Richard Lee is the Lead Pastor of Bethany Well Church in Fort Lee, NJ. The views expressed here are his own and not those of the church.
We have been told from all parts of society that we should not mix politics and religion, the church and the state. However, for Christians, faith is meant to be instructive to them in their relationships, their careers and all aspects of their lives. So, why should we cordon off politics from our faith? The truth of the matter is that many Christians today don’t know how their faith affects their vote.
Instead of shying away from the issue. I would like to tell you how I think all Christians should vote. No, I’m not gonna just come out and say vote Republican or vote Democrat. That would be too easy... and too polarizing. Instead, I will outline the principles by which I believe all Christians should vote.
Vote For Citizens
In some ways, Christians have a unique place in our society, because we have dual-citizenship. We are commanded to be ‘aliens and strangers’ in this world because our ‘citizenship is in heaven’ (I Peter 2:11, Philippians 3:20).
However at the same time, we are nevertheless citizens of the towns, states and country in which we reside. Voting for Citizens means that we should not simply be voting for what we think is best for people in the Church, but rather as a citizen of Ft. Lee, or New Jersey, or the United States.
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” ~ Jeremiah 29:7
The other aspect of Voting for Citizens means that we are not trying to usher in a church-state. We are not trying to legislate Christianity. That didn’t work for Constantine nor for the Crusades. And it won’t work today.
Any attempt to moralize society with Christian ethics is not only impractical but also impossible. It may not only be deceitful, but also destructive. We should not be after people who follow morals without faith. Those are what we call hypocrites. In fact, Jesus’ harshest judgements were reserved for the most morally upright in society (Matthew 23), because their ‘righteousness’ was not based on faith. We don’t want a society full of Pharisees and professional moralists.
It is precisely this acknowledgement that is at the center of our understanding of the Gospel. It is our admission that we are NOT good enough or morally upright enough to be considered righteous that is at the core of our believing the Gospel. It’s not that we live a life ‘good’ enough, it’s precisely that we cannot. And we turn to Jesus for salvation.
Vote With Peace
Have we lost all civility during election season? Everything you read on social media and the news is so polemical and divisive. Politics has become so polarized today that you cannot even buy a cup of coffee without being told to choose who you’re going to vote for. Between all the smear campaigns and negative ads we have lost the ability to have conversations with respect and humility.
People post political views on Facebook and then people complain about other people’s views because they don’t agree. I’m sure thousands of people have been ‘unfriended’ (sometimes literally) because of what they post on Facebook. As Christians, we should remind ourselves to be peaceable and respectful. Be above the rhetoric of rabble-rousing.
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” ~ Titus 3:1-2
Vote With Knowledge
You should know where each candidate stands on a myriad of issues. If you don’t inform yourself then you are merely becoming the type of person that gets swayed by negative ads. You need to develop your own filter so you can evaluate the things you hear in debates and ads.
Part of the problem is that too many Christians have become One-Issue Voters and once they encounter a candidate that doesn’t agree with them on the hot-button issue, then they stop listening and stop learning.
Perhaps your One-Issue is Abortion or Gay Marriage or the Economy or Foreign Policy. It could be anything really. I know of a woman whose One-Issue is stem cell research. You never know what that issue may be to different people.
The fundamental problem with being a One-Issue Voter is that your president doesn’t just vote on that one issue. If you vote for a candidate because of his stance on Gay Marriage, then you are also voting for his policies on the Economy, Healthcare and the Environment.
I’m not saying to ignore the issues that you feel strongly about. In fact, I would encourage you to continue to feel passionate about them; study them, research them. Christians should pursue what the Bible has to say about these issues like poverty, abortion, etc. Don’t vote ignorantly, vote informed. So, when you cast your vote, understand how your vote is cast along the broad spectrum of issues, not just one.
Vote For Others
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” ~ Proverbs 31:8-9
Throughout Scripture, we are called to be advocates for those that have no advocate. We are called to be a voice for the voiceless, to stand up for those that have no standing. Cast your vote for the benefit of others.
Whether you advocate for an unborn fetus or gays or those in poverty or those at war... or all of them. Don’t simply vote for whoever will give you the best tax break or the best health plan. Rather use your vote to bless others.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” ~ James 1:27
Again, the very foundation of our faith lies in the advocacy of Christ. II Corinthians 8:9 states, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus became our Advocate by taking on our poverty and making us rich. He took on the poverty of our sinfulness and gave us his rich righteousness. For this reason, we are called to advocate for others.
“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.” ~ Zechariah 7:10
Vote With Prayer
Whether you vote for Obama or Romney, one of these men will be the leader of our country. And regardless of how you feel about them, you are called to pray for them.
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” ~ I Timothy 2:1-3
Pray for who to vote for. Pray for the different issues. Pray for peace among the parties. Pray for those that need a voice. Pray for whoever wins, regardless of who that is!
In fact, if you haven’t been praying for the person or party with which you disagree, then let the first time that you open your mouth be in prayer to God, not in criticism to others.
Vote With(out) Hope
The first election I remember was in 1984, when I was 9. Reagan won 49 of 50 states and garnered 525 electoral votes to Mondale’s 13. As the incumbent president, I don’t think that election was about hope as much as this one is. I don’t think people were so concerned about their future being better, because they were pretty happy with their present!
This election, however, is about hope. The rhetoric among the parties is about who will raise America out of the recession, who will create new jobs, who will change the trajectory of our nation in the world at large.
But, as Christians, we need to realize that we need to Vote Without Hope. Don’t place your hope in any one person. Ultimately, whoever wins will not deliver on everyone of his promises or plans. Neither candidate will be able to accomplish everything they intend. And in four years, we will be probably be using the rhetoric of hope once again to nominate new Presidential candidates.
However, we can Vote WITH Hope. That is because we believe in a God who is sovereign over the President and Congress and supreme over the Supreme Court.
Proverbs 21:1 reminds that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord”. What a promise! God is in control. In fact, Romans 13:1 tells us that “there is no authority except that which God has established.”
No matter who wins and whether ‘your guy’ wins or loses, you can hope in our God who is the ultimate ruler of nations. So, whether you agree with where we are going as a nation or not, rest assured that you can hope in the literal “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:6).