On November 6, people throughout the country will head to the polls to elect officials at all levels of government. Every election is important, but given the speed at which our culture changes, each election seems more critical than the last. We are privileged to live in a land where our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. As followers of Christ, we are commanded to seek the welfare of the city in which we live. This involves doing all we can to place wise and selfless leaders into places of influence by stewarding our vote well.
Many Christians make one of two mistakes when it comes to politics in our nation –seeing politics as either our sworn enemy or our savior. Both of these approaches are flawed and unbiblical. As Christians, we must remind ourselves that the government is a servant of God, a steward of His purposes, and is ultimately accountable to God. How we choose the servants and stewards of justice in our nation matters to God, so it should matter to us. With the importance of your vote in mind, here are five principles every believer in Jesus Christ should keep in mind as they cast their ballot in the weeks ahead.
Some believers think that because we’re here “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1) that we should not get involved in the affairs of men. This type of thinking makes us so "heavenly minded that we are no earthly good." We are called to be salt (that prevents decay) and light (that dispels darkness). We are not called to be idle observers who fail to influence the nation in which we live. Politics is the governance of people and the expansion of ‘rightness’ in the world we live. If we are not concerned with the expansion of righteousness in our world, what are we to be concerned with? William Wilberforce got "involved in politics" to help end slavery in England's slave trade during the 1800's. Thank God he did. Christians today should follow his example by seeking to bring joy and righteousness to their community however they can.
As followers of Christ, we are to “seek the welfare of the city in which we live.” (Jeremiah 29:7) When we vote, we are delegating our right to rule and empowering others to define and execute justice in our land. Servants of Christ should never stand by passively and abdicate our role as advocates for justice in any nation.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7
Just as believers must not be passive when it comes to the governance of our country, we should not view anyone other than Jesus Christ as our savior. As my friend Chuck Colson often said, “Hope does not ride on Airforce One.” Our hope rests in the One who is the authority over all leaders, the one who “deposes kings and raises up others. He [who] gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (Daniel 2:21)
We must engage with our world, seek out godly leaders, and make every effort to do what the Lord requires of us: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) As we do those things, we cannot let our efforts in the political arena or any other distract us from the larger spiritual mission the Lord has for each of us. Politics is downstream of culture and a healthy culture is always downstream of a healthy and faithful church.
Russell Moore, my friend and President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was right when he said, “Until Jesus of Nazareth runs for political office, we’ll always be voting for the lesser of two evils.” Because all men have “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) we will always be led by imperfect people. But as we consider potential leaders, there is a limit to the imperfections and character flaws of those for whom we can vote.
It would be evil to put into office a candidate who willfully supports or celebrates things that are in direct opposition to God’s revealed will. Romans 1:32 describes what happens when we give “hearty approval” to those who practice things that God deems worthy of death. When we vote, we give our approval to those who will govern and lead. If a leader shows no regard for God’s will and way and pursues whatever he or she thinks is right, that candidate drops below the standard by which Christ-followers should uphold a candidate.
Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:32
Rather than looking for the perfect candidate or analyzing who is the lesser of two evils, the best question to ask is: who rules this potential ruler? What entity governs my governor? What authority does this candidate turn to as their authority?
How can you discern whether a potential governor is governed by the Word of God? A good place to start is looking at a candidate’s stance on the dignity and value of human life. Any candidate who shows disdain for human life because of age, race, or gender is not worthy of our support. No candidate ever says outright, “I’m for murder.” But does your candidate say that human life is only considered life when it’s outside the womb? The only difference between a fetus, a teenager, and an adult is time. So, if a candidate says that it is acceptable to terminate life at any stage of development, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I cannot endorse that candidate, and neither should you.
You know the Ethics Game – where you are asked to pick one of two difficult choices? For example, “Would you rather convict an innocent man or let a guilty man go?” Well in the real world, we are not obligated to choose either option. When the two major political parties present two candidates that are both less than God’s best for our government, we can still make a different choice.
Who do most people consider the greatest American President? Abraham Lincoln. When he was elected, the two primary parties were the Whigs and the Democrats. Yet, this country elected a third-party candidate, Lincoln, to lead the country at that time. As believers, we are obligated to vote for righteous men and women. Voting for the lesser of two evils is not a sin, but there can be scenarios in which there is too much evil in both candidates for you to support them. In these instances, we do have the choice to write in candidates who we know will stand for good. If those third-party candidates are considered unelectable by popular opinion, perhaps we must make a better case for these candidates. Your candidate and your vote do not have to be recognized to be righteous. A vote for righteousness is never wasted.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Psalm 81:12
Sometimes God works by giving men what they want, even when what they want has dire consequences (Psalm 81:12). If our country votes for inconsistent, immoral, self-concerned, power-hungry liars to be our leaders, we will get what we voted for, and that will cost us. As believers, we must involve ourselves in the process, and advocate for what is right. We must care about the biblical administration of justice by those in office and vote with a clear conscience before God.
Politics is not our savior or our sworn enemy. But we can be thankful to our Savior that He gave us the right to vote.