One of my neighbors recently vocalized his desire to place two political signs in his yard. However, he expressed his deep dilemma. One of his chosen candidates is a thoughtful Democrat. The other is a creative Republican.
“Each of them reflects my deep-held values,” my neighbor expressed with genuine passion. “But the yard signs will just get my house egged, and probably from both sides.”
We laughed, but he was serious.
Tis the season for yard sign battles. I cannot recall a time in recent history when a midterm election carried such high-pitched press and stress. Certainly, the stakes are sky high. Amidst divisive upheaval over super-charged issues like racial violence, immigration reform, and Supreme Court appointments, we find ourselves readily wrestling. And here’s my big dilemma:
Which side is right, good, upstanding, and worthy of my vote? How do I vote as a Christian?
Central to our work in this world is this important business. We must take seriously our responsibility to engage in the social—yes, political—arena. (Keep in mind that “politics” comes from the ancient Greek term polis, meaning the city and that city’s people.) What a joy to realize that people and the work of their gathering places matter immensely to a loving God.
But precisely how should a Christ-follower vote? Debate rages beyond the yard signs and our knee-jerk, raucous taking of sides. I offer three foundational ideas.
First, choose to courageously engage.
No doubt about it. Politics can feel scary and overwhelming. Don’t simply shrug or bury your head in the sand. A person’s active faith in Christ will work for greater good in every arena, not just church on Sundays or soup kitchens on Saturdays. Our faith must be included in the work of society and politics. As our resurrected and ascended King, Jesus is Lord of all life arenas (Colossians 1:9-20). A developing faith will recognize the importance of societal engagement as intrinsic to growing in Christ. Our active involvement is essential to both living good lives for Christ and proclaiming His Good News in the public arena.
Second, think and pray. Pray and think.
I am personally in a season of life where I confuse the heck out of people. I very rarely post anything that has even a whiff of something political. (It’s rarely productive for pastors to do so. Even this piece will generate some fan mail.) But on the rare occasion that I do become so moved that I feel I have to say something, it’s intriguing to watch people’s reactions.
There are plenty of Christians who assume that as a Bible-believing Christian leader I must be a “right wing, conservative” Republican. There are other Christians who just know that I certainly must be a “liberal, hug-everybody” Democrat.
I can confidently tell you, such categories no longer serve God’s good purposes for my soul. (And I am growing more confident those categories do not serve God’s good purposes for our collective societal soul either.)
I am working to vote as a praying Christian. Very practically and profoundly, this works itself out in a bold prayer like this: “Lord, grant me your wisdom to discern the issues and to vote for the person who will truly serve well in addressing healthy, necessary changes, the kinds of changes that reflect your heart, Lord, in this realm.” Perhaps it sounds overly simplistic, but I am confident he will answer that sincere prayer for wisdom every time (James 1:2-8).
I am also aiming to work at voting as a thinking Christian. Very practically, this means I choose to set aside a previously assumptive, one-side-is-right, partisan approach. A truly Christian vote requires knowing the issues, knowing the candidates, and possessing a solidly grounded, biblical worldview to inform your deeply held values.
Where might a Christian start to gain biblical grounding? Immerse your mind in foundational places like Genesis, chapters 1-4, Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 1-7, and Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. These passages teach core themes of God’s call and divine purposes for humans and for creation at large. They also emphasize the faith implications for social responsibility and for heart-and-soul, whole-person implications of the Gospel.
In this season of my life, I want to vote for candidates who most closely align with truly good foundations for the advancement of life, peace, hope, and flourishing. Certainly, debates rage over precise interpretation of the most critical issues and their nuances. However, as a base minimum, I want to be thinking, evaluating, and sorting my votes through such a biblical lens.
Third, speak and act with Christ-like kindness.
Our mothers did not raise us to be nasty, mean, and ugly. As people who claim to be changed by the Gospel, Christians need to be very, very kind. We should be big boys and girls. Let’s be mature enough to agree to disagree and be joyful as we debate. We can do that! People have done so at other pivotal points throughout history. Let’s be generously kind.
This approach to the work of voting is certainly not for everyone. Perhaps you are in a place of life where you prefer to still simply “select all” and punch one box for one party or the other. Perhaps you just really need to yell your point with vitriol ugliness all over your face. God bless you. I mean that sincerely. Our family has simply arrived at a place where we believe it’s very important to do the work of voting Christian.
Now where are those two yard signs? I better get ready to clean up eggshells.
For an insightful treatment of this topic, see ch. 5 in Richard Foster’s classic Streams of Living Water.