On occasion, someone makes a comment on one of my posts that stimulates my thinking to write a long response. If the topic at hand is one of importance to many of my readers, I may “front page it” with a full article. This time, it will be more than one article. 🙂
Some American Christians believe one candidate in the upcoming election is a good choice for Christians to support, but others find both major candidates unacceptable. This article is not intended to make that evaluation, but to provide some Scriptural perspective on the question of voting generally, especially in a case where one feels neither candidate is a good choice. I hope to add a later article on some Biblical principles for evaluating candidates.
There are many questions we face for which Scripture gives no direct answer, but we can find principles that apply. The Scriptural principles in this first part apply to believers who have been given the opportunity to vote in any nation, whether they think they have good choices or not.
Why Should We Care, or Vote?
“This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing thru… and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Cue the music, sing the song, forget about this whole thing, right? The whole world is corrupt, we’re going to Heaven eventually, this all leaves me cold, anyway, time to get on with living a spiritual life and let society go to the evil it has chosen. Except….
And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
Babylon was a violent, corrupt, wicked, idolatrous society. And Jeremiah told the captives in Babylon to pray for its peace. In a previous post I also cited these two verses:
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
Why should we care? Because the more a nation follows wickedness, the less peace it will have. God told His people in Jeremiah’s time to pray for the peace of the wicked nation in which they were residing, and I Timothy 2:1-2 gives us somewhat comparable instructions.
I Timothy 2:1-2
1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
God expects us to pray for a peaceable existence in the country of our residence. But the verses in Psalms and Proverbs give us some of the conditions that bring peace. If a nation’s authorities ask us to state a preference (i.e., vote) in how it should be governed, we should communicate that we want the country to be governed in ways that fit God’s standards for what government should be.
Furthermore, our God commands us to love our neighbours. They will certainly benefit by living in a society governed in keeping with God’s standards, so it is consistent with love for our neighbours to take an opportunity to encourage the government to abide by those standards.
Yes, we should care, and if we are given a vote, we should use it.
“But I Can’t Choose Who Should Win!”
It is very easy, especially when the choices seem bad, to throw our hands up and say, “I can’t choose. I don’t know which will be better (or worse).” This misses an important Scriptural point, and one that is easy for us to forget when we live in the Western “democracies.” Very simply, it is this: my decision is not going to decide the identity of our next MP, or MSP, or the next American President.
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.
And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
The Romans verse may appear confusing, but the context clarifies that “powers that be” speaks of governmental authority. Furthermore, the Greek word for “power” does not mean “might” or brute force, it means “powers” in the sense of “authorities,” which is obvious when we read further. Governmental authority (whether a person administering authority, or documents such as written constitutions, or both) is put in place by God.
That the authority may (often) neglect its proper role (defined in following verses) does not change the fact — God “ordained” the powers that be. They may not be good — often they are horrible. But just as God placed evil Babylonians over the Jews to punish their sinfulness, so He may punish Western wickedness by installing evil “powers that be.”
The verse from Daniel is similar. It is spoken by a voice from Heaven to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It says authority in the kingdom of men is given by God for His purposes.
Very simply, God chooses. He may use votes to install the person He chooses. He may even use my vote as the deciding vote in a very close election — it could happen. But He has NOT put the weight of the world (or the nation) on MY shoulders. (That would be a VERY heavy burden to inflict on His children — what kind of God do you think you have, anyway? 🙂 )
Nor are you quite as important as you think you are if you think that YOU will decide the next Prime Minister, or President, or whatever. As Gandalf said to Bilbo near the end of The Hobbit: “You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
The unsaved person who votes may think he is choosing the elected official. The Christian who is thinking Biblically knows he is not doing that at all. Even if the candidate for whom he votes wins by one vote, the Christian did not decide the election. Our Lord moved exactly enough people to vote for that candidate so he would be elected. The Almighty decided that election, as He does every election on every level.
What is a Vote, Then?
If a Christian is not deciding, or helping to decide, an election (and Scripture very clearly tells us he is not), what is the vote to a Christian?
Whatever others may think, whatever the “powers that be” may think, all a vote is to a Christian is responding to an invitation by “the powers that be” to express something of what we believe about government. A vote is a message related to how government should be executed.
That message will be very imprecise. There is no box on the ballot that says, “Govern according to the principles laid out in Romans 13 and I Timothy 2.” That box is not there, I looked on my last ballot. 🙂 If I vote for a candidate, no one knows WHY I did so. Does that mean it is useless? Again, no. We look to send a message that communicates something of value, a message our Lord and Master wants us to send, trusting Him to use it.
But to send the right message, I believe we have to start by understanding what HE wants government to be. And since this is a blog post, not a book, I’ll defer that to Part II.
But before I close this one off, I’ll note this point. This really should take some of the tension out of voting. We aren’t deciding who wins, we are only sending a message, and an imprecise one at best. All we can really do is use the intelligence and wisdom God has given us to do the best we can at sending that message. Then, we trust the Giver of that intelligence and wisdom to cause right messages to be received by the people who need to receive them.
Christians need to remember — the same God who sent Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass is still in control. Thrones and dominions, and political candidates and parties, have been crushed at His command before, and they will be again and again until He comes to establish His rule in righteousness. Political decisions do matter, we should care — but we can also relax a little bit when we understand our votes in proper Biblical perspective.
Christians can afford to dial back our stress level over politics, and if we are thinking Biblically, we should. If that means we have to spend less time reading political news, we’ll probably survive. I began by saying we should care — but we shouldn’t be controlled or consumed.
More to come….