A million questions could be filling your mind in the voting booth. But as Christians, what are the most important factors when casting a ballot?
Jesus summed up the law as love God and love others. In loving our neighbor and seeking the best for them, we vote in such a way that their lives are better.
Christians, like the Babylonian exiles in Jeremiah, are to “seek the welfare of the city” in which we find ourselves (Jeremiah 29:7).
The word for “welfare” is shalom, which carries huge significance in Hebrew. God is telling His people living in a hostile country to seek the good, the peace, the prosperity, the flourishing of that place.
The most complete flourishing for any society would be to live completely in accord with God’s standards. As our Creator, He knows better than we do what would lead to our shalom.
That is how we best love our neighbors and our country—by seeking it’s shalom, it’s flourishing in accordance with God’s word. So with that as our goal, how do we go about achieving that?
Personally, I have to ask myself four questions about each candidate to determine if their gaining political power would contribute to the flourishing of my neighbor.
Do they understand humanity?
When the candidate speaks, is it clear they view humans in a biblical manner. Do they recognize each of us as having inherent dignity, but also fallen? Politicians can go wrong on either side.
When those in our government fail to recognize the inherent worth of every individual, we end up slavery, discrimination and other forms of (literally) inhumane treatment of people.
When we ignore the doctrine of man’s fallenness, politicians can trust themselves to obtain more and more power.
It can also distort justice if we operate under an assumption that people will make the right moral choice just given the proper environment. The Garden of Eden should clear us of that notion.
In modern elections, this question directly relates to abortion, our treatment of refugees and immigrants on one side. It also impacts our political separation of powers and matters of criminal justice.
What are the intended consequences of their election?
During the campaign, politicians give an idea for the type of policies they want to pursue. That should be part of any decision making process.
Hopefully, it should be clear that no candidate is going to perfectly encapsulate this idea. No elected official can bring about the true shalom we all desire. That will only take place when Christ returns.
But are the things they want to do consistent with the biblical concept of human flourishing? Will those things alleviate suffering? Spread justice? Increase prosperity? Foster peace?
Different people will come to different conclusions on this question. That’s OK, but it’s one that should be considered even if we do not come to a consensus.
What are the unintended consequences of their election?
This may be one of the most difficult questions to answer because much of it is conjecture. But what type of culture will this candidate contribute to as a leader?
Has the politician run a campaign based on fear and division? If so, their election may very well led to those being more widespread and deepen political divides.
Have they encouraged justice and righteousness in their personal and public lives? Will their election cause others to dismiss biblical standards of morality?
Whether they realize it or not, will their policies contribute to a reduction in the valuing of life or the prosperity of people? Politicians often only want to be judged based on their stated goals, but a wise Christian voter must also consider the type of culture their election will foster.
What will this mean for the church?
When considering this question, many immediately jump to religious liberty and advancing biblical ideals. Those are important, but for different reasons than many think.
Christianity does not need government protection or special treatment. The reason we want to protect our religious freedoms and why we champion scriptural ideas is because we believe they led to the good of everyone—not just Christians.
So we fight for religious liberty, not so that Christians can amass more power, but so that everyone has the opportunity to worship according to the dictates of their heart. And in this free marketplace of religious ideas, the truth will win out.
But more than that, Christians must also consider the witness of the church. The New Testament church, suffering under a hostile government, seemed much more concerned with their holiness as a church than their rights as citizens.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about the latter at all, but it means we recognize that we cannot sacrifice our witness in culture to secure rights or power for ourselves.
If voting for an individual causes the name of Christ to be unduly defamed and causes His church to decrease in holiness, we cannot vote for that individual—no matter what they promise us.
This is the temptation that caused Adam to fall in the garden. It’s why Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. But it’s also the same temptation that Christ defeated in the wilderness.
It is the allure of using a less than holy means to achieve a good end. Christians are facing our own wilderness temptation.
As Christians, we worship the God of the empty tomb. We do not need the protection or promises of any candidate or political party. The Democratic and Republican party are blips on eternity’s radar screen.
Our focus remains living as ambassadors in this world and encouraging the church to reflect the holiness of Christ. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our vote plays a role in that.
4 Questions I’m not Asking
What Will They Do for Me? As a Christian, my concern must not be selfish. I should be focused on how I can help the nation prosper.
Read Jeremiah 29:7 again. God wants His people to seek the prosperity of the pagan city and people around them.
When Babylon prospers, they will also prosper. But God’s links the success of His people in that land with the success of everyone else. We must do the same as Christians in America.
Are they a Christian? While I would hope a Christian would be more likely to provide good answers for each of my questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will.
Every president in our recent history has given some indication they are believers. Have you been a fan of them all? (Some of our earlier, most revered ones may not have been Christian at all.)
As part of the image of God in every human, non-Christians can recognize and work toward biblical principles of flourishing.
Are they a Republican or Democrat? Party labels can be helpful shorthands on occasion. Their platforms give an indication of the values of the party, but that doesn’t always reflect the specific candidate.
When I cast my ballot, I’m not voting for a party or a platform. I’m voting to empower a certain individual. I have to judge that person.
Who are they running against? This is a tempting question in this specific election and one which many seem to favor. “Look at how bad that other candidate is. We can’t let them get in power.”
“Not [Insert Candidate Name]” is not on the ballot. Again, I’m voting for a specific person. I must feel comfortable casting that vote.
This is an area in which I can take great comfort as a Christian. I know God will still occupy His throne after the election. I can vote my conscience and rest in His sovereignty.