Four tips on how to vote
In this series, I’ve been aiming to help you put together the biblical pieces on how God thinks about government, and how Christians should therefore think about and interact with our governments. Last time, we looked at seven ways not to vote. In this post, we’re looking at four ways to vote. Let’s get right to it.
1. Vote as a Christian. Here’s what I mean: Don’t buy the colossal lie that your faith and your politics don’t mix. It’s just not true. Every person – atheist, Muslim, agnostic, Buddhist or Christian – will be profoundly influenced in their voting or their policy preferences by their spiritual and theological beliefs. Only a horribly distorted version of true Christian faith could ever be left out of the ballot box or the Cabinet room. Bring all your theological understanding, all your gospel priorities, all your Christ-centred prayers and hopes for your nation. Bring them all into the ballot box, and vote unashamedly as a Christian.
2. Vote with the sovereignty of God in mind. Think back over what’s happened in your life, in your local community, in your nation, since the last time you voted. If you had known everything that would happen in those last three or four years, would it have affected your last vote? Who knows, right? The point is, you could never have known. You can never know everything that the politician you vote for will have to deal with, or how a particular leader will turn out. But God does.
Remember that your vote doesn’t happen outside of God’s good purposes. Remember that God remains sovereign over everything that happens with our leaders. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” (Prov 21:1) It’s why your prayers are more important than your vote.
3. Vote remembering that one vote distils a very complex process into an overly simple moment of decision. As Christians, we know that lots of things matter to God. No political party is perfect, and there are multiple factors to weigh up when casting your vote. Can I vote for someone who supports, say, euthanasia or abortion, because – while I hold that those things are morally wrong – I make a balanced judgment that, on the whole, this candidate will be the best leader? Yes – or at least I can; maybe you can’t. But whatever you decide, remember the complexity of the decision-making process – while also being thankful for it.
One of the implications of this is that we should be slow to judge how someone else votes or who they support, until we know all their reasons for that decision.
4. Vote for the sake of others. For Christians in a 21st century democracy, this is easily the most important point – and probably the hardest and most challenging one, too.
Take a quick look at just a small sample of how, within the pages of Scripture, God calls his people to act.
“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3-4)
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
The second great commandment, Jesus says, is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:39)
This is just a sample of biblical texts that would take us in this direction; we see these themes in the Scriptures over and over again.
So much of our political and economic system is built on self-interest. And if we’re honest, Christians can identify a big part of the reason this kind of politics works: we’re all sinners, which means we’re all selfish. But one thing that should characterise our attitude as followers of Jesus is rejecting the selfishness of the world and the society around us, and instead sacrificing ourselves to love and serve others. This will primarily be seen in our ministries of evangelism and our sacrificial love for our neighbours in all kinds of ways, but it can also be seen in the way we approach politics.
Follow the example of Jesus, who humbled himself completely, for our sakes. Be a voice for the powerless and the marginalised, the weak and the needy. Step into the ballot box deliberately thinking, “What will be best for those in need? How can I use my vote to love and care for others – especially the weak? How can I subvert the self-centred attitude of the world, and indeed of my own heart, and instead show concern for others?”
Vaclav Havel, who became the first President of the Czech Republic in 1993, did not profess to be a Christian, but said he had been profoundly influenced by a Christian worldview. He said: “Genuine politics – even politics worthy of the name – the only politics I am willing to devote myself to – is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action, to and for the whole.”
Love your neighbour as yourself. Vote for the sake of others.