It is said the wise avoid discussions about religion and politics. The reason is because people can be passionate, and thus unbending, about religious and political convictions, and the inevitable consequence of heated discussions is broken friendships. So if you want to preserve your relationships with friends who might differ on religion or politics, avoid those subjects we are told.
That piece of advice, I think, contains some truth. Obviously, however, mature and gracious people can discuss topics of disagreement without harming their relationships. It is only the immature who can’t respectfully disagree. Moreover, humble people love to have their personal convictions challenged, as they realize that they could be wrong. To thus avoid any and all discussions about religion and politics betrays that I think that all people, including myself, are immature and ungracious.
That being so, rather than advising you to avoid all discussions about politics and religion, I suggest you only avoid such discussions with boneheads (assuming that you yourself are not a bonehead).
Concerning discussions about religion, if you are a follower of Jesus, there is even more reason not to avoid such discussions, because Jesus commanded His followers to do so. Additionally, everyone who truly believes in Jesus naturally would like to tell every unbeliever about Jesus in hopes of leading some to eternal life. The only thing that hinders us from doing just that is unbelievers’ obvious resistance, and the fact is, Jesus does not want us to waste our time trying to persuade boneheads, people whom He referred to as dogs and pigs:
Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces (Matt. 7:6).
Of course, when it comes to sharing the gospel, in order to identify a “spiritual swine,” you must gently toss an initial pearl to observe your listener’s reaction. A trampling of your first pearl tells you all you need to know. But if your listener shows any degree of humility or respect, that is a sign to continue gently tossing additional pearls his or her way. The key word is “gently.” As Peter admonished: “Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15, emphasis added).
You probably guessed from the title of this e-teaching that my main topic is not religion, but rather politics, and I’m wading into the subject because I believe it to be important, and I hope that my readership includes very few boneheads. (And this, I promise, is the last time I will mention the word bonehead.)
Politics are currently dominating the news and social media here in the U.S. In November, American citizens will be electing 470 very powerful people. The decisions of those 470 people will affect us, our children and our grandchildren, to a degree like no others. It is not an exaggeration to say that their decisions will affect the entire world for a long time to come. Those decision-makers will be a new president, 435 U.S. representatives and 34 U.S. senators. And all American citizens have the right to help determine who those people will be.
Not all professing Christians believe that voting is important. That is obvious, because millions of them don’t vote. During the 2012 presidential elections, 25 million professing U.S. Christians who were registered to vote did not vote. Just a small percentage of that 25 million could have completely changed 2012’s election results.
Why didn’t they vote? I’ve heard at least 5 reasons:
1.) Some believe that elections are rigged and that the winning candidates are preselected by a secret society. So no one’s votes make any difference. Elections are a huge fraud that fool all of the campaign workers and contributors, voters, and the candidates themselves.
In my humble opinion, that kind of fraud would be difficlt to pull off. There may be some local election fraud, but not on the scale of winning candidates being preselected by a secret society. Even conspiracy theorists consider that a conspiracy theory. But the people who believe such conspiracies tend to display some degree of boneheadishness (note I did not use the word bonehead), so I won’t try to persuade them otherwise.
2.) Some professing Christians don’t vote because their vote is just one of millions. One vote doesn’t change an election.
Those kinds of non-voters unwittingly reveal their lack of love for what is right. What is right is that every voter receives one vote so that his or her opinion counts just as much as everyone else’s. That is the only fair way. If there are 100 million voters, each vote determines 1/100 millionth of the outcome. If you don’t vote because your vote has so little influence on the outcome, do you believe that your vote should carry more influence than everyone else’s? How is that fair? And how is that not a little prideful?
Moreover, Christians who don’t vote because their vote “carries so little influence” actually do vote by their non-vote. Imagine an election with 5 voters and 2 candidates. 1 person votes for Candidate A, 2 vote for Candidate B, and 2, who would have preferred Candidate A, don’t vote. The majority of voters preferred Candidate A, but Candidate B wins the election because 2 voters didn’t vote. Clearly, their non-vote influenced the outcome of the election. Their non-vote turned out to be a vote for Candidate B.
3.) Some Christians don’t vote because they say we ought to focus on preaching the gospel since the gospel, in their minds, is the only thing that really changes people and society.
Of course, there is no doubt that the gospel has the potential to do much more for the temporal and eternal well-being of people than anything else. But are preaching the gospel and doing other things that can benefit people mutually exclusive? I would suggest that they are mutually inclusive.
All of the good things that Christians do are part of “letting our light shine” with the hopes of softening unbelievers’ hearts towards the gospel. Voting intelligently and morally, and respectfully explaining our choices to those who might differ, can be a means of letting our lights shine.
I have to wonder, do those who claim that we should not vote because we ought to focus on preaching the gospel because it is the only thing that really changes people and society, do they not do anything else that might benefit others other than preach the gospel? If so, they prove that they really don’t believe what they say regarding voting.
Moreover, by their non-voting, Christians, who had they voted would hopefully have considered the moral implications of their vote, may well inadvertently cast votes for the worst candidates. So their act of non-voting is actually a vote to harm others rather than help them. How does that fit with preaching the gospel? In fact, in the worst case scenario, a non-vote can become a vote that is a vote against the gospel if elected officials enact and enforce laws that hinder the gospel’s spread. What does God think of the person who preaches the gospel to save people from their sins but who votes (by his non-vote) for leaders who promote the spread of sin? A Christian who doesn’t vote is like an animal lover who drowns cats.
If I witness someone being murdered as I’m walking along the road, my calling to spread the gospel does not exempt me from responsibility to do what I can do to save the one I see being murdered. The Christian who walks by on the other side and says to himself, “I have a higher calling to preach the gospel, and besides, the gospel is really the true solution to the problem of murder, so I won’t entangle myself in any lesser solution,” is failing to obey the fundamental commandment to love his neighbor as himself.
Voting can be an act of loving your neighbor as yourself. Voting can be a good work. Good works are what Christians are supposed to do.
4.) Some Christians don’t vote because they say that Christians should have nothing to do with the kingdoms of this world. They are citizens of God’s kingdom, and true Christians have no interest in earthly kingdoms. Besides, there is no commandment in the Bible that instructs Christians to vote they say.
Of course, neither is there any commandment that forbids Christians to vote, so that nullifies the last part of that argument.
And the Person who heads God’s kingdom certainly seems interested in the kingdoms of this world. He, according to Paul, established every one of them:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves (Rom. 13:1-2).
Although we are not required by law to vote, it seems clear that the leaders whom God has placed over us expect us to vote. So how can we claim to be submitted to our God-established authorities if we don’t vote? And how can we thus claim to be submitted to God?
Moreover, Paul wrote that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God.” Therefore, each citizen’s right to vote is authority granted by God. That is indisputable. God has ordained that some nations be ruled by sovereigns, selfish and less selfish, and some be ruled by elected representatives. In the latter, God has given authority to the citizens by means of the right to elect their government representatives. Should we neglect exercising our God-given authority, and in so doing, help promote unrighteousness?
Christians are often quick to say that God will hold government leaders accountable for how they use or abuse their authority. But will God not hold each one of us accountable for our use or abuse of our God-given authority to elect the best representatives?
Paul continues in his discourse about human governmental leaders:
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Rom. 13:3-7).
Paul apparently did not believe that Christians should have nothing to do with earthly kingdoms. We all live under God-established earthly kingdoms who are ruled by people whom Paul twice referred to as “ministers of God” and once as “servants of God” within the passage we just read. (Of course, there is biblical support for civil disobedience, when earthly rulers require us to disobey God. But this is not the subject of Paul’s discussion.) Earthly governments are obviously, to a degree, part of God’s kingdom. The two cannot be separated.
5.) Some do not vote because they say that Jesus was not involved in politics, so we should follow His example. And by the way, neither was Peter, Paul, James, John, or Jude involved in politics.
Of course, Jesus never drove a car, kissed His spouse, or wrote an email. The reason is not because those things are wrong in God’s eyes. Rather, Jesus had no opportunity to do those things. Should we, who do have the opportunity to kiss our spouses, follow Jesus’ example and not kiss our spouses? Are we to think that Jesus, Peter, John or Paul, had they lived under a God-established political system that would have offered them the opportunity to vote for their government leaders, would not have voted?
Again, Paul certainly did not believe that Christians should have no involvement with earthly kingdoms. He admonished believers in his day to pray for those who held political authority, and for a moral reason: “That we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
Paul believed that our prayers could affect political leaders to the end that they might make morally-wise decisions. If Paul’s contemporary readers had possessed the right to determine, by their votes, who held political office, can you imagine Paul writing to them and saying:
Pray for those in authority so we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity…but don’t bother praying for wisdom regarding whom you should elect to rule over you that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. In fact, don’t vote at all. Leave that to the ungodly people?
Government is centered around morality, as government determines through legislation what is right and wrong for its citizens. Think of the more controversial acts of legislation that have been passed by our government leaders over the past few years. All of them are moral issues concerning which God has an opinion. Should those people whose moral opinions most closely align with God’s, to whom He has given the authority of one vote that helps determine the moral outcomes of our nation’s legislation, neglect their God-given authority, while godless people use their God-given authority of one vote to promote what God hates?
For whom should you vote? Here’s the first rule: Vote for someone! — David