On Voting, Part 3…
To Vote Or Not To Vote
In the first installment of this series, I addressed what we do know for certain. Whatever form of government under which believers in Christ live, we are instructed to pay our taxes, live respectful lives toward those in authority, and be praying for them (Rom. 13; I Tim. 2; I Pet 2).
In the second essay, I reminded us we are temporary residents here; our permanent citizenship is in heaven (I Cor. 7; Phil. 3). So our interest and involvement in the political process must be flavored with that perspective – we vote as though not voting.
This month I’m trying to answer: Is it okay for a believer not to vote? Is it okay to vote? Now, what’s on my mind is the presidential election; I realize there are local elections — city council members, state representatives, dog catchers, etc. I think what I have to say will have some, if not much, application to those offices too, but my thoughts are focused on the selection of a president.
I think the answer falls under the category of Christian liberty. I get this from Romans 14 where the Apostle Paul speaks to issues of individual liberty – situations where there are no ‘hard and fast/black and white rules’ that apply to all Christians the same way. It’s a chapter in which he tries to address cultural expectations and traditions that really aren’t immoral or anti-Christ, they may even be beneficial to the common good. But in the end they are not binding on a Christian. For our purposes we’ll focus on 14:5. “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” You can read the entire chapter and consider what I say but I think whether or not to vote is a matter of individual choice; we are not ethically or spiritually bound to vote or not vote.
Having said that, go back to 14:5, “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” If this verse does apply to the matter of voting, then it applies across the board. To exercise your Christian liberty and not vote, or, to exercise it to vote must be done with forethought. To not vote out of laziness is sin. But voting a party line in ignorance is too! See Rom. 14:22,23.
What would ‘being fully convinced’ look like? There are several scenarios to which we could apply this; let me give you one where a Christian would participate and one where they wouldn’t.
PARTICIPATE: Let’s say you typically do not vote for a presidential candidate from the Blowhard Party because historically you’ve not been comfortable with positions they’ve stood for. The other main political party – the Silver Tongue Party – has been, for the most part, in agreement with your ideas and convictions; hence, many times you’ve voted for their candidate.
Now this year, there is a particular issue you’re gravely concerned about. And the candidate from your party (Silver Tongue) is not in agreement with you. But the Blowhard candidate is, even though there are other issues you’re not in agreement about. But you have concluded your issue is serious enough that you need to be involved – you ‘must’ voice your convictions. So, you vote for the Blowhard candidate, and he wins.
Jump forward four years. The issue that shaped your voting previously is essentially resolved, the person you voted for addressed it. However, based on other decisions President Blowhard has made, you’ve come to the conclusion it would not be good for him to remain in office. And, a new candidate from the Silver Tongue party, as best you can tell from your research, would do a reasonable job. So you vote for him.
I think this is a good example of a Christian participating on the basis of being ‘fully convinced.’ They did not give one political party carte blanche, nor did they regard one man as god. They weighed the issues, prioritized what they understood to be critical at that point, and voted accordingly. Four years later, circumstances had changed and they again sought to be fully convinced.
NOT PARTICIPATE: Let’s say that this election year, you have done your homework: You’ve listened to the candidates, went to their websites to see what they believed about the issues that concern you. You’ve tried to read multiple sources as to get the truest sense of their character. Based on your listening, study, prayer, seeking the counsel of other godly people (Proverbs 19:2 – It is NOT good for a person to be without knowledge), you cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate. One has proven in their personal life to be morally bankrupt. The other has proven to be in support of anti-biblical and anti-Christ moral matters. So, you don’t vote. You apply the principle of “whatever is not of faith is sin”(Rom. 4:23). You cannot in good conscience cast your ‘yes’ for either of them.
One final thought, I don’t think it wise to vote from the basis of ‘choosing between the lesser of two evils.’ If voting or not voting is an issue of liberty, which we’re supposed to do ‘fully convinced,’ then it’s not necessary to cast our vote for the lesser of two evils. Now please understand, whomever we vote for is going to be a sinner; only Christ is perfect. I’m talking about two candidates who both clearly fail at personal integrity and what they have stood for publicly that is antithetical to what the Scriptures teach regarding what is morally right. I think it better to have a clear conscience before God than knowingly make a choice you know would support someone who is clearly opposed to the things of God – even though they might not
be as evil as their opponent.
Well, I’ll close this off. I have a few more thoughts about the matter of voting, and I may address them next month. In the meantime, rest your minds and hearts and joy in the One who is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one
to come” – Ephesians 1:21.