Furthering the kingdom primary reason for voting
Voting season is upon us, and with so many issues to consider, it is easy for the faithful Christian to get lost in the political complexities surrounding it, or else be taken in by partisan rhetoric. How would the Bible have us cast our votes?
Though the writers of the New Testament could never have dreamed of such a power, the church now has the ability to affect many of the decisions their government makes. The most obvious method of going about this, at least in democratic countries, is voting. The task of the government, according to Romans 13, is the restraint and punishment of evil; therefore, Christians, especially those on the right of the political spectrum, have assumed the proper attitude toward voting is to encourage their government to do just this. In addition, many Christians, especially those on the left of the political spectrum, recognize that the calling of Christians includes care for the lowly and the outcast and encourage their government through their vote to address this concern in a way the church alone could not.
Duty to God trumps duty to country
It is important, however, to keep distinct the God-given purpose of governments from the purpose of the church. While the government is God’s “avenger” to punish and restrain evil, the Church is to “overcome evil with good.” While the government deserves our tax money, subjection and prayer, the church is to acknowledge that its highest loyalty and its true citizenship belongs to the kingdom of heaven.
Peter urges believers in 1 Peter 2:13 to be subject to their government not for its own sake nor for their sakes, but “for the Lord’s sake.” This means, first and foremost, that Christians should not vote with the intention of fulfilling their duty as U.S. citizens, but rather must be thinking of how to do the will of God with their vote. Moreover, in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul urged prayer for government officials so that believers “may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Voting to further the kingdom
This is a profoundly political statement that highlights the distinction of the church from the state. While the government is occupied with its task of restraining and punishing evil, the church is to go about its own peaceful task without provoking conflicts with the government. And though it is undoubtedly the calling of the believer to care for the the lowly and outcast, it is also imperative to go about this task in the way that Jesus did. For believers, the ends for which we aim are easily spoiled by unloving means. Even if we are able to feed every hungry belly and provide medical care for every ailment in our country, it is ultimately worth nothing if not done from Christ-centered, Spirit-enabled love. This is a kind of love the government cannot provide.
If Christians are to enter the voting booth, their motivation should not be to act in American self-interest, nor to ensure the punishment and restraint of evil, nor to relegate to the government tasks that were meant for the church, nor, finally, to do their patriotic duty as U.S. citizens. The criterion for deciding both how the Christian should vote and whether he ought to vote at all is the kingdom of God. Will it advance the kingdom of God or not?
One of the most damaging ideas the American church has adopted is that, in the absence of an option to choose the perfect ideal, one should choose the “lesser of two evils.” But Christ, when he commanded us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” made no allowance for such relative goods. If the believer decides, after prayerful consideration, that the kingdom of God would not be served through voting, he should abstain from voting altogether.