The Political Elephant in the Room: How Should a Christian Vote?
Conscientious Christians need to think critically and biblically and tactfully about every issue facing our country. I think every political issue has spiritual overtones or undertones. I think we need to be engaged in the political “process.” Listen, I think we need to vote. We need more Christians who are called to culture-shaping professions like politics. It is our right and responsibility.
But I also believe that the church exists to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. And all too often, our politics actually gets in the way of that. Our political positions can be obstacles that keep people from getting to the cross. And Jesus didn’t come to set up an earthly Kingdom. He came to redeem us from our sin and setup a spiritual kingdom that would transcend every earthly kingdom. When the people wanted to make him king, which they did—John 6:15. Jesus resisted them. Why? Because he came to establish a kingdom that would transcend politics, transcend culture, transcend borders, transcend languages.
Here are a few key principles that will assist us in living Christ-filled lives in our culture.
Number One — Blood is Thicker than Water
Here’s the first principle: blood is thicker than water. My mom used to say that all the time as a kid. It was her way of reminding us that family comes first. Your friends will come and go. But family is forever. Here’s the bottom line: the body of Christ is an incredibly diversified group of people. We have lots of people on both sides of the political aisle. But I want you to listen to Galatians 3:26-29.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
If Paul had been writing this in twenty-first century America I think he would have included Republican and Democrat. There were huge divisions in the ancient world. But Paul said those divisions disappear in Christ. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
I know that sounds somewhat utopian. But I think Paul is saying our allegiance to Christ comes first. Our allegiance to each other, as a spiritual family, comes second. And our allegiance to whatever political party we are part of comes third.
So it’s “God first.” “Family second.” And “politics third.”
Why? Because blood—the blood of Christ, the bloodline that runs through everyone that is part of the church, Christ’s body.
And that brings us to the second principle.
Number Two — Our Kingdom is Spiritual
Philippians 3:20-21 says:
“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”
Listen, we are citizens of the U.S. Yes. And I celebrate that. I am proud to be an American.
But here is the deal. We are first and foremost, citizens of heaven. We are part of a spiritual kingdom. And our prayer is this: Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done!
I’m not sure exactly how to say this, but fighting injustice or alleviating suffering or caring for the sick or helping the poor or fighting for life are not political agendas. They are God’s agenda. God cares about everything from AIDS to orphans to the environment. Why? Because he made them! So this is a spiritual statement not a political statement.
I think the church, in too many instances, has abdicated its role and responsibility.
Here’s what I’m getting at. We need to be the solution. We need to be the church. We need to be the blessing. We need to be going into our schools and say: how can we be a blessing? We need to be walking into our council member’s offices and asking: how can we be a blessing? We need to be volunteering our time.
But here’s my point. Yes, we want to make a difference politically. I believe politics is a noble calling. And we need Christians to view that as their mission-field. We need Christians in culture-shaping professions. And God strategically positioned people throughout the Old Testament in positions of political power to make a difference—Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, Queen Esther in Persia. It’s about the Kingdom of Jesus Christ being advanced on earth. That would be a good place to say Amen! It’s about His agenda. His mission. His priorities. And we, as the church, are His vehicle.
“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
They thought the solution to their problems was political. They wanted to elect Jesus. Jesus for President. But political policies are not ultimate solutions. The ultimate solution is the Lord’s prayer: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And that transcends both political parties.
Number Three — Don’t Pass Judgment on Disputable Matters
This is an incredibly important principle when it comes to politics. And it’s a difficult one to explain and apply. But let me give it a shot.
There are issues in the Bible that are black and white or right and wrong. The Bible is explicit. When you turn something that is black and white into something that is gray it’s called relativism. We live in the bastion of political correctness where it is wrong to say something is wrong. And that’s wrong. I think we need to stand our political ground on issues of right and wrong. And we need to fight for what is right. Listen, if it’s black and white then we need to be black and white! On the other hand, there are issues that are gray. The Bible is not explicit about them. And when we turn them into black and white or right and wrong issues, it is called legalism. And both of those errors are incredibly destructive.
Romans 14:1 says: Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.
What is a disputable matter? It’s something that is gray. The Bible is not explicit concerning the issue. And we need to give some biblical latitude. We do that with our core belief statement. There are some doctrines that are non-negotiable. Jesus was the Son of God. He lived in a sinless life. He died on the cross for our sin. And he was raised again on the third day. But there are other issues—eternal security, the rapture of the church, and whether or not to sing the third verse of a hymn—that we’ve disagreed on forever.
We quote Rupertus Meldenius all the time. He said, “In the essentials unity; in the non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.”
There is a lot of cynicism and skepticism outside the beltway. But I’ve grown to appreciate the people who have devoted themselves to making a difference in the political realm. And I may not agree with their politics. But I can appreciate their passion.
We need our differences as a church. We have a core value: conformity doesn’t equal maturity. The same is true in the political arena. We need our differences. And when it comes to disputable matters or matters of conscience we need some biblical latitude.
Number Four — If you don’t vote don’t complain.
The political atmosphere right now makes me think of Numbers 14:26-28:
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites.”
The Israelites were always complaining and grumbling. I think we need to quit complaining and quit grumbling. We need to stop pointing out what’s wrong and become part of the solution. Otherwise, we’ll continue to be known for what we’re against instead of what we’re for.
Here’s the fourth principle:
If you don’t vote don’t complain! And even if you do vote, and the person you vote for doesn’t get elected, then don’t spend the next four years complaining. Listen, here is what is going to happen this week. We’re going to go to the polls. We’re going to cast votes.
Well, here’s a thought. If your candidate loses, it may be the perfect time to actually obey Matthew 5:44.
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
What if we quit complaining and started praying. I honestly think it would change the political tone in our country. You know what I’ve discovered. When I talk badly about someone behind their back, I can’t look them in the eye. But when I’m praying for something, even someone I don’t really like or agree with, I can look them in the eye.
And that leads me to my final point.
Number Five — Respect Those in Authority
Romans 13:1-7 says,
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. But Paul didn’t live in twenty-first century America. Ha! He lived under Roman rule. In fact, he had a few brushes with the law. He had been illegally flogged. Almost died. But he didn’t hold a vendetta against the government. And Rome didn’t offer anywhere near the freedoms we enjoy under the bill of rights!
I think we as Christ-followers need to operate in a spirit of humility and a spirit of reconciliation.
We need a spirit of humility.
Listen, with National Community Church located in Washington, DC, it is a very insecure place! There is lots of image-making and political posturing. There is a lot of insecurity. It’s not the easiest environment to be a humble, authentic, follower of Christ. But if you have the courage to follow the example Jesus set, I think you can make a difference the way Jesus did.
We also need a spirit of reconciliation.
Again, fighting injustice and alleviating suffering and caring for the poor are not political agendas. They are God’s agenda. And we need to come together for a common cause. The cause is bigger than our differences!
Job 11:6 is one of my guiding principles. It says, “True wisdom has two sides.” I believe truth is found in the tension of opposites. And we’ve got to find a way to embrace the tension. I honestly think, if we take the best of both parties, we’re better off a country.
We vote everyday with our lives. We vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips, and our wallets….ultimate change does not just happen one day every four years, it happens day after day after day after day.