How to Vote: Christianity and Democracy

What with an election in the wind I thought it would be a good time to collect some thoughts about the considerations we Christians should make when deciding who we should support with our vote.

We are a people who are working with our Lord and King to transform and restore this fallen world to its original intended purpose. Living as citizens of Heaven means we should work toward our Christian hope of a redeemed future for all of creation. That means we need to support structures and leadership that reflect God’s requirements that are designed to enable that to happen.

In light of this, how should we as Christians approach voting. Institutions such as governments were part of God’s creation (Col 1:16). They are necessary to help order and facilitate our communities, for ‘they are God’s servant to do us ‘good,’ (Rom 13:4.) However, along with us, they are fallen (Eph. 6:12). God has made it clear throughout the Bible what is expected of all those given authority to lead their communities. In Ps 72, God outlines their primary responsibilities:
‘1 Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.
3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor’.

Ps 82:1-3 makes the same point: justice within the community is God’s primary concern, what Paul in Romans calls ‘doing good for us’. This priority is affirmed emphatically by Jesus, who named justice, along with mercy and faithfulness as God’s priorities in leadership when he was condemning the rulers and authorities of his day for neglecting them, Matt 23:23.

One of the most common descriptions in the Bible of God’s character is that he is ‘righteous and loves justice’. Righteousness is the state or condition of one who practices justice. Justice is doing what is right and, in the Greek ‘dikaios,’ it can be translated as either, for they both come from the same root word ‘dike,’ meaning both just and right. Justice in the Bible is simply to act justly. Even though all institutions are fallen, this is still the expected hallmark of all powers, rulers and authorities and when it comes to electing those who are to be given this authority to govern us, it is still the criteria that the people in Heaven’s Kingdom, who live in God’s presence according to his will, should use to decide who they will support during an election. We want to see God’s character reflected in our leaders.

Jesus, when he stood before Pilate, a non-Jewish leader, and told him that ultimately his power came from God, declared that not only had Pilate failed in his God-given responsibilities, but that those leaders who had handed Jesus over to him were guilty of even a greater failure. Jesus named this failure ‘sin’ and implied that they, as all who hold authority, would be held accountable for their actions on Judgement Day, John 19:11.

With this in mind, I have outlined some reflections that Christians should seriously consider before casting their vote.
• Christians should vote in a way informed by their faith.
• Christianity is NOT party political.
• Christianity is political in the broader sense because it is concerned with the life of society (politics from the Greek means to live as a citizen).
• Every Christian should be political in the broader sense.

How NOT to Vote
– Using Precedent
This means not to vote thoughtlessly as in ‘we have always voted that way’. You need to vote with God in mind.
– Disengaging from our responsibility as a voter is NOT an option.
– Engaging in ‘Christian’ favouritism:
Voting for a candidate simple because they a Christian can be morally suspect, as good government is NOT the special preserve of believers. (See Romans Chapter 13 and John 19:11.)
– Prioritising Personal Economic Prosperity
A vote cast for personal advancement is NOT acceptable, unless you, in a considered way, arrive at the conclusion that this is the best way to improve society for all. (See 1 Timothy 6:10)

Guidelines on a Christian Voting Process
Our vote should reflect the good of others (Phil 2:3-4; Rom 2:10). This is a fundamental Christian value and outlook, prioritising the common good above personal gain. Our vote should reflect concern for moral health of the community (Pb 14: 34; 1 Cor 5:12). As you make a decision about how to cast your vote, ponder the Christian values (refer to the Sermon on the Mount) that each policy impacts. Ask whether they provide justice, mercy, compassion, harmony, honesty, integrity, strengthened relationships, families and organisational transparency and accountability? In other words which policies are the most loving, for ‘they are God’s servant to do us ‘good’? (Rom 13:4).

To vote with moral and ethical considerations paramount, our choice needs to be based on a broad range of values (such as those listed above) and not on just a few ‘hot button’ issues. With Christians there should be NO Left or Right but both (and neither). Our vote needs to reflect our responsibility to care for the poor (Matt 7:12; Ps 82:3 & 4; Pb 14: 34; James 1:27 ; Matt 25:31-46). A Christian must be motivated by the concern to vote for the disadvantaged and marginalised, because it’s a priority for God, as Jeremiah made clear in 9:24: “those ‘that have the understanding to know me know that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.’ (See also Jer 20:15-16).

Although each of us must allow God to search our hearts and make a considered decision about which issues are most important to us, on a personal note, I feel compelled to add that we as Christians should take special note of our national tithe to the poor, our foreign aid budget, which is under threat to become the lowest percentage contribution from the budget ever. To me, it is not acceptable that we attempt to use this to balance the budget on the back of some of the poorest people in the world, (see Matt 25:40).

Our vote must reflect a love for the Gospel (1 Cor 10:31 – 11:1). Consider which policy promotes Christian freedom, so we can live for the good of others.

Finally, we must vote prayerfully (1 Tim 2:1-3). For Christians, this is always a priority. Praying for our society is a priority.

Written by Sweis Meijers

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