This Tuesday, November 4, 2008, millions of Americans will go to the polls and register their choices for President and Vice-President. For the first time ever, voters will choose between two sitting U.S. Senators for President, neither of whom was born within the continental United States. A number of gracEmail subscribers have asked my political opinions; others have kindly sent me theirs. And several, from both ends of the political specrum, are so confident of God’s will that there is nothing left to discuss.
Today, most Christians in the USA consider voting to be a moral duty, unaware that notable believers from Tertullian (2nd century) to David Lipscomb (20th century) have taught that Christians ought to have no part in earthly government whatsoever. My own father held that view, which I respect but do not share. On the other hand, my father’s father, an Alabama sharecropper, was almost a Yellow Dog Democrat (one who would vote for a yellow dog if it ran on the Democratic ticket). Almost — but not quite. In 1928, faced with the choice between presidential candidates Herbert Hoover (Republican) and Al Smith (Democrat, but also Roman Catholic), his other prejudices prevailed and he stayed home altogether.
As this Election Day approaches, room does remain for careful thought. We had as well acknowledge it — millions of intelligent, conscientious Christians throughout the United States will pray for divine wisdom this Tuesday, search their hearts for God’s will, then mark their ballots in opposing columns. These thoughtful believers all understand the need to make judgments informed by scriptural principles. The fact is that when they read the Bible, different things stand out. No political party or candidate measures up to all of God’s standards. Every political option is less than perfect. Because believers prioritize differently those biblical principles they share in common, and because they relegate biblical duties differently as between the individual and the state, whenever these believers attempt to discuss specifics, they usually talk past each other.
But there are some matters on which we can all agree. God rules the world, and — whether through our vote or in spite of it — governments rise and fall as he ordains (Dan. 4:32; Rom. 13:1-2). Regardless of our political opinions, as believers we are commanded to pay our taxes, to render honor to those holding office (Rom. 13:6-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17) and to pray for all those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). It is wrong to speak evil of rulers (2 Peter 2:9-10). Any nation that fears the Lord will reap blessing, and any country that ignores or defies God will pay a price (Prov. 14:34; Psalm 2:1-12; Rev. 18:1-24). And, when all is said and done, our citizenship is in heaven — wherever and whenever we happen to live on this earth (Phil. 3:20-21; Acts 17:24-27).