In case you haven’t noticed, there is an election coming. The newscasters have been analyzing and prognosticating about it for months. Signs are dotting peoples’ yards. Advertisements are bombarding television viewers. Flyers and phone calls are being sent out as furiously as flak during an air raid. For some people, retreating to a bomb shelter is looking like a better idea by the minute.
Many evangelical Christians struggle during this time in the nation’s calendar. They wish it would all end quickly so they could get back to their normal life. In fact, statistics indicate that many evangelicals have opted out of the process altogether. Estimates suggest there are roughly 60 million evangelicals in America. Of those, only half were registered to vote in the last presidential election. Of those registered, roughly half made the effort to cast their vote on Election Day.
Some people feel that all the time and effort spent trying to get certain politicians elected to office is a colossal waste of time. They take the view of Mark Twain who quipped, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Public opinion about members of Congress is at an all-time low. Many don’t want to waste their time or energy to elect people in whom they have no confidence.
Others believe it is far more important to invest their energies in God’s kingdom rather than in temporal politics. After all, Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). It would seem far more important to change the course of eternity than to alter who occupies the Oval Office for four years.
The reality is that it is not either or, but both and. Scripture clearly instructs Christians to participate in the government. The apostle Peter declared: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may out to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using your liberty as a vice, but as bond-servants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17).
Peter made it clear that Christians are free. But he also insisted that Christians model good citizenship. When unbelievers watch our conduct, they ought to be impressed with our God. This doesn’t mean we put all of our hopes for social change or advancing the kingdom of God into electing the right politicians. Historically, whenever the Church has allied itself with the state, the Church has always been disappointed. Our hope lies in Christ and His Church, not in well-intentioned government officials.
Nevertheless, Jesus commanded us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus was saying that Christians ought to make a positive difference in those around them. A neighborhood ought to be better because there are Christians living in it. A city, state, and nation ought to be stronger, because of the Christians belonging to it. Certainly sharing the Gospel ought to be paramount. But our love for people ought to compel us to do everything within our power to make our land the best it can be. That includes voting for the best possible candidates during elections.
My paternal grandfather lived in Canada. He was a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party. It was a constant source of grief to him that his dear wife was equally loyal to the Liberal Party of Canada. My grandfather regularly complained that his wife’s vote always cancelled his own. Yet at every election, that opinionated couple marched off to the ballot box to cast their votes. Their children wondered why they did not merely agree to remain home on Election Day. After all, their votes were nullified anyway. But they refused. They intended to use the full extent of their electoral powers to make their nation a better place. It was a principle with them.
When Christians don’t care enough to go to a nearby polling booth to cast their vote, it can reflect much about their desire to make a difference. When Christians remain ignorant of national issues or debates, it can appear as if Christians are unconcerned with peoples’ concerns. It is naïve to think that, in the polarized nation in which we live today, it doesn’t make a difference who is elected. While Christians ought to submit to the governing authorities as Scripture instructs, Christians also ought to make use of every means possible to exert a positive difference on their land. They ought to share their faith, invest their money in their church and Christian causes, and they ought to volunteer for worthy endeavors. But they also ought to cast their vote for the best people possible. It’s not about putting our trust in people rather than God. It is about choosing to live our life in a way that exerts the maximum influence possible to bring about the most good for others. Adding your vote to those of millions of others can seem like a small, even inconsequential effort. But, if all Christians fully invested themselves to better their country, our nation would soon feel the impact.
Intentionally use your words, money, time, energy, and . . . vote, for the greatest good you possibly can.