One of my neighbors vocalized his desire to place two political signs in his yard. However, he expressed his deep dilemma. One of his chosen candidates is a thoughtful Democrat. The other is a creative Republican.
“Each of them reflects my deep-held values,” my neighbor expressed with genuine passion. “But the yard signs will just get my house egged, and probably from both sides.”
We laughed, but he was serious.
’Tis the season for yard sign battles. I cannot recall a time in recent history when an election carried such high-pitched press and stress. Amidst divisive upheaval over super-charged issues like the pandemic, racial violence, immigration, and Supreme Court appointments, we find ourselves readily wrestling with a number of significant, even historical choices. And here’s my big dilemma: Which side is right, good, upstanding, and worthy of my vote? How do I vote as a Christian?
Central to our work in this world is the important need for civic engagement. We must take seriously our responsibility to engage in the social—yes, political—arena. (Keep in mind that “politics” comes from the ancient Greek term polis, meaning the city and that city’s people.) In God At Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, Gene Edward Veith urges us:
The Christian’s involvement with and responsibility to the culture in which God has placed him is part of his calling. Human societies also require governments, formal laws, and governing authorities. Filling these offices of earthly authority is indeed a worthy vocation for the Christian.
What a joy to realize that people and the work of their gathering places matter immensely to a loving God.
But precisely how should a Christ-follower vote? Debate rages beyond the yard signs and our knee-jerk, raucous taking of sides. Consider three foundational ideas for political engagement.
No doubt about it: Politics can feel scary and overwhelming. But our response to those feelings cannot be simply shrugging or burying our heads in the sand. A person’s active faith in Christ will work for greater good in every arena, not just church on Sundays or soup kitchens on Saturdays. Our faith must be included in the work of society and politics. As our resurrected and ascended king, Jesus is Lord of all life arenas (Col. 1:9-20). A developing faith will recognize the importance of societal engagement as intrinsic to growing in Christ. Our active involvement is essential to both living good lives for Christ and proclaiming his good news in the public arena.
I am in a season of life where I really confuse people. I hardly ever post anything that has even a whiff of something political. (It’s rarely productive for pastors to do so. Even this piece will generate some fan mail.) But on the rare occasion when I do become so moved that I feel I have to say something, it’s intriguing to watch people’s reactions.
There are plenty of Christians who assume that, as a Bible-believing Christian leader, I must be a “right-wing, conservative” Republican. There are other Christians who just know that I certainly must be a “liberal, hug-everybody” Democrat.
I can confidently say such categories no longer serve God’s good purposes for my soul. And I am growing more confident those categories do not serve God’s good purposes for our collective societal soul, either.
I am working to vote as a praying Christian. Practically and profoundly, this works itself out in a bold prayer like this: “Lord, grant me your wisdom to discern the issues and to vote for the person who will serve well in addressing healthy, necessary changes, the kinds of changes that reflect your heart, Lord, in this realm.” Perhaps it sounds overly simplistic, but I am confident he will answer that sincere prayer for wisdom every time (James 1:2-8).
I am also working to vote as a thinking Christian. Practically, this means I choose to set aside an assumptive, one-side-is-right, partisan approach. A truly Christian vote requires knowing the issues, knowing the candidates, and possessing a grounded, biblical worldview to inform your deeply held values.
Where might a Christian start to gain biblical grounding? Immerse your mind in foundational places like Genesis 1-4, Matthew 1-7, and Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. These passages teach core themes of God’s call and divine purpose for humans and for creation at large. They also emphasize the faith implications for social responsibility and for heart-and-soul, whole-person implications of the Gospel.
In this season of my life, I want to vote for candidates who most closely align with truly good foundations for the advancement of life, peace, hope, and flourishing. Certainly, debates rage over precise interpretation of the most critical issues and their nuances. However, as a base minimum, I want to be thinking, evaluating, and sorting my votes through such a biblical lens.
Our parents did not raise us to be nasty, mean, and ugly. As people who claim to be changed by the Gospel, Christians need to be very, very kind. We should be big boys and girls. Let’s be mature enough to agree to disagree and to be joyful as we debate. We can do that! People have done so at other pivotal points throughout history. Let’s be generously kind.