be unleashed in our land.  Pray that people will humble themselves, repent and turn to God, and seek him.  Pray that we will be a church that makes disciples.

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