SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO (TO THE POLLS TO VOTE)
I begin writing this on the Friday after the Indiana primary election and the departures of Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich from the race for the Republican nomination for President. And what has been the general reaction from the Evangelical Christian community to these unexpected events? Everything is doom and gloom. Without Ted Cruz there is now no hope for this country because all that is left is a choice for the “lesser of evils.” Many, therefore, they are seriously considering withholding their vote altogether.
But before anyone goes so far as to choose to stay at home on Election Day in November, I believe there is a need to expose a more problematic undercurrent of thought flowing through the Christian Church and threatening to disarm the faith of many. So let’s begin with this question. In whom are you putting your trust for your personal welfare as well as the welfare of this nation?
It seems that for many Christians with Republican leanings the savior of this nation was to be found in Ted Cruz primarily because he is a practicing Christian who holds to a biblical worldview and moral compass. This fact alone was enough to endear Cruz to many an Evangelical heart giving them hope that finally we might have a President who would lead this nation back to its Christian roots. But now those hopes have been dashed by a stormy competitor upon the rocks and destroyed. And I see Facebook being filled with expressions of disbelief, confusion, and woe-are-we attitudes which culminate in the belief that there is no one left qualified to be this nations President.
But who is it, really, who determines the leadership qualities needed at this time in history, to get this nation out of the mess we are in? Those who believe that a socialist society is best are flocking to Bernie Sanders. Others of liberal leanings believe that the foreign policy experience of Hillary Clinton qualifies her to be President. And many with right wing conservative values look to . . . well, too many now think there is no one left worthy of their support because Donald Trump’s moral compass seems to have been pointing in all different directions during his lifetime.
Because Christians fall into a number of different political camps we need to back up and begin with this fact. We are Christians first—Christ followers—not politically correct Christians who believe that “my opinion of who this country needs as president is better than yours because mine is biblically based.” This, or course, is a false belief because there are many Christians who will, for the very same reason, adamantly disagree with your choice of candidate. So we must humbly dismount our political high horse and accept that each of us—though diverse in ideas and thought—is unified with all other Christians as members of the one Body of Christ. And as such, lest we forget, we have a God in heaven who holds the world in his hands and “causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Let’s move on to another important question. What about the need to make wise judgments about a candidate’s character? On this point we are jumping onto a very slippery slope. Certainly it is all well enough for Christians to say we are to judge people by their fruit. And certain facts about a person’s life cannot be hidden from the public eye. But these are simply facts which are almost always lacking in the overall context. Nevertheless, the human tendency is to trust that the fact in itself contains enough evidence upon which to judge. But under such scrutiny could you or I or anyone stand guiltless before the court of humanity? I believe that here even the most spiritual of Christians would be revealed as utter failures because none of us has a perfect record. So if we maintain that the facts are able to “speak for themselves” we are all condemned. For how many of us have had multiple marriages? How many of us have mismanaged our finances? How many of us have less than perfect relationships with our spouses or children? How many of us say things, or at least think things, that others find offensive? How many of us have had any number of moral failures and continue to struggle with immoral tendencies? How many of us fail to walk in love toward one another, especially toward those with whom we disagree? My point is this: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, not one of us is qualified to objectively judge another. But even if we do attempt to judge someone’s character we must remember that unless we are intimately acquainted with him or her, our knowledge will be limited to sound bites, hearsay, and maybe some limited personal encounters that reveal little or nothing of what God sees hidden in a heart. Therefore, “judge not that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).
Now, it is true that under certain circumstances Christians are to make judgment calls about their fellow believers. But this judgment is always in regard to sin for the purpose of maintaining the purity and integrity of the Church (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1–13). It is necessary to keep sin out of the assembly lest, like a virus of illness, it infect many others also and ultimately disgrace the name of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we cannot forget that judgments based upon personal opinions are dangerous because we in turn are subject to being judged by God (Romans 14:1–12). Therefore, the Christian’s sphere of judgment is quite narrowly defined whereas God alone who sees into our hearts is the ultimate judge of everything and everyone.
Since God is the only qualified judge of all, he is also the only one qualified to say who is the right leader for this time. As Christians, we try to figure out who God’s choice is based upon our humanly skewed perception of things. But what happens when what we think God thinks doesn’t happen? From what I have seen in the last few days, the first reaction of many of us is to bemoan our now desperate situation because any one choice of the current three is just as “evil” as the other two. But evil, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What you see as evil someone else may see as human weakness with potential. Or what I see as evil God may overlook in order to ignite that person’s capabilities into action on behalf of his people. Moses, for example, who was raised in the heart of the enemy’s camp, led several million Israelites out of Egypt despite much opposition from the Israelites themselves. Many could not understand why, or even if, God chose Moses. After all, he had been the most privileged among the Israelites and had never suffered along side of them, he was a murderer, and his wife was the daughter of a pagan priest and possibly of another race. But obviously, God had no problem overlooking what people saw as Moses’ faults, or even evil, and use him to free an entire nation.
But let’s return to the primary question. In whom are you putting your trust for the welfare of this nation? Can we always put our trust in the beliefs and opinions of people, even very godly Christians? (Have you noticed that even those whom we consider to be godly are lining up on opposite sides in this debate?) Or are we able to fall back upon our fundamental unity as Christ followers and seek God’s direction in this election cycle? If it can be agreed that we must trust God to determine who has the qualities necessary to be our next national leader, then our response to the current situation must take an about-face turn.
First, we must always be 2 Chronicles 7:14 Christians, in both good and bad times. God tells us, his people, to be humble, to pray, to seek his face, and to turn away from our own sins. If this is who we are now, or even who we are becoming, then God has said he will hear us, forgive us, and heal our land. And isn’t that exactly what this nation needs now? Healing? Second, we must accept that we currently have three possible winners in this election and do our research on the vision for this county that each has outlined. You might be surprised to find that laying beneath certain distasteful character traits you will find someone with an agenda with which you are able to generally agree and which will help ease any voting pains you are now experiencing. Finally, we all must seek God’s guidance before going to the polls and then vote in the way we believe he is leading.
Staying home on Election Day because we don’t like any particular candidate says that we do not trust God. In essence, Christians who refuse to vote play into the hands of the devil, who wants this nation to become totally devoid of any godly influences. They also help move this country further away from God rather than closer to him. Ultimately our only trust must be in God, not in a person and not in a government. We must believe that God heals nations when his people cry out to him. Don’t give up on God. Don’t stay home. Go vote.