Many Christians (and apparently a lot of other people) still aren’t sure how to vote. This is not surprising, because in any vote, we make a decision about the future (in this case, what is best for Scotland’s future?), and we simply don’t know the future. This is not only true of a referendum, but also when electing government officials. We can’t know whether they will govern in righteousness or wickedness in future. An evil person elected one day may repent the next day, or a seemingly righteous person may be a fraud and govern horribly.
This is one reason (not the only one) Baptists have historically been hesitant to tell people how to vote. We may speak in principles and bring Scripture to bear on particular issues, but it is not the job of government to tell us what to believe and how to worship, and it is not the job of the church to decide who should rule. Telling people who to elect when you don’t have omniscience is dangerous — for instance, you might inadvertently advocate someone very evil, and leave people feeling you have betrayed them.
In tomorrow’s referendum, we have projections from both sides as to what will happen, but they are really just guesses, guessing the future. The campaigns know the past, and interpret it differently, but no one knows the future. It is easy to construct hypothetical scenarios where one vote or the other would be better, and both sides have been doing it at length — without that, there wouldn’t be much debate, I suppose.
So what is a Christian supposed to do, how can we decide our vote (in any election), when we simply don’t know the future?
Should We Vote At All?
We could, of course, refuse to vote, but there is a Biblical problem with that.
Romans 13:1, 7
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
This country is governed with the understanding that citizens should inform themselves, and vote. Government does not command us to vote, but it does asks us to. We are to honour “the powers that be” — thus, when they ask us to vote, we honour them by doing so. (A protest, in the form of a blank or intentionally spoiled ballot paper, is a legitimate response when there is no choice a Christian can support. But refusing to vote at all does not honour God-given authority.)
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
We have been given the responsibility (and privilege) as citizens to have some influence in the future course of the nation. It is good to have an opportunity to influence the nation towards righteousness. But how can we do that if we don’t know the future?
1. Love the Lord
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Love the Lord. Get your heart and soul in tune with Him. And love Him with your mind, using the mental abilities He has given you to think about how your vote can be an influence for righteousness. Which issues have Biblical ramifications? You won’t be able to think this through very well if your heart and soul are not right with Him, if you are harbouring sin and rebellion. That disrupts right thinking.
So make sure you are spiritually where you need to be, repent and confess any sin, trust God for forgiveness, and then pray and think. Ask the Lord to bring to your mind any relevant Scriptures. Then, decide your vote, based on what you know of Scripture, what you know of the issues, what you think based on those factors (and any others the Lord brings to mind) will be the best decision for the future of the nation. You have been asked to exercise influence — use it to seek to turn your nation towards the righteousness that will lift it up.
2. Stay Humble
13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
You could be mistaken as to what will be best for the nation in the coming years. As a man in our church said to me today, “We aren’t even promised tomorrow, and the referendum is tomorrow.” How can we know what comes after the referendum?
I don’t see any Scriptural reason to pray for a particular outcome to this election. I have thought through the issues, and decided how I will vote, but I cannot know for certain that my decision is the one that is the best for the nation. I could be wrong. You could be, too.
I am praying that the Lord will accomplish what is best, and that if my vote is an error, He will move others to vote differently and overturn my vote.
3. Vote in Faith
We should vote in faith. I am not talking about faith that there will be a particular outcome (the one we want) to an election, but faith in the sovereignty and goodness of the One we serve.
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance….
The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
If the vote tomorrow is Yes, we will know God did it. If the vote is No, we will know God did it. We vote, as the authority in our country has encouraged us to do, but we always remember the decision is ultimately in the hands of our Lord. If He can turn the heart of a king, He can also turn the hearts of voters. If the vote doesn’t turn out the way I thought it should, I will have to accept that I was wrong as to what was best. It will simply prove that I didn’t have a complete understanding of what God is doing in this nation — something that needs no proof anyway. 🙂
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
If we know a sovereign God will direct this decision, we also know that what He does is for the good of His people. Though there is great uncertainty today, the people of Jehovah-God need not fear the outcome. He will bring good out of it to those who love Him.
This promise is not to all, but only to those who love Him. The result of the referendum tomorrow, whichever way it goes, could be a step by which God is bringing a nation (or several nations) closer to repentance and to blessing, or (tragically) it could be a step by which He brings those nations closer to judgment. That is something only He knows. There is no guarantee that tomorrow’s result will be good for Scotland, or for the other nations of the United Kingdom — but it will assuredly bring good to believers, ultimately, no matter what happens to the nations.
Believers can vote in confidence, honouring the earthly authority that has asked them to vote, thus honouring the Heavenly Authority that told them to honour those earthly authorities. We use our vote (as best as we can understand) to influence the nation towards righteousness, but above all, we trust the Lord. The matter is in His hands. Our votes may or may not be the instrument by which He does it, but He will certainly do right, and He will certainly bring good for His people, whatever the electoral outcome.