By Dallas Henry
Have you been asked the question yet? The questions are coming from members of the church I serve. “Pastor, who are you voting for?” Of course, by law, we are not permitted to endorse candidates from the pulpit, but when people ask us, we can legally share our opinions with them and why we have them.
There was a talk show that included a discussion of candidates for president and their faith. The host remarked, “What a person believes really shouldn’t matter because religion and politics don’t mix.”
That is a well known phrase. In any group of people there will be varying political opinions, but it incorrect to say that religion and politics do not mix. In fact, the Bible addresses many political issues. Government was an issue that Biblical writers frequently addressed. Scriptures talk about the role of government, how we should respond to government and, in besides, much of our laws are taken from the Bible. It is fair to say that Christians should be concerned about politics because God seems to be concerned about politics. I Peter 2:13 tells us that we are to submit to the governing authorities and I Timothy 2:1 urges us to pray for those who lead us. Saying that religion and politics do not mix is often an excuse for people who are not involved. It’s interesting that it is okay to sing patriotic hymns in church and politics and religion can mix on that realm, but they cannot mix when we talk about elections and the issues.
It is vital that Christians be involved in the process. We should be concerned about all elections. We should be concerned about who is leading us because they decide what freedoms we have and don’t have and what rights we have and don’t have. But, just how do Christians interact with government? What does the Bible say about issues that relate to this? In this critical time in the history of our country, it is important to be informed and to see what our Biblical responsibility is with government and not to simply withdraw and avoid it all. Remember government is; “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
All citizens have been given the freedom and the responsibility to vote. This freedom is our only chance to voice our opinion. We are all influenced to vote the way that we do for different reasons, but Christians, especially, must guard against the false notion that voting and religion do not mix. A Christian’s faith does come into play in the decision making while voting.
It is important to remember that God, His Word and His Son Jesus Christ are foundational parts of our government and that should never be forgotten. There’s a good reason that In God We Trust is on our currency and a good reason our Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase “One nation Under God” and there is a good reason that The Declaration of Independence speaks of the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and of certain unalienable Rights endowed on them by their Creator. We hear a lot today about the separation of Church and state, which is not in our constitution, no matter who many claim that it is.
In a few months the primaries will be over and the various candidates for each political party will have been chosen, on the national, state and local levels. The campaign ads will be over, the commercials will stop airing, for the time being, and then it’s time for Christians to do their homework.
It is important for us to take time and look into the Scriptures and see, first of all, what the Bible has to say regarding the purpose of government, secondly our responsibility as Christians, and thirdly how the church is called to Biblically interact with government.
“Let every soul be subject to the higher authorities. For there is no authority but of God; the authorities that exist are ordained by God. So that the one resisting the authority resists the ordinance of God; and the ones who resist will receive judgment to themselves. For the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the bad. And do you desire to be not afraid of the authority? Do the good, and you shall have praise from it. For it is a servant of God to you for good. For if you practice evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword in vain; for it is a servant of God, a revenger for wrath on him who does evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes. For they are God’s servants, always giving attention to this very thing. Therefore give to all their dues; to the one due tax, the tax; tribute to whom tribute is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”
Christians should not have an anti-government mindset because God has established governments that exist. God had a reason for appointing government.
Rights of Government
Most believe that we live in the best country in the world. Sometimes we take for granted the freedoms rights and the privileges that we have as Americans. People talk a lot about how they disagree with certain aspects of government, and how they don’t always like how things are done, or how they don’t like politics of it all. The truth of the matter is, as imperfect at it is, we are blessed to have the government in place that we have.
Paul made it very clear in Romans that government is a God appointed institution. In fact, government is one of only three God given institutions; the family and the church being the other two. Scripture also makes it clear that government has a very specific role. Some, today, do not like any form of government, but without a government we would have chaos. Government was established for a reason. The passage, in Romans, gives us a few of those reasons.
Punish the Guilty
One God granted right government has is the right and the authority to punish the guilty. God set it up so government sets the laws in place, which the people are to follow. Some people say that you cannot legislate morality. It is true that no amount of laws will change a person’s heart. But laws are for restraining evil. God established and set up government for the purpose of putting laws into place to punish those who are guilty of breaking those laws. If we did not have certain moral laws, it would be permissible to commit murder, to steal, and to do pretty much whatever we want. Although God is a God of love He is also a God of justice. Government has been given the authority from God to enforce the law. Paul said that the government is an agent of God to bring wrath and punishment on the wrongdoer.
Reward the Innocent
Another function of government, according to Scripture, is to reward the innocent. Romans chapter 13 says that government is God’s servant to do us good. Everyone is aware of the corruption in politics and the fact that the innocent are not rewarded every time. Government should work for and reward those who do not break the law.
Some people are unaware of their responsibilities to government. God has given us certain commands that Christians are to obey as it relates to government. These responsibilities mean that we do not have the choice in the matter. As Christians, we have been commanded to….
Remember, government establishes laws and we have been commanded to be obedient to them. When we break the laws of the land that have been established by our governing authorities, we are breaking a command of God and sinning against God as well. We are told not only to obey, but to submit to their authority. Human nature does not welcome authority. It is natural not to like it when people give us instructions or tell us we have to do something. We don’t like the idea of submitting to anyone. God tells us to submit to the authority of government.
I Peter 2:13-17
“Then be in obedience to every ordinance of men, because of the Lord, whether to a king as supreme, or to governors as sent by Him for vengeance on evildoers, but for praise on well-doers. For such is the will of God, doing good to silence the ignorance of foolish men; as free, and not having freedom as a cover of evil, but as servants of God. Honor all. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
There are three Biblical reasons why we should submit to the laws of the land…
For the Lord’s Sake
Peter said, “submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every authority…” One reason we should submit is because it is what God wants us to do in relation to government and the laws that have been established. Many people have a rebellious attitude and feel that they do not have to obey the laws that have been established, but like it or not, we must submit to the Laws of the land; because God says so. Even Jesus emphasized this with the idea of paying taxes that we owe. We may not like it, but we still have to obey because God said so.
For Our Sake
We should also submit for our own sake because if we do not we will be punished because government has the authority and power to punish us if we do not.
For Others Sake
Peter said that, by us doing good and obeying the laws, we will silence the talk of foolish people, or non-Christian people. A big reason Christians should obey the government is because it is poor witness to unbelievers if we do not submit and obey.
We are not only called to obey the laws of the land, but there is a higher authority than government. What if the laws the government established conflict with God’s Laws and commands? The obvious answer is, we obey God. Peter and John were arrested and they were commanded by those who had God-given authority to no longer speak in the name of Jesus. If they had obeyed that command they would have disobeyed a command of God to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. They said, “judge for yourselves whether it is right to obey God rather than man, but we cannot help, but to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
A law went out during Daniel’s time that forbade anyone from praying? But that was one place Daniel could not compromise and one law he could not obey. We are to obey the government so as long as it does not violate God’s Word, which has higher authority than any government. Actually these saints obeyed God and at the same time were submissive to the law of the land by willingly cooperating with the consequences of their civil disobedience.
Instructions To Pray
I Timothy 2:1-3
“First of all, then, I exhort that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior”
We should make it a priority to pray for those who lead our nation. We have actually been commanded to do that. We need to pray for them to have wisdom in the decisions that they make because those decisions affect our lives. We need to be praying for morality and issues that are near to our heart and God’s. Prayer changes things and whether we agree of disagree with someone’s political position, we have a command to pray for them. We need to pray for our nation and its leaders. We have no right to grumble and complain if we don’t pray for the people who lead us. Christians do have responsibilities to the government.
Separation of Church and State
We all have heard the endless claims about the notion of separation of Church and state. This issue is often hotly debated and because of it, courts are voting to remove the Ten Commandments from courthouses and public places, while people like Judge Roy Moore try to take a stand on principle. Courts have removed public prayer from schools. There had been talk about removing the word “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as talk about removing the phrase “In God We Trust” from our currency. This is all done under the notion of keeping church and state separate. Some Christians believe in a separation of Church and State, but for an entirely different reason than pagans. The whole reason the idea of separation came about was to protect the church from the state imposing on it, not a fear of the church influencing the state. The initiative to distance and even silence the church are just evidence of a nation who is more and more moving away from God and Christian principles. The best thing we can do to affect change is not by violent protests, but by changing people hearts through the message of the gospel. One reason why the Ten Commandments are not tolerated and “God” is a word many pagans are uncomfortable with, unless using it as profanity, is because the church has not done its job as the Salt and the Light. The primary responsibility we have to our nation and to our government is to show Christ and through that, laws can change. There is also the issue of Christian involvement in politics as a witness.
It is also very important for Christians to vote. Christians often sit around and complain about the issues, but if we don’t get involved in some way, we cannot complain. God wants His people to be involved in the election process to choose men or women who support His values.
“And if a soul sins and hears the voice of swearing, and is a witness, and he has seen or known, if he does not tell it, then he shall bear his iniquity.”
Voter apathy among Christians is alarmingly high. In the 2000 presidential election, more than 2 out of every 5 Christians failed to exercise their responsibility to cast a ballot. This is certainly not carrying out our responsibility to be salt and light.
Christians should not sit back in silence while unborn children are murdered for convenience. We must not sit back in silence while the sins of sodomy become the norm. We should not sit back in silence while evolution is taught to children in schools and Christianity becomes oppressed. We can’t just sit back in silence while God’s name is removed from every aspect of culture!
When we vote we have the duty to be fully informed. We have the obligation not to vote for someone just because they are affiliated with a party or because that is the way we have always voted. We need to, first, do our homework and then pray for who we vote for. James Dobson said, “The laws of a nation have a significant influence on the nation’s moral climate, for good or for ill. This is because laws can either restrain evil or encourage it, and because laws also have a teaching function as they inform people about what a government thinks to be right and wrong conduct.”
In 1883 in Allentown, New Jersey, a wooden Indian – the kind that is often seen in front of cigar stores – was placed on the ballot for Justice of the Peace. The candidate was registered under the fictitious name of Abner Robbins. When the ballots were counted, Abner won over incumbent Sam Davis by 7 votes.
A similar thing happened in 1938. The name Boston Curtis appeared on the ballot for Republican Committeeman from Wilton, Washington. Actually, Boston Curtis was a mule. The town’s mayor sponsored the animal to demonstrate that people know very little about the candidates they vote for. He proved his point. The mule won!
We all have opinions about things like Foreign Policy, Social Security, economics, immigration, and gun control. Even though those issues mostly come down to opinion, they still need to be prayed about for God’s direction in the voting booth. But there are some political issues that the Bible already informs us on, as Christians.
Christians already have a political opinion about marriage and it’s sanctity from God’s Word. Sodomy marriage is a hot topic, but on this issue, God has spoken. Perhaps some people have forgotten two cities by the name of Sodom and Gomorrah and the reasoning for God’s judgment. Homosexuality is a sin even if society and politicians say it is not. It is a sin; not because any of us say so, but because God’s word says so. God designed marriage for one man and one woman to live together for life, which provides a safe place to raise children. Marriage is a gift of God, but today people are perverting that gift.
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves. For they changed the truth of God into a lie, and they worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause, God gave them up to dishonorable affections. For even their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; males with males working out shamefulness, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error.”
Christians need to stand up and show that we value the sanctity of marriage. God has spoken on this issue.
In Canada, right now, a preacher can go to prison for using the Bible to support a position against homosexuality, because portions of the Bible are viewed by the Canadian government as hate speech.
This is a political issue that the candidates have opinions on and their opinions may affect our life and our freedoms as Christians.
There are some politicians who would have you believe that life is not valuable until after birth. They would tell us that as long as a baby is in its mother’s womb it is just a fetus or blob of tissue, but God’s word teaches us that life is precious inside the womb and we do not have the right to kill it.
“For You have possessed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are marvelous and my soul knows it very well.”
Life was precious to God at creation. Abortion is an easy way out. Abortion is the most crude and wicked practice taking place in this nation. We have the responsibility and the privilege to make an impact when we vote.
We live in the best nation on this earth, and the reason is because it was founded on the value of human life and on Christian principles. We are blessed to be a part of a much greater Kingdom, the Church, where Christ is the head. We have the promise of a home, one day, if we are in Christ, and free from the cares of this world. Until then, we must live in this world, and hopefully make an impact for Christ. We cannot remove ourselves from these issues, they are real and ignoring them won’t solve anything.
Christians have a responsibility of obedience to the government, but more than that, we have the responsibility of allegiance to Christ. Let us allow God’s Word to be our guide in the things we do. Remember we are Christians first and Americans second.
So how did I answer the question of who I was voting for? I explained that I had not made a decision and that I was in the process of doing my homework on where each candidate stood on the issues of concern to Christians. Once I completed that homework, I plan to pray for God’s guidance and after that, make my decision.
Dear Heavenly Father, please help your church to be salt and light everywhere and also when it comes time to vote.