An Article from Pastor Paul Boutan
“Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.”
Proverbs 14:34 NKJV
It’s that time of the year when Facebook reminds us to register to vote, our televisions are littered with political attack ads, and our mailboxes have received our mail-in ballots. It is also the time of year that I get asked “Should Christians vote?” Perhaps the thing prompting this question is all the dishonesty we see in politics. Failed campaign promises. Lobbyists from Big-Pharma and Big Oil buying off politicians to promote their own interests. With all the hypocrisy of politics it’s hard to know who or what to vote for. I remember a Presidential election year, where it felt as if I were forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. We all know the old joke, “how do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: his lips are moving.” Warren Wiersbe once said, “politics consists of a donkey, an elephant, and a whole lot of bull!” Aside from voting malaise and skepticism, some of the other factors cited by Christians as reasons not to vote include the following statements: “God’s form of Government is not a Democracy,” “As Christians our citizenship is in heaven not on earth” and, “Morality cannot be legislated.” Let’s briefly look at each of these statements in order to answer the question of whether or not a Christian should vote?
God’s Form of Government
In the Bible, God’s form of Government is known as a “Theocracy” which comes from two Greek words“theos; God” and “kratos; power or rule,” so theocracy means “the rule of God.” This form of Government took shape after God led the people of Israel out of their slavery to Egypt. God used Moses as His representative to lead the people. In Exodus 19:5-6 God made a covenant with the people of Israel to rule over them as a nation that was to be holy and a kingdom of priests. God continued to lead Israel this way until the people requested a king. However, this request was a sinful rejection of God as their king, they merely wanted to be like all the other nations around them who were ruled under a monarchy. At this request, the prophet Samuel is offended by their demand for a king. 1Samuel 8:6-7 says, “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”
Now when it comes to the matter of voting, there are some who would argue that a democracy is not God’s form of Government, and therefore God’s people should not participate in it. In response to that argument, we should first of all, remember that we will not see a “Theocracy” again until Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom on earth (Revelation 19, 20). Secondly, while it’s true that God’s form of Government is a Theocracy, where He leads His people, it’s equally true that every form of Government comes from God. Romans 13:1-2 says, “All of you must yield to the government rulers. No one rules unless God has given him the power to rule, and no one rules now without that power from God. So those who are against the government are really against what God has commanded”(New Century Version). Dr. Jeffrey L. Myers in his book Vital Truth: Christian Citizenship, points out,“The Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 13 clearly states that we must obey governmental leaders because all authority comes from God. Here’s the catch: in America, the people are the leaders! Here, at least, we express our obedience to God by exercising our rights and privileges as citizens. That means voting.”
In Philippians 3:20 the Apostle Paul said, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” There are some who take that to mean that Christians should not be active in matters of civics and politics. However, the same Apostle Paul who reminded us of our heavenly citizenship also exercised his own rights as a Roman citizen. In Acts 22 Paul is unjustly arrested, publicly beaten, thrown into a dungeon and tortured, all without a trial. Then the Roman commander gives the order for Paul to be whipped. That’s when Paul exercises his rights as a Roman Citizen. According to Roman law Roman citizens had the right to a fair trial and never under any circumstances were Roman citizens to be whipped. Obviously being a citizen of heaven as a Christian does not mean we sacrifice our rights and responsibilities as American citizens. In a sense being a Christian, means we have dual citizenship, we are heavenly citizens and earthly citizens. As Augustine once said, “Those who are citizens of God’s kingdom are best equipped to be citizens of the kingdom of man.” Augustine was correct, in fact our heavenly citizenship should make us even better earthly citizens. In 1Peter 2:13-14 it says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”
Voting may be a civic right, but it is not a civic duty. A civic duty is a legal requirement that a citizen must perform, whereas a civic right is the legal permission to perform actions deemed necessary in order to carry out one’s role as a citizen. In other words, voting is not legally mandated, if it was then American Christians would be biblically mandated to vote because Romans 13:2 tells us that refusing to obey the laws of the land, is to refuse to obey God Himself. However, voting is a civic right meaning that as citizens of this Country we have the right to vote, but we can choose not to exercise that right. But that does not mean that Christians are prohibited from voting or from participating in politics in general.
In fact, the Bible has several examples of believers in God who served in political offices. Joseph served as the second in command in Egypt’s government, he considered his appointment the direct result of God’s leading. Speaking to his brothers, he said, “God has made me lord of all Egypt…”(Genesis 45:9). Daniel was a high-ranking official in the Babylonian Government. Darius the Medo-Persian King promoted Daniel to being one of three “governors” who supervised the high-ranking officials who ruled over 120 provinces within the kingdom. Likewise, Nehemiah was appointed as governor of Judah by the Persian King Artaxerxes (Neh 5:14). Now in Nehemiah’s day as well as Daniel’s these political positions were by “appointment” the king literally appointed them to that position. Whereas in our nation people enter those positions by the “vote” of the people. So, it stands to reason that if there is biblical precedent to serve in positions of civic and political leadership, then voting for Godly people who run for those offices does not violate any teachings of the Bible. It would seem that as God used Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah of old, he can use civic servants for His purposes today.
Morality Cannot Be Legislated
Another reason sometimes cited to support the argument that says Christians should not get involved in the political landscape, is the idea that “morality cannot be legislated.” The premise of this idea basically says that in order to change problems in our society, you have to change the heart, but legislation cannot change the heart. You cannot legislate morals. The only thing that can change the heart is the Gospel. I whole-heartedly agree that the Gospel is that only thing that will change the hearts of the people in our nation. Therefore, we must pray for the lost in our nation and share the gospel with as many as we can, while we can. However, I agree with Martin Luther King Jr when he famously said, “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated.” Just because it is true that morality cannot be legislated, doesn’t mean that it’s true that Christians should not vote frankly, two things can be true at the same time.
Biblically, God’s people are not only called to change hearts by declaring the gospel, we are also called to have an influence on the moral behavior of those in the world as well. In Matthew 5:13 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…” then in verse 14 he said, “You are the light of the world…” and then summed it up by saying, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”(MAT 5:16 NKJV). In biblical times, salt was used as both an “antiseptic” and a “preservative.” Salt has antiseptic qualities to kill bacteria, but it also has the ability to preserve food. In those ancient days without refrigeration, they would “salt” their meats and fish in order to preserve them. Jesus, by calling His followers “salt” was implying that just as salt has the characteristics to hold bacteria at bay, we are called to keep the spread of evil at bay.
By refusing to be involved in the political realm, we may unintentionally be paving the way for those who have evil motivations to rise to power. Again author Dr. Jeffrey L. Myers makes another powerful point when he said, “As Christians we are called to stand against evil. In 20thCentury atheistic and secular humanistic leaders gained control of nations all across Europe, Asia and Africa. What was the result? According to historian R.J. Rummel, almost 170 million men, women and children have been brutally murdered by these governments, all in the name of human progress.” Biblically, there is a precedent for God’s people to care about the well-being of the nation they live in. Jeremiah 29:7; “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will have welfare.” Let’s not forget that Christian involvement in government through the ages gave us hospitals, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, the elevation of women, regard for human life, a workable system of justice, education for common people, and much, much more. (Jeffrey L. Myers, Vital Truth: Christian Citizenship (February 2003).
Our Founding Fathers have given us the unique privilege to not only vote for the candidates running for office, but to actually vote for the laws, bills, and amendments that shape the morality of the country. Whether the moral issues at hand pertain to protecting innocent unborn life, helping the poor, needy and even the immigrants who cannot help themselves. Laws that protect those who’ve been victimized. By voting, we not only fulfill our civic responsibilities, but we are also fulfilling Jesus’s directive to be “salt” and stave off the spread of evil in our day.
In conclusion, the answer to the question of “Should Christians Vote?” is “yes,” but you’re not required to, it’s not our mandated duty, it’s our civic right. According to the book of Revelation, there will be a day when our world will be ruled under a Theocracy, where Jesus will reign. Historian John Hallowell said, “Only through a return of faith in God, as God revealed Himself to man in Jesus Christ, can modern man and his society find redemption from the tyranny of evil.” One day Jesus will set up His kingdom and put an end to the tyrannical rule of ungodly governments. But until then, God’s people are called to live with the understanding that “all Government” is from God (Romans 13:1-2).
We must also remember that while we are “citizens of heaven”(Phil 3:20), we are to live as “dual citizens.” It’s been well said, “that those who are living for the kingdom to come are the ones who can make the most difference in this one.”
Finally, as followers of Christ we are called to change hearts by preaching the gospel, and we’re also called to be like “salt” preserving the morality of our nation. The moral issues of our day include the rights of the born and unborn, as well as the rights of the poor and needy. These are matters that followers of the Living God should be standing for (Proverbs 31:8-9). Likewise, believers should be concerned about the rights and needs of widows, orphans, and immigrants (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). In our nation the platform available to us as Christians to make a moral difference in our culture is in the form of the mail-in-ballot or the voting booth.
However, as citizens of heaven our primary loyalty is to the King of Kings, Jesus Himself, not to a particular political party. Our devotion is not to a donkey, or an elephant, but to the Lamb. God is NOT a Republican, nor is He a Democrat, He sits on His own Throne. In the book of Joshua, the people of Israel are about to go into battle against the Canaanites, when an angel identified as “the Commander of the Lord’s army” comes on the scene with sword in hand. Joshua asks, “Whose side are you on? Whose camp are you with? Are you in our camp, or their camp?” To which the angel responds by saying, “neither, I’m in the Lord’s camp”(paraphrase of Joshua 5:13-15). As Christ followers ultimately, we are not in the Democrat camp or the Republican camp, we are in the Lord’s camp. Rather than towing the party line, our voting guide should be His Word. The Bible should influence our view of politics, rather than our politics influencing how we view the Bible. We are Christ followers who live in this world, but we are not of this world (John 14:11, 14, John 17:16, Romans 12:2). However, we have been called to be the salt and light of the world, “that by our good works” we shine His light and glory to the world (Matt 5:13-16).