Are you tired of the political ads yet? Non-stop, one candidate or group after another bashing their opponent while trying to convince you that if you would cast your vote for him or her all your problems would be solved. As we head to the big election in November the rhetoric will keep increasing, and the ever-present reality will become more intense. In some churches, they will literally tell you how to vote and for whom to vote. Other churches will just remain silent telling you it is a personal decision. What I want to do is write a few blogs (from articles in this Contemporary Theology section of our Member’s Newsletter) giving some basic ideas for involvement in politics. In the first one I want to look at the fact that our right to vote is a gift from God, a stewardship given to us. In the second I am going to warn about the dangers of political messiahs.
Believe it or not, the Bible is actually a very political book. Maybe a better way to say it is that the Bible is set in the real world where politics abound and the Gospel interacts with people within that setting. For the most part, the people who opposed Jesus had as their primary motivation the politics of the day. There were multiple political-social-religious groups. I’ll unpack this more in the next blog, but the amazing thing is that as Jesus began his ministry, each group sought to embrace Jesus as the champion of their cause, but when the story ends, each group sees Jesus as a threat to their view and way of life. In the first century political world where groups fought vigorously, they found one thing that unified them. They wanted Jesus dead. That’s interesting, and should speak into our understanding of politics today.
But how should you vote? Well, truth is that your vote is an issue of liberty and conscience as you pray, interact with God, and understand the candidates and issues. The New Testament knows nothing of democracy or the right to vote. People living in that world and time lived under an authoritarian regime, the Roman Empire, which was the strongest military and political power that had ever existed to that point. While Rome itself had a Senate and a level of representative democracy, the people living in Israel and the Christians of that day had absolutely no say. In fact, under the two Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian, Christians were persecuted and lived in fear of their lives. Both Peter and Paul wrote their letters during Nero’s reign, and eventually Nero would take both of their lives. Take a moment to read Paul’s thoughts on politics in Romans 13:1-7 and Peter’s in 1 Peter 2:13-17.
A few thoughts on what each of them says. First, they agree that God is sovereign and no ruler or authority is able to take power unless it is under the hand of God accomplishing his purposes. Even wicked rulers are pawns in the hand of God fulfilling His eternal plan. Second, the government is actually God’s gift to a nation to accomplish good and curb human depravity (Romans 13:2-3). Also, Christians are to live in submission under those in authority, demonstrating the Gospel. Fourth, we are to be involved in the life of the nation, paying taxes and seeking the good of the King.
But we live in America, we have no king, and we don’t like any of the politicians. Too often those who follow Jesus will fall in one of two directions when voting. Some will cast ballots as if all of life and goodness depended on whether or not their candidate is elected. I have seen several blogs from Christian sources saying things like, “America’s future depends on our electing ______________.” Let me assure you that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are not sovereign, nor will they fix or cause all the problems we have. The human issue is one of the heart and not of politics. Other Christians then, choose to neglect involvement, not examining issues, and even choosing not to vote. But this is also a dangerous position because it fails to see that God uses His people to accomplish His purposes.
I want to propose that the best position is to see our citizenship, our freedom, and our voting privileges as a gift from God, something to be used for His glory, and to be done as His agents. It is a stewardship. A steward is someone who manages another person’s property and goods. As followers of Jesus we should realize that God is the owner of all we are and all we have. When we see God as the owner, we realize our job is to care for it and use it as He would, as a steward. I believe we should see our living in America and our going into the booth the same way. It is not my vote, it is a gift from Jesus to me but owned by Him. As an act of His grace for me and the path to my sanctification, I was born in America. Therefore, the call is to use our vote as He would. But how is this done. A few thoughts.
- Vote. There I said it. A Christian who sees their freedom and their voting privileges as a stewardship will actually show up and vote.
- Be an educated voter. God has wired you and gifted you in ways that are specific to you. This means he has also given you passions for issues of justice and righteousness that weigh heavy on your heart. Some will be passionate about abortion, while others have an ingrained passion for the poor. Some will have deep convictions about moral issues, while others will care deeply for the care of hurting, despised, and broken people. With your passions, take time to inform yourself of the convictions and passions of each candidate. As you do this, realize that your heart is given to you by God, and it is OK to be swayed by those things. But I will also say that if a certain issue sways your vote, but that is all you do for that issue, this is a problem. For example, voters who chose their candidates on whether or not they are pro-life alone, but have never even considered helping at a crisis pregnancy center or working with adoption agencies have probably missed the boat on this.
- Pray for God’s leadership as you vote. Ask Him to direct your paths, and help you base your choices on Biblical conditions.
- Pray for the candidates, and for God’s will in the election. Pray for all of them, not just the one’s you like.
- Pray for the person who wins the election whether they were your choice or not. I Timothy 2:1-2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” As Paul is writing this he is telling Christians to pray for Nero, the man who put him in prison and will eventually take his life. Believe me, neither candidate is as wicked or antagonistic to Christianity as Nero, so we need to hear these words and pray.
- Trust in God’s sovereignty and not in your candidate. God is accomplishing His purpose, so in His economy, the correct person will be elected as He shapes history (His-story) to the purpose and end that He has designed. In America, God used the election as a means to do this, but never forget that God is sovereign, He can be trusted, and He is the true King.