By Rob Wilson
The New York State primaries are coming up on April 19th; are you planning on voting? Or are you so fed up with the political scene that you are trying to ignore the drama and mudslinging that has come with this election year?
Recently after our church service, as we were making our way to the door I came upon the beginnings of lively discussion regarding our upcoming presidential elections. The discussion, though shortened by the need of people to move through the door, reminded me that this topic weighs heavy on the hearts of many Americans, and it prompted me to ask what does God think about these elections? What should our attitude be toward these elections? And what does God say is our responsibility in all this political mess?
Well if only we could interview God! If only some news anchor with a camera man following could enter the throne room of God to ask Him some questions. I have a feeling that just the sight of God would be enough to put everything straight in this country! And that news team better hope an angel brings a burning coal from the alter pretty quickly to touch their mouths (see Isaiah 6:5-7)!
Kidding aside, though we can’t at this moment hear God’s audible voice, God has spoken to us through his word and more than answered these questions. In addition, God welcomes us to ask him these questions through prayer, and I believe that we all ought to be doing that right now.
So let the questions start!
Is God worried about the elections? Is he worried about the political scheming and if the wrong candidate might get into office? Psalm 2:1-5 says “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord… The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath…”
Is God sitting in heaven wondering if Donald Trump is going to get the Republican nomination, or if Hillary Clinton is going to be elected President? Romans 13:1 “ There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Do you realize what this verse means! God puts presidents in office! This verse demonstrates the absolute sovereignty of God, and also starts to tread into some deep spiritual water. One might begin to think that if all rulers are established by God, then God put Adolf Hitler in power, and the German people who elected Hitler should not be held accountable because God forced them to make that decision. We might wrongly conclude that God brought about evil. Of course this notion is heresy and proven wrong by James 1:13. The truth is that the free choice of man, (and therefore the responsibility for his choices), and the absolute sovereignty of God both exist at the same time. Though our finite minds have trouble understanding this, it is none the less, true. God knows who will be our next president.
But what if the next president is an “evil person” and dead set against what matters to God? First of all, has there ever been a leader, a person other than Christ who wasn’t a sinner and had evil in his or her heart? Genesis 8:21 says “…every inclination of [man’s] heart is evil from childhood…” God uses evil people to do good things every day. But more than that, we see many examples of evil, Godless, pagan leaders in the Bible which God chose to do his will and even help his people. Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16 was used by God, and so was King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel (Chapters 1-4). In Isaiah 44:28 God says of the pagan king Cyrus, “He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.’” For as Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” The man or women God wants in the White house will be elected, and he will use them just the way he had planned before the dawn of time, according to God’s perfect plan.
So what should we think?
Now that that we have had a glimpse of what God thinks about our elections, as God’s people, we need to ask what does God want us to think and to do. We can certainly see from the verses quoted above that we need to fear God and not man. It is not a president who will save us, it is Christ, and just as it was when Jesus walked this earth, our greatest need is not a politically one, but a spiritual and sin problem. Jesus took care of that on the cross. And if God loved us that much, that he sacrificed his own Son on the cross to save us, we need not worry about the lesser things that pertain to this physical life (Romans 8:31-35, Matthew 6). As stated by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4, because our Lord is near, we need not be anxious about anything, including the political situation.
So what should we do?
But does this mean that we can ignore what is going on in our nation’s political scene, or save the cost of gas driving to the polling facility since God’s got everything under control? Of course not. Though God will be faithful to get us safely to heaven, faithful to walk with us through this life giving us strength and making us more and more like Christ, he still puts before us responsibility. We have a responsibility and stewardship in every relationship God brings into our lives, and that includes our relationship as both a citizen of the Kingdom of God and a citizen of the United States of America. As a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, we need to “Be wise in the way [we] act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity” to proclaim Christ and to be ready to be used by God to help bring others into the Kingdom (Colossians 4:2-6). Yet we can’t make the most of every opportunity if we don’t know what is going on in the world around us. This is because it is outside our homes where our spiritual and early citizenships most commonly overlap. As a US citizen we have a God given responsibility to stay informed of what is going on in our country, to seek, and to know the truth about the issues that face our communities and country. This is our first responsibility and, it is one which helps us to better carry out our other responsibilities citizen (because of its importance we will revisit it later).
Our second God given responsibility as a US citizen, (and one of the most important), is to pray for our country. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says “I urge, then, first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Notice that we are also commanded to be thankful for our authorities. We ought to be praying fervent, specific prayers for our country, its leaders, and the coming elections every day.
There is a third responsibility God has placed upon us as a US citizen, and obedience in this area will clearly demonstrate that we are part of God’s spiritual kingdom. This responsibility is submission to authority (and this is not a popular concept in this country).Yet, 1 Peter 2:13-17 says “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men… Show proper respect to everyone; Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” This command warrants some introspective questions. Is the way in which you speak about government officials, even the ones we don’t agree with, honoring them? (Most of us fall guilty here) When we engage in “political” “discussions” do we only use wholesome talk which builds others up according to their needs, or do we grieve the Spirit of God by slandering politicians? (Ephesians 4:29-32) Do we truly do “….everything without complaining or arguing,…” even when it comes to politics? For in this crooked and depraved generation, we should shine like stars in the universe, because we hold out to this dying world the only true word of life (Philippians 2:14-16).
As US citizens we have freedoms, resources, and opportunities which most of the people living in this world only dream about. One great opportunity which we possess as US citizens is to actually be able to participate in our government. I believe this “opportunity” is also our fourth God given responsibility as a US citizen. So what’s the extent of our responsibility? We do have the amazing opportunity to run for office in this country, (in many countries elections are rigged, and candidates opposing the establishment often end up being killed), but that’s not my focus here because most of us will never run for office. As an average citizen we have the opportunity to participate in the governing of this land both by casting our vote for candidates and referenda, and by exercising our freedom of speech to voice our opinions to our elected officials and our fellow citizens through a wide variety of means (letters or e-mail to elected officials, social media, websites, signing petitions, political rallies, etc.) For most of us this seems like a lot of work that we do not begin to have time for in our already hectic schedules. Why spend an hour writing a congressman when he won’t read the letter anyway?
Well, there is a very good reason to make this effort, and it is to show yourself before God to be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to you; your US citizenship. In Matthew 25:14-29 we read Jesus’s parable about the three servants and the “talents” entrusted to them. I believe that the “talents” represent much more than money. I believe that they also include our time, our relationships, and even our citizenship. Unfortunately, when it comes to the stewardship of our citizenship, we too often are like the servant who buried his talent and then later had it taken away from him. If we don’t invest in our US citizenship we may soon find our freedoms and responsibilities taken away. Whether or not we think our vote will count or our voice will be heard, God commands us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that in whatever we do, to do it all for the glory of God. Are we bringing glory to God when we occasionally show up to the polls, and then just vote along party lines because we have no clue what the candidates stand for?
This brings us back to our first responsibility of staying informed. It takes some work to really sift through a candidate’s rhetoric and find out what they truly stand for, or to check a candidates past voting record. Fortunately there are numerous places we can go to get this information, and I’ll list a couple of websites at the end. Even still, we all have our blind spots, and many of today’s media outlets are tremendously biased, pushing a secular, Godless worldview. We need to think for ourselves and not just automatically assume that what the news anchor says on TV is true. Listen to at least a couple different news sources and when they differ, ask and find out why. Even “Christian” news media can be biased and mistaken. As we make conclusions about candidates and issues we need to come before God and honestly ask for wisdom and discernment, and that he will lead us to the truth (God was well pleased when King Solomon requested wisdom to govern the nation of Israel) before we cast our vote or start spouting out our opinions. In an election year like this we are going to need a lot of wisdom to make the right choice!
This brings us to another question; what if you don’t like any of the candidates? Does that excuse me from the political process? Consider this example. Your city has a major building project coming up, and it turns out that only two contractors have the capability to complete the project and are willing to bid on this project. Unfortunately, the contractors are both alike in that they have questionable honesty, character, and business dealings, but they do differ significantly in their plans as to how to carry out this building project. Would you think that your city councilman did his job properly if he decided to skip the vote, to leave the decision to the other councilmen because he didn’t like either of the candidates? Would this councilman have represented you the citizen well? Are you representing your children and grandchildren well if you choose not to vote? God ultimately chooses the candidate, but we are held accountable for our choice, even when it is a hard choice. This example brings up another important point; don’t just vote for the “big” offices (president, governor, etc.) The races that your vote will have the greatest effect on are in the local county and town elections. And these county and city officials which you elect are the ones with whom you will interact most often. When ungodly decisions are made high in government, your local elected officials are in a better position than you to resist these measures on your behalf.
The fifth, last, and most important citizen responsibility that I want to mention today, is the responsibility to worship God and not idols. You may say “What? You think I’m going outside and bowing down to my garden gnome or something? In 2 Chronicles 7:13 God speaks to king Solomon in a dream saying “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,…” Why would God do this to his people? The answer comes in verses 19-20 “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them…” God knew the strong propensity in the hearts of the nation of Israel to wander away from the Lord and to put their hope in something else. That something else was usually what their neighbors had: earthly kings and armies, pagan religions and idols, wealth, and in general freedom from God’s authority in their lives. If we look carefully at our lives, don’t we crave what our neighbors have? A bigger house, a newer car, upwardly mobile children who land great jobs and are able to earn lots of money; the list can go on and on. We want to be beautiful, we want to be famous, we want to live a life of comfort and pleasure. While all these things in and of themselves are not innately bad, it is easy to let our hope slide off of God and onto these things, and before you know it they are idols. When we start serving these idols we start to disregard God’s rules for our lives, because they get in the way of reaching our idols. Soon our credit card debt rises, our relationships start breaking down, and families fall apart. The out of control national debt, the plethora of affairs and scandals we see in our political leaders are an unfortunate reflection of the individual people in this nation. The elected officials represent the values of the people; economic prosperity and security comes first, and morals are nice if they don’t become an inconvenience. We are a people who have chased after idols.
Is this a surprise to God? No! Before the nation of Israel ever existed, God knew that they would rebel and run after idols, and he knows our hearts are like theirs. So God had a plan for both us and the nation of Israel. In the passage above from 2 Chronicles God was describing this plan to King Solomon. When God’s people rebelled, God sent natural disasters and invading nations to wake Israel up to their need for a right relationship with God. Once He had the people’s attention, the road to reconciliation was as follows; “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) Who are called by God’s name? “Christ”ians! We as individual Christians, as Gideon did long ago (Judges 6:1-28), need to start by tearing down the idols in our own back yard. Then we can humbly seek God without encumbrances, and fully live for Christ. If ten righteous people would have saved Sodom, think of what would happen if all the Christians in America started living like Christians!
In conclusion, God is in control! We need not worry. He has taken care of our greatest need, the forgiveness of our sins, and he has made secure an eternity in paradise with Him! Because he is absolutely Sovereign and Good, we can trust that he is in control of these elections. We need to make sure that we do not put our hope in political leaders. Yet, out of love for Christ we must make sure that we are being the best stewards of our dual citizenship that we can be by:
1) getting informed of candidates and political issues
2) praying for our country, the candidates, and the issues
3) submitting to all authorities out of reverence for Christ
4) faithfully participating in government as a citizen
5) ridding our lives of idols and living life fully devoted to Christ
Remember, our first allegiance is to God’s Kingdom, and we do all the above in hopes to encourage those who are outside God’s Kingdom to become a part of it!
Here are a few websites to help us learn about issues which matter to Christians:
New York State Board of Elections (by county)
American Family Association Action
Family Policy Alliance (formerly Focus on the Family Citizen Link)
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom