By: Dwayne Milioni
Why did I agree to write this blog? I am definitely not a prophet, because I didn’t expect the election in November coming down to the current front-runners. Now what do I do? Shepherding your church members during a presidential election year is challenging enough, but this time I am not only challenged, I am also confused. I have never had so many church members ask me, “Who should I vote for?” or “Should I even vote at all?”
My church is polarized when it comes to politics. I have some members who cannot see the distinction between patriotism and Christianity. They drape the cross with an American flag. They love sweet tea and the Tea Party. I have other members that disrespect patriotism. They want little to do with politics. Some see voting as a biblical mandate while others see it as optional.
So amidst the confusion and presidential election chaos, let’s recall some biblical principles to help us see through cloudy circumstances and give direction to the people in our churches.
- Pastors should teach their members the proper role of government. While we cannot expect a secular government to fully represent the nature of God, there are at least three attributes of God that a secular government can promote—protection, goodness and justice. Jehovah is our protector. He is also good and just. God hates injustice. In the Old Testament, he commanded the nation of Israel and its kings to only pursue justice and righteousness (Deuteronomy 16, 1 Kings 10).
- Pastors should encourage their members to focus on biblical priorities. The Bible speaks to political and social “hot potatoes” that surround this election: the sanctity of human life for the unborn (Psalm 139:13-14), homosexuality and heterosexual marriage (Romans 1:26-27; Matthew 19:4-6), and accruing debt (Proverbs 22:7). Our opportunity to be a voice for biblical morality is also a voice against moral decay.
- Pastors should remind their members voting does a number of good things for the Christian. It allows us to obey our government authorities who ask us to vote. It honors God, who by his grace has allowed us to live in a country where citizens decide who their leaders will be. Voting allows us to be a voice for the voiceless and oppressed. It allows us to choose law makers and judges who will promote justice and restrain evil. Unlike other nations, a single voice via a single vote can make a difference in determining government leaders.
- Pastors should tell their members it is possible to honor non-Christian government officials (1 Timothy 4). The Bible tells us how Joseph, David, Daniel, and Paul yielded with humble obedience to their leaders while not compromising their faith. We must live in light of God’s sovereignty. Also, as we seek to obey our leaders, we also have the privilege to exhort them. For instance, in the case of legalized abortion, we should admonish those who would perpetuate laws that kill the innocent.
Unlike other presidential election years, this time a few significant evangelical leaders are encouraging Christians either not to vote or abstain from voting by writing in another name. Although I understand and appreciate the appeal for Christians not to violate their conscience, I think we should consider the full ramifications of our actions. Are we being responsible as citizens? Are we loving our neighbor and our nation by abstaining? Are we being selfish by not voting? Are we being fearful? Are we mixing our biblical categories by thinking we can only vote for Christians? I have said many times to church members when they vote they are not choosing their pastor but their president. One represents the kingdom of man, the other the Kingdom of God—these are two very different kingdoms with different priorities.
I have an international friend who just became a naturalized U.S. citizen. As we were talking about the upcoming election, I apologized that his first presidential vote will most likely be between two “not so good” choices. He laughed and said to me, “You Americans are really spoiled. You get all bent out of shape when you don’t have a choice between good and bad. Where I come from, we only ever had one choice when voting—bad and worse.” Convicting truth. God help us all.
Dr. Dwayne Milioni is Assistant Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lead Pastor at Open Door Church, and Board Chairman of The Pillar Church Planting Network.