By Pastor Jay T. Robertson
Crawford Baptist Church, Mobile
Assistant professor of Christian studies, University of Mobile
Walking into the voting booth, you thought you were clear on how to vote. But as you look over the ballot, some of the initiatives appear “more complicated” than you had thought. With a perplexed look on your face and uncertain thoughts flooding your mind, you begin to wonder why you need to vote. You are not alone. Many Americans are perplexed about the significance of their vote.
As election day draws nearer, many Christians interpret their civic responsibility differently. Some believe they should withdraw completely from the affairs of this earthly kingdom and only involve themselves in the affairs of the spiritual kingdom. Christians should have nothing to do with petitions, protests, and ballots. Instead, believers must take up the weapons of the Spirit such as prayer meetings, gospel tracts and revival services. Others seem to believe that revival can be ushered in on Air Force One if the right person is elected president. If the political institutions can be “Christianized,” a golden age will result. But what about the majority of Christians who fall somewhere in between these two extreme positions? Should a Christian vote? Do Christians have an obligation to vote? What does voting have to do with a Christian worldview? What impact does voting have on the glory of God?
Through a biblical lens
As Christians grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and are transformed by the renewing of their minds, they are enabled to see life through the eyes of Christ. Spiritual maturity occurs as one acquires a biblical lens through which he sees the big picture of God’s plan. This big picture consists of four frames: creation, the fall, redemption and restoration. God created the universe and everything and everyone in it. It was very good. The tempter came sowing seeds of doubt and making statements of denial concerning God and His truth. Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie rather than God’s truth, resulting in a cursed universe. But God had a plan to redeem a people for Himself, so He sent Jesus into the world to die for sinners (and we all qualify). Jesus absorbed God’s wrath that should fall on us and He paid the penalty for our sins. Salvation is now available to all who will call on the name of the Lord! Believers are created in Christ Jesus for good works. By God’s grace Christians are to shape and transform culture. Your light is to shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to God. Believers are to be transformers of society. God does not save people to sit, soak and sour on a church pew. Christians are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
So how does the voting booth relate to the glory of God? If you believe that all of life belongs to God and you have been saved to glorify God in all you do by making a difference in people’s lives, you cannot neglect involvement in politics. Christians often hesitate because politics can be a dirty business, but business will not improve unless believers participate by voting on the basis of biblical convictions and, for some, by serving in various elected positions. Christians should bring a different style and content to political life.
William Wilberforce serves as a great example. He was deeply Christian, vibrantly evangelical and passionately political in the British House of Commons over the long haul in the fight to end the African slave trade. On Oct. 28, 1787, Wilberforce wrote in his diary: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of morals.” In battle after battle in Parliament he was defeated because “the trade” was so much woven into the financial interests of the nation. But he never gave up the two great objects God laid on his heart. Twenty years later, at 4:00 a.m. on Feb. 24, 1807, the decisive vote was cast and the slave trade was declared illegal in the British Empire. Members of the House of Commons rose and turned toward Wilberforce in a burst of parliamentary cheers, while the little man with the curved spine sat, head bowed, tears streaming down his face.
Must be involved
As citizens of earth, as well as of heaven, we cannot complain about the political leaders we have, nor the decisions they make, unless we are willing to elect men and women of integrity who support policies that restrain evil and reinforce goodness. For Christians to make a difference in this world as salt and light, they need to be involved in the political process, both by voting and by encouraging qualified men and women to enter the vocation of politics.
We simply cannot escape by pointing out the imperfections of leaders. That is the only kind of leaders there ever will be until the Leader returns to rule the cosmos. Our calling in this world is not to wait for the perfect candidate to be placed on the ticket, but to pick our way through the thicket of flaws we find in a Genesis 3 world by walking in wisdom and voting for imperfect candidates who best reflect a biblical worldview.
The Lord Jesus does not offer us the luxury of disengagement from the political process. Jesus says: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Even secular Caesar has his claim on our lives because God made human governments His way of running the world. The apostle Paul writes: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). In a democratic republic like the one we are blessed to live in that at least means we should vote.
Complex, ambiguous factors
There are many ambiguities and complexities when it comes to voting for a particular kind of person as our political representative or for or against a party with a platform we endorse or reject. Political decisions affect every aspect of our lives from taxation to issues such as stem-cell research, abortion, marriage, the family, war and economic policies. God has commanded us to “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” (Jer. 29:7).
The apostle Paul writes: “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” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). Praying for the welfare of our city and for our leaders is being involved in politics. If Christians would spend more time praying to our Father in heaven with broken hearts rather than murmuring and criticizing our political leaders while failing to pray for them, we could see God transform this nation. Christians are to be a positive, godly influence in their communities.
Seek godly wisdom
Believers are citizens of both this world and the world to come, but a Christian’s heavenly citizenship must come first. The Christian’s dual citizenship leads to a tension which requires wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to perceive Christ-magnifying, gospel-fashioned, people-helping, community-transforming ways to live with the knowledge that God supplies us. Wisdom is needed because so many of the decisions we have to make are not explicitly regulated by specific Scriptures. Wisdom is needed as you think about having your citizenship preeminently in heaven, not in America. How do you live on the earth when your life is hidden with Christ in God, when you are an alien and exile on this earth, and yet commanded to submit to the powers that be, and to love your neighbor, and to make a living, and to subdue the earth? How are we to be in the world and not of the world? Although we must render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, we can never forget that we are exiles wherever we find ourselves and there are thus limitations on Christian allegiance to any political structure, political ideology or even nation or king.
In addition to wisdom, Christians need courage to vote against injustices in our political systems. God’s passion for justice is clearly seen in the Bible. Amos declares: “Take away from the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24). Since God is passionate for justice and righteousness, we must have the courage to take a stand and vote in a manner consistent with His desires. We must look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When you walk into the voting booth on Nov. 8, the kingdom of God will not be on the ballot. However, there will be electoral choices that significantly impact the common good. And your choices are important. May you enter the voting booth and make your selections for the glory of God and the good of your fellow man.