How Should a Christian Vote? May 31, 2016
Over the course of the presidential election, I have often been asked for advice on how to vote. This has been an exceedingly unpredictable and confusing process, to say the least! Scripture tells us that, “the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom. 13:1). This means that whoever becomes the next president will be elected because of God’s appointment. Scripture also instructs us to render to government leaders the taxes, customs, fear, and respect due them (Rom. 13:7). The apostle Paul wrote this at a time when depraved rulers such as Nero sat on the throne and made human torches out of Christians to light his garden! Paul listed no qualifiers on which government officials were worthy of support. Paul urged Christians to be good, supportive citizens. This does not mean we support practices that are unbiblical, but it does mean we try to be as supportive of our government as our conscience allows.
So how do Christians vote in the presidential election? I will quickly acknowledge that the answer is complex and requires more space than is found in this blog. Let me offer four guidelines. These are far from comprehensive. They are simply a starting point.
First, pray! Don’t assume you know the answer. Don’t get your views from 24-hour news channels. Go to God with an open mind and allow Him to impress His will on you. God’s ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). He is at work, even in the political process, accomplishing His purposes. You cannot see all He is doing in and through politicians’ lives. But, your vote might contribute to the work He is doing. So ask Him how to cast your ballot.
Second, look for Christian character. America currently has a corrupt, dishonest, power-hungry political system. Many Christians have entered politics with good intentions but eventually been jaded by money, special interest groups, and ungodly counsel. Ideally, the president will govern and live by biblical principles and will be characterized by integrity and courage.
Third, seek an effective leader. Some Christians believe they should always vote for the candidate who is the strongest Christian. However, we must be cautious in this. The best Christian may not be the best leader. While we prefer our president to be a strong Christian with sterling character, those are often not one of our options! And, unfortunately, being a strong Christian does not necessarily mean you are a strong leader. There have been many godly pastors who were great men of prayer and holiness but who could not conduct a meeting or lead a staff. The president is not elected to be godly but to lead. Christians should vote for the candidate who will lead the country most effectively.
Fourth, consider who will best facilitate God’s purposes. We do not elect presidents so they can evangelize the nation or change its moral condition. That is the Church’s job. What we want the president to do is to provide the Church sufficient freedoms and protections so it can fulfill its mission. We also expect the president to protect the nation from its enemies, strengthen the economy, and enforce laws against lawbreakers. When the government does this, the Church can do its job of being salt and light. This might not necessarily be the candidate who is the most faithful churchgoer! In fact, the president may not be a Christian, but he might be a strong supporter of the First Amendment. For example, one of the government leaders in history who dramatically helped God’s people was Cyrus, emperor of Persia. He decreed that the Jewish exiles in Babylon could return to Jerusalem. It was the Persian emperor Artaxerxes who sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem with the authority to rebuild the city’s wall. These were powerful, pagan kings who were favorably disposed toward God’s people and their causes. Today’s Christians should ask for God’s guidance as to which candidate will be most favorable toward God’s purposes. Finally, we do not know what God is doing in a candidate’s heart. God might be drawing someone to Himself who is not currently a believer. That is why we must pray. Only God understands who will ultimately be the best leader for our nation. Only God knows what lies in the future.
Christians must participate. If Christians boycott an election on principle, they simply allow people with opposing views to get what they want in the election! Just because you vote for people, you are not endorsing their lifestyle or beliefs. You are choosing the candidate who, at that time, is the best person available. But you are making your voice heard. You are also casting your vote of disapproval against the other candidate. And I believe you are heeding the apostle Paul’s injunction to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Every Christian adult has been granted one vote. It would be a shame to squander it.