This past Wednesday I shared a few simple thoughts on the upcoming election with Graefenburg Baptist Church. Here are three points for your consideration.
Two Extremes To Avoid
Two potential mistakes for evangelical Christians concerning the election involve one of two extreme views. The first view points to the sovereignty of God and says since his will cannot be stopped, thwarted, or confused, Christians need not be concerned about Presidential candidates or the election. Although it is true that God’s sovereignty is absolute, we must not deny the role God has given humans as he works out his purposes. Since the garden in Genesis 1, God has used humans as his primary means of fulfilling his will. And even though things have been accomplished precisely how God has ordained from eternity past, humans are still commanded to be diligent in working toward the well-being of others. Despite the obvious tension between God’s control and human choice, the Bible does not provide for us an escape from personal responsibility, and to suggest it does is a perversion of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.
This is also the view utilized to “Jesus Juke” unsuspecting social media accounts with a “holier-than-thou” attitude, for nothing is easier or more satisfying than to reply to a person trying to sort out this election mess by saying, “Don’t you know God is in control and everything is going to be fine?”
The second extreme view says that if Christians do not vote “correctly” in this election, then the United States of America is going to crumble, the sky will fall, and spiritual revival will be impossible. Those who dwell in this camp tend to have an overinflated view of the political system and its connection to biblical spirituality. I believe religous liberty is a critical issue in this election, but I do not pretend that either candidate is somehow going to usher in a new era of spiritual awakening. Revival will spread when the people of God stop making their career and their bank account and their reputation their first priority and instead start boasting only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, this view is the opposite of the first. In this view, we put entirely too much faith in the political system as the means through which our country will return to the things of God.
Character Matters. Issues Matter.
Let’s start with character. If evangelicals want to have any credibility with the next generation of Americans, then we cannot do an about face on the character issue. I have been stunned and grieved at evangelical leaders who have come to the defense of Donald Trump’s words and actions, even using rhetoric such as, “we vote in a commander in chief, not pastor in chief.” That is a nice cliche, but we didn’t believe such a thing just a few years ago when a Democratic president was caught in a moral failure. Evangelicals at that time were calling for his impeachment because, well, character matters. That we have now, in such a short amout of time, abanonded our most deeply committed principle concerning the quality of a candidate’s character is chilling. That says to me that evangelcials have become so entrenched with a particular political party that we are willing to publically display the most blatant form of hypocrisy.
But wait, you may say, Clinton is no better. Indeed, she is not. But evangelicals aren’t coming to the defense of Clinton’s actions. Let me be very clear – my concern is not that a Christian might vote for Trump (I will address that more in my next point). My concern is that an Christian might vote for Trump while making excuses for his inexcusable behavior, especially when the issue of character has been the defining issue for evangelicals year after year.
Now, what about issues? Character and issues are inseparable because it is the character of a person who will follow through on their committment to the issues. A promise is only as good as the one who makes it (which is why God only takes an oath on his own name! Hebrews 6:13). Nevertheless, we must take a long, hard look at the positions of the candidates on critical issues. And in order to do that, I recommend you read both the Republican and Democratic platforms. They will provide much greater detail on the issues than the jumbled up mess you hear at the debates or the talking points on your cable news show.
We Must Show Charity To One Another
Friends, there are simply no clear choices for many of us in this election. Some of you will vote for Trump. Some of you will vote for Clinton. Some of you will vote for a third party candidate. Some of you won’t vote at all. If we have considered the character of the candidates, looked at the issues, reflected on the larger kingdom in which we serve, and vote our conscience based on the word of God, then we must be charitable with one another. There is absolutely no room for broken relationships, divided church members, and hurt feelings over who a friend or family member might vote for. We are all in this together, searching for anything that might help us leave the voting booth without a guilty conscience. Neither candidate makes that an easy task.
So, grace and peace to you all as you vote. Soli Deo Gloria!