“Voting and the Christian”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
Some of the topics that the brethren here ask me to preach on are fairly innocuous; others are downright radioactive! So it is with this morning’s subject: how it is that Christians should vote. Obviously, 2020 is an election year, so voting is on everyone’s mind, and it is probably true that the outcome of the presidential election, especially, will have a significant effect on the country’s direction for the next four years.
In reaction to this significance, brethren have taken a variety of extreme stands. For instance, I know Christians who believe that unless you vote, and unless you vote in a certain way, you are sinning. At the other extreme, David Lipscomb and a number of other brethren in the 19th century believed it was a sin for Christians to vote or participate in government at all. These are some pretty strong views, but what does the Scripture actually teach? This morning, let’s consider the connection between voting and the Christian.
In this regard, the first thing that we must do is to HONOR THE CONSCIENCE. Here, consider Romans 14:1-4. On its face, this passage is about how Christians should handle disagreements over eating meat. However, the principles that Paul sets out here govern our interactions in any matter of individual judgment. Anytime the Bible doesn’t spell out clearly what we should do, Romans 14 tells us how to handle it.
Though this is not obvious to many Christians, voting is just such a matter of individual judgment. Here’s why. Unlike the Old Testament and the Qur’an, both of which have much to say about good government, the New Testament is a moral code meant for Christians and churches, not nations. When we try to turn it into a code for nations, which it was not meant to be, we end up using our judgment to pick and choose which parts apply.
Now to this, some might say, “That’s not true! When I’m in the voting booth, I vote the Bible and the whole Bible!” That might be our self-perception, but it’s not really what we’re doing. Let me give you an example. I think all of us here this morning are agreed that adultery is a sin, and it’s very important for all of us to avoid adultery.
However, for few of us does that carry over into politics. We don’t make their position on adultery a litmus test for candidates. Indeed, we even may be willing to vote for candidates who have committed and are still committing adultery. We have used our judgment to decide that something that is very important to us religiously is not important to us politically.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that’s a problem. It’s impossible for us to vote without making these kinds of judgments, and I think that God gives us the freedom to vote as long as we do so according to our conscience and best judgment.
We must acknowledge, though, that we are following our conscience and our judgment, and therefore must not judge or despise brethren whose conscience leads them to vote differently. I recognize that there are brethren who are passionately committed to Candidate X and cannot understand why another Christian might vote for Candidate Y instead. However, our passion does not give us the right to condemn another’s conscience. Even if we think their choice is terrible, we must respect their right to make it.
Second, when it comes to electoral matters, we must SPEAK WISELY. Consider Paul’s admonition in Colossians 4:4-5. Even though this is specifically about outsiders, it surely applies to the way that we speak to one another as well.
In particular, there are three elements of wise speech that I want us to consider. The first of these is that wise speech is truthful speech. Sad to say, there are many Christians who are not careful with the truth when politics is involved. I think the problems come when we do get too attached to candidates and parties. We become so passionately convinced that our candidate is the best ever and the other candidate is the worst ever that we become willing to believe every slander that is made against them. We’ll see some meme on Facebook and click “Share” because it feels true to us even though a little digging would reveal that it came straight from a Russian robot! Brethren, repeating slander is slander too, and it’s a sin. We have to be careful!
Second, we must speak graciously to speak wisely. This too is the result of misplaced zeal for politics. We become dead sure that we are right, right, right, and anybody who disagrees with us is wrong, wrong, wrong! It becomes our goal, especially on social media, to shove the truth down the throats of the folks on the other side. Well, guess what? That’s contentiousness, and contentiousness is a sin too! Over the past several years, I’ve seen far too many cases of brethren who aren’t friends anymore and won’t even speak to each other because of political disagreement. Make no mistake: that’s tragic and wrong.
Third, we speak wisely when we remember our true goal. We are called to be Christians first and political partisans second, and nothing we say as political partisans ever should interfere with our work as Christians. Offending people with the truth of Christ is one thing. Offending people over politics is quite another! Here’s a good litmus test: If somebody from the other political party read what we have to say about politics on Facebook, would they still want to go to church with us? If the answer is “No”, we have gone too far.
Indeed, the last thing that I want to encourage us to do this morning is to PUT THE GOSPEL FIRST. Look at Paul’s great statement of faith in Romans 1:16. It is the gospel that is the power of God to salvation, and only the gospel. Politics and voting never can be.
This has implications first of all for our congregation. Let me be clear. This is not a Republican church. This is not a Democrat church. This is a church that belongs to Christ. In the work of this church, we are wholly devoted to Him, and that means that we have neither time nor attention to spare for dabbling in politics. It also means that regardless of how they voted, all who seek the Lord are welcome here.
Second, no matter how attached to our political causes we may be, we must acknowledge that politics can’t save souls. Only people who are willing servants of Jesus will inherit eternal life, and no government, no matter how powerful, can make the unwilling become willing. Through the threat of punishment, the government can change actions, but it can’t change hearts. Only the gospel can do that, one heart at a time.
I’d be the first to admit that our country has a lot of problems. Indeed, we live in a world with a lot of problems. Given those problems, I understand why so many look to politics as a savior. In reality, though, the only Savior is Jesus Christ. If we want to change the world, we do that by proclaiming Him, first, last, and always.
This is why, for so many, social media represents a giant missed opportunity. They’ll share all these memes and get in all these political arguments, but when it comes to the gospel, they have little to nothing to say. Brethren, is that right? Let us never put our hope in voting, politics, or the government. Let’s put it in Christ where it belongs.