This year is not the first year that choosing a candidate for President is a bit messy. Perhaps the best question a Christian can ask is this: What does God think about elections, especially elections of governmental leaders?
The last time I checked in Scripture, God Himself is the one who puts leaders in place. In the Old Testament, He used a prophet to anoint a new king from time to time, but most often let the hereditary process (or the coup d’état) work. My guess is, He does the same in a democracy—that is, He works in and through the process. The difference, of course, is that we citizens now have responsibility in that process.
But does that mean God has chosen the person He wants in leadership, and now it’s up to us who “have the mind of Christ” to discern who that person is, and vote accordingly? Not possible. For one thing, Christians aren’t a majority and can’t insure that the candidate we favor will in fact be elected. But also, God hasn’t chosen to give us that kind of knowledge. Finally, by looking at circumstances, we really can’t tell what is God’s will and what isn’t.
Late in Old Testament Jewish history, some of the best kings were followed by God’s judgment. Not against that king but against the prior waywardness of the people. How can we know what God intends in our nation at this time in history?
He may desire to lead us into revival, or He may release us to the lusts of our sinful hearts. And even after we know who wins the election, we still won’t know His intentions. Perhaps one man as President will make decisions that drive Christians to our knees and revival will come because government is obviously not going to give us the moral society we know pleases God. That would be the ultimate good, though initially we might think we’re headed for judgment. The point is, we just don’t know.
It reminds me of my coaching days, when my team of kids from a Christian school played another team from a different Christian school. How do you pray for God to help you win instead of the other guys? How do you know your team needs to win more than the others? Or that winning will be more spiritually beneficial than losing?
So does it matter whether we vote or if we pray for a desired outcome in the presidential primary and eventual election? It does matter. As I mentioned earlier, God seems to work through the process in place. In addition, Scripture indicates over and over that God moved because of the prayers of His people. Who’s to say He won’t bring a certain result in the election if, and only if, we ask Him?
Following the council of a wise friend, I’m praying that God pour out His mercy and give us the President we need, not the one we deserve. Because honestly, our hedonistic, greedy, selfish culture deserves a power-hungry, autocratic entertainer or a shady, untrustworthy liberal.
If He does not bring the result we ask for, should we say He has let us down? Should we shake our fists in His face and say He’s made a mistake? How silly that would be. He is God. He knows if what we ask of Him is truly for our good or not. As a loving parent, He knows if we need hardship to drive us back to Him or revival that will cause us to repent or a climate of peace and tranquility that will allow us to do the work of evangelism or something altogether unimagined that will serve His greater glory.
What I do know is that one thing and one thing only will be a disaster in this election—that is, if Christians react with vitriol toward those with whom we disagree. The good Samaritan did not check the politics of the mugging victim before he gave his help. Jesus did not hang Herod in effigy because he had John the Baptist killed. Paul did not write snarky letters to the churches, blasting Felix or Festus or Caesar, when he was imprisoned.
We believers in Jesus Christ need to love God and love our neighbors, even if our neighbors are throwing rocks through our windows and calling us names because of our faith in Christ. We believers in Jesus Christ need to love our fellow Christians in a way that will show the world what it truly means to be a part of the Church, even if our fellow Christians voted for the other guy.
Does love mean to stay quiet about deeply held beliefs or decide to stay above the fray and simply not vote?
This article with some revision is a reprint of one by the same name that appeared here in November 2008.