Perhaps never in our lifetimes has such an election season been more of a quandary and a stress to American Christians. How do we navigate such turbulent waters? How do we interact with the unsaved world in such a hostile political season? How do we proclaim Christ in a country that seems to have lost its way in 2016? Perhaps most importantly, how do we preserve relationships with other believers who feel strongly about this election in ways that differ from our perspective?
I am not naïve enough to think there is a simple solution. But I do believe the Word of God contains some biblical concepts that can help believers navigate this election in ways that honor their conscience, beliefs, and relationships with others. These truths can be articulated in six simple words every Christian should think about as they vote.
These concepts are not just helpful as we vote, but perhaps they will be even more helpful following the election when we have to live with the election results. They certainly are useful reminders as we interact with family, friends, and other believers about the election both now and after the fact and whether our interaction is face to face or on social media.
In the midst of the 2016 election cycle, we need to remember the simple fact that God is sovereign. God sets up kings and takes down kings (Daniel 2:21). This election is no more out of the hands of God than any past election. Though perhaps for many of us this may seem to be the most significant or controversial election in our lifetime, it is good to remember this is not the first time God’s people have lived under political leaders whose lives, actions, and philosophies are radically different than those reflected in His Word. God will remain on His throne, even after November 8. I know this, but sometimes it is good for me to remind my soul of this basic truth. The political structures may be shaken but the theological foundations of God’s plan remain in place and unmoved.
God has graciously allowed those of us living in the United States to have the opportunity to speak into and shape important pieces of our political context. This is not the case for many believers around the globe. Many believers in ages past have lived their whole lives without this gracious opportunity from God. So as difficult and frustrating as this election is for some of us, we should be thankful to God for this gracious opportunity from Him. Whether our vote accomplishes the outcome we desire or not, we have the opportunity to speak into important pieces of our political context. This opportunity goes beyond electing a particular person or supporting a particular party and extends to an entire platform of ideas, positions, and laws that govern our lives. Our opportunity to cast our vote has far reaching impact on the national, state, and local levels. The outcome of this election has ramifications for many policies that will affect the freedom to spread the Gospel and to worship freely as God’s people gathered weekly in our individual local churches. So we should seize this God-given opportunity to speak thoughtfully and intentionally into a specific platform that we are convinced most closely aligns to God’s Word. No platform does this perfectly, and believers will disagree on what platform best aligns with the values set forth by God’s Word. But because God has granted us this opportunity to cast a vote to represent our choice, we must make the most of this opportunity, asking God for wisdom as we do so.
With any gracious opportunity comes personal responsibility. This is true at any level but certainly more so when it comes to the privilege of electing those who govern over us. Though our voice may not be the defining voice, we are called by God to steward the opportunities that He accords us. To the best of our ability, we must use this opportunity to speak according to God’s voice to the degree that we can, in the ways that we can.
Opportunities are wonderful gifts from God but they are not always simple. This election is a good example. We have the privilege of speaking into the choice of who will govern our nation for the next four years. We have the responsibility of doing so in a way that accords with Scripture. However, the choice before us this election has put believers in the difficult position of having to discern how best to do this in ways that accord with Scripture and align with their conscience. Most of us care deeply about certain values. We have framed concepts and deep beliefs that have aligned with particular platforms. We have strong feelings with regard to which party best advances those values and beliefs. This election is the ninth presidential election since I came of age to vote and it is the hardest and most complex choice I personally have had to make in an election because of my conscience. You may not agree with my choice and I may not agree with yours. But each of us has to vote with our own conscience in view, we must give each other room to do so and we must respond in grace to one another when our choices differ.
Ecclesiastes has an oft-forgotten verse: “Curse not the king, no not in thy thought” (Ecc. 10:20). Beyond just respect for another human being, we must respect the office we are voting for, no matter who prevails. No matter what their personal character is like. As believers, we must give due respect to the office, to the process, and to that person as an image-bearer of God. The New Testament writers lived under rulers whose personal lives were characterized by immorality, idolatry, and personal wickedness equal to or beyond those alleged of any of the candidates in this election. Their speech to and about those leaders was marked by respect for the office they held and for them a fellow image bearer. Doubtless we will struggle as we live under the leadership of an individual with whom we strongly disagree or who would not have been our choice. Despite this, the Scripture enjoins us to pray for our leaders and to show due honor and respect to their office.
Pray for wisdom for yourself as you enter that voting booth. Pray for unity among the people of God – that we would not leave this election divided in our churches and relationships. And pray for God’s will to be done on earth, including the part of the earth where God has placed us. We are told to pray just that in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10). Lastly, pray for the protection of God’s people, as they advance the Gospel in this earth in whatever political context we elect.
You may be ready for this election cycle to be over. You may be sick and tired of the posts on social media and all the arguing. But God is at work, even in the confusion that the 2016 presidential race brought to us. Remember He is sovereign. Steward wisely the opportunity He has given you. Consider your conscience and respect the outcome. Above all, diligently pray that God will be glorified in His church on November 8.