8/12/2016 10:35:58 AM
The Christian Conscience and Voting
Consciences are frustrated…
I saw a video the other day that I think reflects the attitudes of many Christians. The comical video is a scene from the TV show “Third Rock from the Sun.” One of the main characters, Dr. Dick Solomon, is stressing over voting in the upcoming election. Dr. Mary Albrecht is trying to convince him that he needs to vote. Solomon complains, “I’ve tried to vote my conscience and I can’t even hear it anymore. There is no choice. My only choice is not to vote at all. Democracy is horrible! Absolutely horrible!” Mary finally convinces Dick to vote by saying, “Just go to the poll and do what you think is right.” The scene transitions to the voting booths where Dick is physically struggling in the both. He leaves the booth, out of breath, hugs a lady there and exclaims, “I hope I did the right thing!”
This is a rather comical portrayal of what we might be going through this November, but isn’t it true? This election, more than any other, is making it very difficult to vote our conscience. I’ve seen various pictures on social media portraying how many have felt. A billboard advertisement for a real-estate agent pictures both Trump and Clinton alongside the statement, “Moving to Canada? We can sell your home.” Another is a picture of a boy holding a metal knife in his hand with an electrical outlet in front of him. The caption reads “Trump or Hillary? Top or bottom socket?” Americans, especially American Christians, have been frustrated with the choices that we have this year.
As I was reading through the book of Proverbs the other day, one verse caught my attention: “Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!” (Proverbs 17:7) This one verse seems to sum up our two choices for this year’s election. I don’t need to go into detail, because you yourself know the details about the two candidates. Those details frustrate our Christian conscience.
It frustrated Ted Cruz so much that he felt he needed to take a stand. You may remember Ted Cruz’s speech during the Republican convention. He didn’t endorse Trump. Instead he boldly stated, “Vote your conscience…Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.” Can a Christian vote for either Trump or Hillary with a clear conscience? Or does our conscience force us in a different direction?
I think the better question is, “Can we ever have a clear conscience when voting?” Any candidate we vote for is going to have something about them that we do not like—whether it be their personality or their stance on issues. No candidate is perfect—just like we aren’t perfect (Sorry, but our perfect candidate is in heaven. He didn’t want to be an earthly king when he was on earth and he is not interested in running for president now). So either way we are voting for someone who stands against God’s Word or someone who acts against God’s Word. It’s been said that we vote for “the lesser of two evils.” That’s a harsh way of putting it, but essentially we are voting for the person we disagree with the least. There is something that we will always disagree with, so can we ever have a clear conscience when voting?
Should we even vote?
Some of you might come to the same conclusion as Dick in the video—your conscience will only be clear if you don’t vote at all. In the video, Mary argues with Dick, saying that if he doesn’t vote, he doesn’t have any reason to complain at the end of the election. While her point makes sense, I do not agree with Mary because as Christians we should not complain about anything. So really whether we vote or not, there is no reason to complain.
One thing’s for certain though—God neither commands nor forbids us to vote. Yet there is a good reason we should vote. Democracy was not addressed in the New Testament. There was a different governmental system at the time. Pastor Leroy Boerneke explains that difference and expands on the American Christian’s responsibility to vote:
A “new system of government has placed upon Christian citizens in a burden of citizenship which was lacking for Christians living in the first centuries of the New Testament era. When that government ordered them to sacrifice incense to the emperor, they could only protest, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” But they were hardly responsible for the crimes committed by that government, e.g., the killing of Christians for their faith. They had no way to influence or transform that government. As martyrs they could testify, but this had no direct effect.
But In this United States of America, whether we are considering government on the federal, state, or local level, we do bear a certain responsibility for what government does. It is not a direct responsibility so that we as individual Christians are responsible for every act committed by any agent of that government. But by the ballot we have the power to promote candidates whom we approve and reject candidates whose actions we disapprove. Perhaps more important than our vote is the right and power we possess to make our opinions heard. Public opinion is a powerful voice in this country, and no public official can disregard it for long. …
Responsible Christian citizenship demands more than passive citizenship. It requires a new attitude of mind….Such involvement may involve serving in the capacity of an office holder, if elected. It means participation in the political process in other ways, such as involving ourselves in the selection of candidates and then in voting. It means being ready to serve in various capacities related to government service, such as commissions and boards in our local community. It means making our voice heard in open meetings of governmental agencies where the individual citizen is permitted to express his opinion.” (Leroy Boerneke. “The Relationship of the Individual Christian Toward His Government” WLS Essay File, 1976)
Have you ever thought that God rules through us? He takes our every day decisions and uses them. He guides our decisions with his Word, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). Voting is just another one of those decisions. We must remember that God supports no governmental system (monarch, dictatorship, democracy), yet he uses each of them. “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). In our country he uses our democracy. God has made us a part of his ruling process. He allows us to decide using the Christian wisdom we have gained from his Word. Through democracy, God has given us the freedom to vote for the candidate that we think will run our nation the best.
We can have a clear conscience
Can we have a clear conscience while voting? Yes. We can have a clear conscience because we know who is truly in control. We know that whatever decision we make, whether it be a good one or bad one, our God will work it out for our good. Our perfect Savior Jesus may not be running for president, but he is ruling perfectly from above. Pastor Andrew Schroer wrote a wonderful article in the July edition of Forward In Christ that I encourage all of you to read. Schroer’s main message is “Don’t worry!” when you vote.
“Many Christians are anxiously wringing their hands wondering who the next president will be. Some are filled with frustration about who is left standing after the debates. Others are excited. Still others are filled with dread. I’m here to tell you: Don’t worry about it.
Don’t get me wrong. As a Christian, you should be concerned about the upcoming election. God has called you to be a light to the world. He has called you to speak the truth in love. As Christians, we should participate in the political process. We should let our voices be heard. We should vote our consciences.
We should be concerned about who becomes the next president. It should sadden us when government officials don’t live up to their high calling. Injustices should anger us and lead us to act.
We don’t need to worry, however. Again and again, our God tells us in his Word not to worry about the future. He lovingly whispers, “Do not be afraid.” Why? Because no matter who is running our country—no matter what is happening at home or abroad—our God reigns.” (Andrew Schroer, “Our God Reigns” FIC July 2016, p. 32)
Here is some advice I want to give you—no matter who you vote for, pray. Pray that God will give you a clear conscience. Pray that no matter who is elected, God will use him/her for our good. Pray that God will give you security knowing that He is in control.
Gracious Father, you rule the world with unfathomable wisdom, power, and love. We now ask your blessing as we enter a time of national vulnerability as we conduct our national free election. Do not permit the enemies of this great country to disturb, distract, or derail us from the goals of an honest and safe election. Encourage the citizens of this land to turn out and vote. Cause believers everywhere to participate in our democratic process, ensuring the continued freedom guaranteed by our constitution. Remind us that no matter what the outcome is, you work in all things for the good of those who love you. Lead us to renew our thankfulness for your guiding hand and to serve as volunteers in our local elections. And in so doing, may we shine the light of Jesus as a reflection of your incredible love in this dark world. Amen. (excerpt from “God Bless Our Native Land: Prayers for an Election Year” Northwestern Publishing House, 2004)
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