Should Christians vote? The Scripture states that God has established the governing authorities (Rom 13:1). Thus, whether those authorities are wicked men such as Pharaoh and Saul; and history indicates that most of them are; or whether they are men of God, such as Joseph and David; God is the one who places them in positional authority.
Christians are commanded to submit themselves to the governing authorities, and hence to obey the laws of the land. We are further commanded to be good stewards over all that God has placed in our lives. This undoubtedly extends to good citizenship. Jesus set the example of good citizenship, as reflected in Matthew 17:24-27 where He, acting to preempt any cause for offense, paid the customary tax due to the government. The Scripture states that Christians are to “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7)
God has blessed this nation with, as President Abraham Lincoln stated, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In effect, God has given us the blessing of “self-government.” If Jesus paid taxes, heeding the customs of the land, shall Christians not heed a lesser custom in this land, that being, to joyfully and wisely exercise the privilege and right to vote?
If in the wisdom of God, He has chosen to install government in this nation by means of a democratic process, are not the citizens, including Christians the implements of the will of God? Are we not fellow workers with God? Shall we, as commanded, pray for the governing authorities and yet not participate in the customary process through which they are installed? Shall Christians today not admonish governmental leaders in the manner of John the Baptist toward Herod? (Matthew 14:4) Shall sinful leaders not be subjected to admonishment by the expression of principled support or disdain through the vote? Shall Christians not be stewards of the nation which God has chosen according to His wisdom as the present home of the Gospel? Shall we insult the Spirit of grace by failing to shine light in every vestige of society – including the institutions of government which God has providentially stationed in our hands? Shall we be less responsible citizens than those who do not know God? As Paul says, “May it never be!”
There are those who may rightly assert that we are in this world, but not of it; and therefore we should disavow ourselves from interaction with the lost. Yet, this is the antithesis of the teaching of the Apostle. He explicitly explains our position and the nature of our interaction with the lost, stating in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.”
Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. He came to seek and save those who are lost. Shall we do less today? Shall we separate ourselves from those in need of the great physician? Are we not ambassadors for Christ, charged with the great commission? Indeed God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, and we are admonished to take heed to the ministry that we have received in the Lord that we may fulfill it. Accordingly, we cannot separate ourselves from the lost in this world, nor this nation. As the venerate 19th century revivalist Charles G. Finney warned:
“God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God. It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation are becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they think God does not see what they do in politics. But I tell you He does see it, and He will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take.”
Some may question whether Finney’s conclusion is grounded upon truth. Indeed the Scripture most certainly affirms his assertion. Recall that the Scripture states that “God does not hear sinners. But if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31) Hence, Christians, by their authority as the purchased possession of the living God, through the shed blood and death of Christ, are the only people on earth who have the right to intercede on behalf of the nation, and to petition Almighty God for His mercy and grace. In fact, we are invited and admonished to come boldly to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Shall we not approach His throne as in the manner of Abraham, asking God to withhold judgment upon the nation for the sake of the righteous dwelling therein? (Genesis 18:22-32) And if we shall intercede with prayer and petition, shall we not be participants, and moreover, the very implements of the grace that He desires to bestow according to His will? Recall that faith without works is dead. Therefore we must act in accordance with our petitions, as brother Finney counsels.
Interestingly enough, several years ago, in June 2004, then Mayor of Maywood, IL, Ralph Conner, called upon Christians to act on behalf of the nation stating:
“We in our troubled country need a higher degree of morality than Government can provide. We need more morality than the politicians can provide. When the 10 Commandments are removed from the courthouse; when prayer is taken out of schools; politicians are gelded. What page one should be warning us is, that the Christian imperative is now entirely up to you church people; your leaders; your members; our hands are tied. You have to do what we cannot do; or else our country will be no match for terrorists.”
The Mayor’s bold and distressed plea, recognizing the futility of reliance upon politicians and government to address the internal and external threats facing the nation, absent profound intervention by the body of Christ, incisively reflects the perspective which should be resonating within the Christian community.
In a practical sense, voting for public office candidates may seemingly pose a challenge for Christians. Notwithstanding, any challenge is negated by the application of relevant Biblical principles. First, Christians must not judge by appearances. All judgments must be based upon facts and honest assessment. Accordingly, Christians must remain neutral in relation to political parties. This is not to be construed as asserting that Christians cannot belong to a political party. It is merely a recognition that political parties and platforms are not sources of authority for the Christian. The final authority on all matters in life is the word of God; and no philosophy or doctrine can be permitted to supersede the commandments and Biblical principles. Second, we cannot support immoral attitudes, behavior, or policy positions. Thus, only honest men and women, not the deceitful, nor adulterers, nor alcohol or substance abusers can be endorsed. Third, we must support those who will rule in accordance with God’s precepts. This is not to be interpreted as meaning that those who seek or serve in public office must be Christians, as God has established no such mandate. Yet, petitions should be made on their behalf, that perhaps God will grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. In respect to those public officials who steadfastly refuse to heed God’s precepts in the discharge of their official duties, petition God for their removal. His mercy, while enduring, is not indefinite.
So, shall we vote? In short, Christians have a moral obligation, by word and deed, to engage in good citizenship, which extends to expressing the truth and principles of God through voting, and active participation in the nation’s electoral and governing process.