HAVE OFTEN been asked “Pastor, who should I vote for?”
There have been times when I have wondered that myself.
However, there is a more fundamental question that must be asked first. That question is, As a Christian, how should I vote? Considering this question will help answer the secondary questions.
Voting Is Not Mentioned in the Bible
Some Christians may be surprised to find out voting is nowhere to be found in the Bible. There is, however, clear teaching in the Scriptures about the role of civil authority / human government and the Christian’s relationship to it. For instance, Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 teach us God established human government. The Biblical purpose of civil government is to promote personal and collective freedom through resisting evil and overseeing the expansion of good by maintaining a just and moral society.
The closer a society aligns itself with God and His unchanging principles, the more ordered it becomes. The further it moves from God, the more chaotic it becomes. Consider these relevant words from the ancient prophet Azariah to King Asa of Judah:
For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest who taught correctly, and without Moses’ Teachings. But when they were in trouble, they turned to the Lord God of Israel. When they searched for him, he let them find him. At those times no one could come and go in peace, because everyone living in the land had a lot of turmoil. One nation crushed another nation; one city crushed another. God had tormented them with every kind of trouble (2 Chron. 15:3-6 GW).
It is obvious why there is no reference to voting in the Bible. Democratic republics did not exist; there were only monarchies with absolute power. The United States, which was founded on a Judeo-Christian worldview, offered the world a new paradigm—a government that was of the people, by the people, and for the people. As such, for almost two and a half centuries, we have stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity.
Remember the Three R’s
Although voting is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, there are some Biblical principles that guide us in understanding this important subject.
First, as Christians, we have the right to vote. Access to the voting booth is a right guaranteed and protected by the United States Constitution. Millions of people around the world have no such right. It is an entitlement—a gift provided by our founding fathers—that Christians should steward well.
In Galatians 6:10, Paul said Christians should take advantage of every opportunity to do good. According to MyFaithVotes.com, in the 2012 general election, 25 million Christians who were registered to vote did not. They did not take advantage of the opportunity given to them. It was squandered!
Second, as Christians, we have the responsibility to vote. While there is no command in the Bible that says, “You must vote,” there is a mandate for followers of Jesus to be a force for good in the world. Jesus said:
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:13-14 NET).
Both salt and light change the environment. This is what Jesus calls His people to do. As Christians take their faith into the voting booth, they are stewarding their influence and shaping the future for their children and grandchildren.
Third, we have a reason to vote. Proverbs 29:2 states, “When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan” (NLT).
The following quote, often attributed to Edmund Burke, still rings true: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
George Jean Nathan said, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
You have a right, a responsibility, and a reason to vote. Don’t waste it.
So How Should a Christian Vote?
There are many candidates for office on all levels—local, state, and national —who seek to co-opt Christianity to advance their political agendas. They learn the buzz words and memorize their 60-second sound bites. Christians need to guard against being taken in by such shenanigans. Heed the warning of Proverbs 26:23, “Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot” (NLT).
Christians must take their convictions and beliefs into the voting booth. Let your worldview inform your voting. With that said, what are the bright-line issues? By bright line, I mean issues that are not in the gray areas. They are clearly defined standards, composed of objective factors, which leave little or no room for varying interpretation. Some are national issues; others are state and local issues.
Here are some bright-line issues that impact my vote:
1. Character and Integrity. I am looking for a candidate who has a track record of honesty, authenticity, and genuine moral uprightness—someone whom I believe can be trusted by both temperament and experience to uphold the great traditions of our national Judeo-Christian ethic.
2. Sanctity of Human Life. Abortion and euthanasia are a blight on our nation. I want to know in no uncertain terms where a candidate stands on this vital area of basic morality and human dignity.
3. Sanctity of Marriage. I want to know the position of a candidate in regard to the Biblical interpretation of marriage as being a union between one man and one woman.
4. Racial and Ethnic Equality. Freedom and justice must not act prejudicially against any ethnic group. Every human bears the image of God and is of infinite worth. I listen closely to the statements a candidate makes in this regard.
5. National Security. God instituted civil government to provide protection for law-abiding people and to be a terror to evildoers (Rom. 13:3-4). I want to hear the philosophy of a national candidate for providing for the national defense against enemies both foreign and domestic.
6. Taxation and Government Spending. Nehemiah 5:4-5 gives us an ancient picture of what out-of-control government spending and taxation looks like: “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. . . . We are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards” (RSV). Nehemiah set in motion a plan to alleviate such a burden. I am looking for such a leader when I am considering my vote.
So these are my bright-line issues. As a Christian, what are yours?
I encourage you to vote your faith. Vote righteously (Prov. 14:34). Vote prayerfully (Phil. 4:6). Vote wisely (Prov. 4:1-12; James 3:13-18). Listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit; it is His ministry to guide us. Vote for candidates—from the local school board to the White House—whose values you share and whose personal life you admire.
Plain-talking President Lyndon Johnson was not known for eloquent speeches. But these words from his inaugural address offer an amazing challenge to us all:
Under this covenant of justice we have become a nation—prosperous, great, and mighty. And we have kept our freedom. But we have no promise from God that our greatness will endure. We have been allowed by Him to seek greatness with the sweat of our hands and the strength of our spirit. . . . If we fail now, we shall have forgotten in abundance what we learned in hardship: that democracy rests on faith, that freedom asks more than it gives, and that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most favored.
Mike Chapman is lead pastor of City Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee.