“How shall we then live?” it’s the age old question of the Sunday school teacher, the bible reader, and the pastor alike. After sorting through big ideas of scripture or philosophy we are faced with the challenge of applying these ideas to our own lives, or to the lives of our listeners, in finite and practical ways in order to make them effectual. In order for the study of God’s Word to be more than a mere intellectual exercise we must apply it, allow it to renew our minds and transform our actions. We must allow it to craft our very character and guide our actions in every realm of life, even in the voting booth.
There is certainly no shortage of input from pastors, professors, and politicians telling us how evangelicals will vote or should vote. But as followers of Christ we ought to have a single authority that governs how we walk through the political fiasco of this election, and that authority is the Word of God.
Interestingly the Bible doesn’t actually tell us which candidate to vote for. I scoured my largest concordance for the words “Trump” or “Clinton” and came back with nothing. And so, in the absence of clear commands from Scripture, those who desire to honor Christ in the voting booth must look to larger biblical principles to govern their actions. After spending months watching this election unfold and discussing it with believing friends and family members on both side of the isle, these are some of those biblical concepts that I have found most pertinent to tomorrow’s election.
Do not be afraid
“Fear not” is one of the most common commands of scripture. (Gen 15:1, Ex. 20:20, Matt. 10:28, Phil 4:6, et al.) But fear is a constant theme in this election, even among those who follow Christ. Fear that Hillary will win. Fear that she won’t. Fear that the Supreme Court will be lost for a generation. Fear that religious freedoms will evaporate. Fear that somehow in the next four years a single human being will derail the work that God has been doing since the dawn of creation. (Psalm 33:11) This fear comes from a need for control, a need for power. We have come to rely on political power and influence as proof that things are under control, that we are being taken care of. But the words of Scripture tell us that true power is not ours to wield (James 4:13-14), and that even in the midst of chaos, our sovereign God reigns and His plans will always prevail. (Isiah 14:24) So we don’t need to spend our time wringing our hands about the possibility of losing our façade of power and control.
Your identity is in Christ
If you are in Christ you are not primarily a republican or a democrat. You are not primarily an American. You are a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) This is not to say that patriotism or national identity are sinful, simply that they are utterly unimportant compared to the value of knowing Christ. (Phil. 3:7-8) I’ve heard many pastors and church leaders use the language of “dual citizenship” to describe the place of the Christian in American but ultimately this is unhelpful because citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is much more than being a part of a nation, it is being part of a family (Eph. 2:9), part of a body (1 Cor. 12:27), part of a new humanity (Eph. 2:15-16). When we elevate our national identity to the level of our participation in Christ, or when we take amoral political ideologies such as conservative and liberal, republican and democrat, and hold them up as defining and guiding pieces of our identity we commit political idolatry and serve party platforms rather than a living God.
Obey the edicts of your conscience
We like things to be black and white. Unfortunately, not everything is. While the Bible does tell us everything we need to know to live a holy life, it does not specifically address every moral issue we may face. And so we are left with the occasional grey hued conundrum. Paul addresses just these sorts of issues in Romans 14 where he discusses the observance of Jewish food laws. His instructions in cases where the commands of Scripture are not explicit can be summed up as:
- Be sure of your personal convictions and follow them faithfully. (Romans 14:5-6)
- Do not pass judgement on other believers whose convictions differ from your own. (Romans 14:2-4)
- In everything seek to glorify God. (Romans 14:7-8)
Love your enemy
Loving your enemy (Matt. 5:44) is incompatible with political mudslinging. Throughout the course of this election I have seen more people on either end of the political spectrum personally attacking each other and political candidates than ever before, and more often than not they are doing so with a wanton disregard for the truth of their attacks. As believers we should stand for truth (Eph. 4:25) and love (1 Cor. 13) but when we participate in the vindictive name calling and rumor mongering that has plagued this election we stand for neither. Perhaps this is a point that would have been better made months ago rather than on the night before the end of this ugly election cycle, but as we move forward we as Christians need to become voices that elevate the political discourse not ones that drive it further into the mud.
How shall we then vote?
It is not my intention to tell you who to vote for. Through prayer and thoughtful consideration I have come to the personal conviction that neither major party candidate is acceptable; that neither stands for life and the free exercise of religion, neither is morally righteous and upstanding, and thus neither will get my vote. But that is a personal conviction, not a command of God, not an imperative of Scripture. Scripture grants us freedom to make our own decisions apart from direct commandments. And in the case of a presidential election there is no direct commandment, just general principles that govern how we approach the process. In this way Scripture has much more to say about how we are to approach the process of voting, than it does about who we vote for.