We are less than two weeks away from one of the most important presidential elections in recent history. How should we as Christians vote? How does the Bible influence our decision making process when we enter the voting booth? Regardless of your political party or persuasion, as citizens of the United States, God has granted us the current freedoms to positively influence our government for the glory of Christ. According to Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics According to the Bible” he gives five wrong or erroneous views regarding the Christian’s relationship to the government.
The first wrong view states that government should mandate or force citizens to adopt a particular religion. We see this in nations like Saudi Arabia that enforces “sharia law” and compels all citizens to embrace Islam. Nowhere in the Bible do we see Jesus or the apostles using the governing authorities to force people to become Christians. In Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus tells us that there are two spheres of influence—the government and God. We are to render unto the government what God has ordained the government to exercise and we are to render unto God what God has ordained for Himself.
The second wrong view according to Grudem is that the government should exclude religion all together.This is the view of the secular atheists who want no religion at all to be practiced in the public square. We see groups such as the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State wanting no expression of religion at all in America. They object to prayers being prayed before city council meetings or the display of the Ten Commandments in courthouses or saying a prayer or mentioning God at a graduation speech.
Until something changes in our country, we still operate under the Constitution. That is our binding document as a nation and we must live by its precepts as citizens in America. And what does it say in the First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.”
Grudem’s third wrong view is that all governments are evil and under the influence of Satan. This is a minority view among evangelicals and is usually expressed by not voting, not running for office, and opposing any and all wars.
The fourth wrong view is that we are to just do evangelism but no politics. Clearly, according to Romans 1:16, the gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe. No true lasting transformation in our nation will come about except through the gospel of Christ. We cannot expect there to be a revival or spiritual awakening in our country without the advancement of the message of salvation alone through Jesus Christ. But…
If one traces the history of Christianity since its inception, many major societal ills have been eradicated due to the positive influence of Christians in politics. In the early days of Christianity in the Roman Empire, believers helped rid society of abortion, the vicious gladiator games, infanticide, and child abandonment. We’ve seen Christians responsible for giving property rights to women, ending the burning of widows alive in India, and the binding of women’s feet in China. We see men like William Wilberforce whose influence in Parliament helped abolish slavery in England.
If Christians in generations past just adopted the attitude that no political involvement was necessary, think about how different our world would be today.
Grudem’s fifth wrong view is that we should just do politics, not evangelism. This puts all of our hope in a political party, measure, or candidate and fails to see that true transformation only comes from Jesus and His gospel to change hearts.
Let me give three encouragements regarding an individual Christian’s influence on the political process. First of all, before we point the finger at all of the evil in our world, let us makes sure that we are repentant, contrite, and live holy lives that glorify God. True transformation change starts within the house of God before it can reach out to our nation. I encourage you to read 1 Peter 2:9-17 to see how the apostle relates glorifying God with holy lives in relationship to the governing authorities.
Secondly, we can clearly see many examples directly from the Bible of individuals who influenced the political system. Joseph influenced Pharaoh. Moses demanded that the Israelites go free. Daniel urged the king of Babylon to stop ruling unjustly (Daniel 4:27). Nehemiah was cupbearer to the King. Esther influenced the king of Persia in favor of the Jews. John the Baptist got in King Herod’s face about adultery and was imprisoned. Paul appealed to his rights as a Roman citizen before the governing authorities.
Thirdly, regardless of what type of government we find ourselves under, we must submit to these God-ordained institutions (Romans 13:1-7). Yet we are left with a lingering question: How does this intersect with the gospel? If I had a choice between exercising my right to vote and sharing the gospel, I would share the gospel every time hands down because that is the only thing that is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.
Cultural transformation through the political process will be helpful in addressing social issues and possibly making America a better place to live. But true cultural transformation will only come when Christians act as salt and light and live out the implications of the gospel in our lives.
We need to guard against being ethnocentric which means that we are so narrowly focused on being Americans that we fail to see God’s mission in redeeming every tribe, tongue, language, and people groups throughout the world. We need to be more cross-cultural in our worldview. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be patriotic. But if patriotism leads to egotistical pride and we worship America as an idol, then we have gone too far.
Regardless of what nation we find ourselves in: America, Russia, India, or Japan. Or regardless if American becomes more socialistic and like Western Europe, we must understand that in God’s sovereignty He is allowing this for a purpose. And the purpose could be to refine His church and also to help us understand that what matters most is a gospel culture where Christ rules regardless of national borders.
In the end, what should define us is the gospel. Not our nationality. Not our citizenship.
Philippians 3:20says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, we can positively influence politics, but in the end, what truly counts is eternal life with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth under His Lordship where there will be no more politics or nations—just every tribe, tongue, and people gathered around His throne in eternal worship.
But until that day, exercise your right to vote. Spend time in diligent prayer making sure that you know where each candidate stands on critical issues that are important to evangelical Christians? Where do Obama and Romney stand on the issue of abortion? Gay marriage? Religious freedom? Spend time in research. While your pastor or church cannot legally endorse a candidate or political party, they can give your godly counsel on how to be a Biblically informed voter: Here is a helpful website from the Christian Coalition on where the candidates stand on key issues: www.cc.org/download_2012_voter_guides