Election day is weeks away. I’ve always taken my vote seriously, for I believe that we have been given the privilege of a voice and that we should use it to the best of our ability. Making a decision in this election, however, is rough.
On what should I base my vote if none of the candidates meet my criteria for wise and right leadership? I know I am not the only one struggling with this conundrum, for I’ve had conversations with many people who feel the same way.
God said he would give us wisdom when we ask for it, and I’m taking him up on it. I’m asking. You’re welcome to follow my musings, beginning with what the Bible has to say and moving on to the looming decision.
The Bible doesn’t have one nice summary statement on voting in the United States in the 21st century, so we must do some careful reading and thoughtful application of biblical text. The most extensive passage on government is Romans 13:1-7 which tells us how to properly live under a government, but not how to vote for one.
God’s work in human history has always been set in community; the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the community of the Church in the New Testament. In the Old Testament the kings of Israel were in charge, but they ultimately answered to God. God declared that kings either did right in the eyes of God, or they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and it didn’t really matter what their economic or foreign policy had been. It was solely a matter of faithfulness to the Lord as expressed by right worship and righteous behavior.
In the New Testament we see that Jesus didn’t bother with politics. He was not at all concerned with money or property rights or taxes. He didn’t have a house, and when he needed money for taxes he sent Peter to find a fish with a shekel in its mouth. He healed, delivered, fed and taught everyone, including the marginalized, the poor, women and Gentiles. His ministry was far more about doing what was right for all people than doing what would be thought proper by political or religious leaders.
His famous retort to the Pharisees, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” is about as close as we come to explicit teaching from Jesus, and the context of that statement suggests that Jesus had the Kingdom of God in view and not the kingdom of Caesar.
Later on believers were told that “The authorities that exist have been established by God,” (Romans 13:1) which must have been difficult to make sense of during some of Rome’s awful rulers. We owe respect and honor to our government officials, for Paul wrote in Romans 13:7, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” That is not always easy, but it is right.
Those truths help in a general sense, and now I plan to follow the following steps and do the best I can.
Pray for wisdom. That is the most important thing any Christian can do in this election. Pray for personal wisdom, pray for the wisdom of all voters, and pray for wisdom of the government officials who are elected. I’ve read several articles arguing for one candidate or another, many by Christians, but virtually none of them mentioned prayer. That is always the first and most important activity when facing a difficult decision like this one. Pray!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
Do my homework. It is kind of overwhelming, isn’t it? Every time I vote and come to the long list of judges, of whom I have never heard, and I feel like I should have done a little more homework. Honestly, I probably won’t know the judges again this time, but I will research candidates for president and congress.
This involves more than watching your favorite news source and following twitter. As accomplished as they are, the media are vulnerable to sensationalism, to the story of the moment, and to their own biases, so we will have to investigate several sources for each story and read the candidate’s own websites for their policies. Look for opinions different from yours, look on websites you don’t normally check, and try to get as many perspectives as possible.
For example, last week I read a couple of articles like “Should Christians Vote for Trump?” by Eric Metaxas in the Wall Street Journal. They argued that Christians should vote for Trump, as painful as it would be, because he has claimed a pro-life position. For a different point of view, I also read “The pro-life movement’s fatal attraction” by Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune, arguing that Christians would be defeating their moral authority by affirming Trump’s odious character. Interesting.
I will be taking note of contrasting articles and ideas over the coming weeks. How about you?
“The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Proverbs 18:17
What is the bottom line? I predict that no candidate will meet my criteria for solid leadership, but I will have to make a decision.
God wants his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven; not the other way around.
The community of God’s people, the Church, are Jesus’ hands and feet on this earth. It is through the Church that God will bring his kingdom to earth, not through politics or a nation or a president. There is a reason that Jesus refused any notion that he would be the Messiah that the Jews expected, a political savior. Jesus knew that he had a much bigger job to do.
The outcome of this presidential election will not change the fact that God will use his people to do his work. Maybe it will become more difficult. Maybe we will depend on him a bit more. He knows what he is doing.
I’ll try to vote based on truth, and I’ll pray for discernment. Much of election rhetoric has been playing to our fears: fear of the other candidate, fear of immigration or refugees, fear of economic loss, and fear of irreversible change to the principles that made this country successful. Those all deserve consideration, but I do not want to vote based on fear. I’ll pray for fearless focus.
Bottom line; I’ll pray, I’ll do my homework, and I’ll vote.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
It’s in God’s hands.
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1
Do you plan to vote? If so, on what will you base your vote?