Faith intersects life at every turn. Every decision I make every day is conditioned by my faith in Christ. Or, they should be. The 2016 Presidential election has proven a real test for me and I presume for many evangelicals. Millions of us are grappling with the many layers of this election because for the first time neither of the candidates expresses genuinely evangelical ideals or affinity for the Christian segment of our population. Many of our spiritual leaders have weighed in on this dilemma. Theologians, Christian political scientists, organizational leaders, bloggers, and social media gurus of every stripe have provided diverse counsel about how our faith is to be expressed at the ballot box. Still, confusion predominates. "What are we to do?" is perhaps the question of the hour.
Everybody has an opinion and most convictional evangelicals have an approach to interpreting Scripture. These opinions and interpretations are the product of our own personal background, education, strengths, spiritual gifts, and yes, biases and prejudices. People will use Scripture to justify their actions in a flash. Right now, that is part of the problem, why we have so much confusion. There's been a good bit of wishful thinking at the intersection of faith and this election. If we're serious about our faith we certainly don't want to take an unrighteous path to the voting booth. So, we've developed the art of finding proof texts to support our positions.
A couple of avenues seem most appropriate right now.
1. Spiritual leadership is a unifying theme of the Bible.
Many passages in the Old and New Testaments define the character and
spiritual standing of those chosen to lead God's people. Several contextual
realities link them. One, the role of these leaders is to judge, guide, shepherd,
teach, admonish, discipline, and many other duties among God's people. In the
Old Testament these leaders were selected to lead Israel, God's chosen people.
Two, they were from the tribes of Israel and therefore shared faith with them.
In the New Testament, these leadership profiles were given by the Spirit for
pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, and those who would lead Christ's church.
Once again, they were expected to be people of faith and they were chosen
and not popularly elected.
To utilize these standards as a secular, civic electoral guide is to violate the
contextual parameters of Scripture interpretation. Every word of the Bible is
certainly true. The character traits of spiritual leaders in God's Word can surely
be ideals to which we pray our leaders to ascend. But, they cannot be our final
standard. Not all candidates are believers.
2. Scripture places the burden of government on the citizens.
Once again, we must interpret Scripture with Scripture and do some
background on a text to discover the context of the passage. There are many
passages dealing with the roles of spiritual leaders, even kings, priests, heads
of clans, and within the church. In the broad sweep of Scripture there is much
more instruction, however, about the way God's people are to follow the
leaders chosen by God. This is especially true in the New Testament. Virtually
all of the passages dealing with leadership specifies those chosen to lead
Christ's church and the expectation of believers to pray for, support,
encourage, and submit to them.
Romans 13: 1-5 addresses Christian responsibility in submission to governing
authorities. Christians were expected to be submitted to governmental
authority as recognition of God's sovereignty in establishing and instituting
government. They are acknowledged as "servants" of God because of his
sovereign placement. As evidenced in the Old Testament, God can use even
ungodly government authorities for his purpose. Therefore, the emphasis of
this frequently quoted passage focuses on the Christian citizens responsibility
to government rather than the biblical character expected of those who lead.
There were no elections in Israel or in the historical time frame of the New
Testament. Especially in the early church years the citizens lived under
oppressive Roman rule and those appointed to rule by the Emperor.
How then does faith intersect our vote in this election?
1. We must pray for God's guidance as we approach this important decision.
2. We must remain humble and teachable so that God can guide us.
3. We must interpret Scripture accurately to discern his voice in this decision.
Dr. Wayne McDill wrote an excellent short piece on interpreting Scripture for
LifeWay. You can view this article by clicking here.
4. We must be informed about the electoral processes.
Being informed translates to study about the candidates, party platforms, and
the many issues in this election.
5. We must clarify our own values before we exercise the franchise.
As a citizen of the Kingdom, several important commitments should guide us.
1. The values of the Kingdom should be our primary focus.
See Matthew 6:33 and Colossians 3:23.
2. Pleasing God should be the goal in deciding our vote.
See Galatians 1:10
3. We should be obedient in following God's leadership.
See James 4:7
4. Self should not be the prime motivation of our vote.
See Philippians 2:3
5. We should trust God to provide our direction.
See 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Faith intersects life at every turn. In the voting booth too. It's about voting faith.