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Should Christians Vote?

Posted by M.Ferris on
 Many have written about the word “evangelical” being emptied of meaning. Questions about what it means to be an evangelical are not new, but the issue has taken on new urgency when it comes to our political engagement.  For much of Christian history, this was not really a factor, because representative government did not exist.  While the question of political involvement is not unique to the United States, the current atmosphere has believers rethinking what it means to be a politically involved follower of Christ.  One question it has raised (again) for me, should Christians vote?
Many will dismiss this out of hand. Of course believers should vote, and be engaged in civic life. We have a duty to God to be good stewards of what he has given to us. Part of that is citizenship in a representative democracy. Exercising that stewardship is not only a privilege but a responsibility. That is one stance, and I don’t dismiss it as unreasonable or even unbiblical. It may be difficult to find specific Scripture that points to this, but the application of biblical principles is legitimate.
The other side of the argument is, as Paul writes to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we await a savior.” (3:20.)
The word translated citizenship is πολίτευμα (politeuma) from which we derive “politics.” Similarly, he wrote to Timothy, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Tim. 2:4.) Both of these passages point to the truth that although we live in this world, we are not of it, and our citizenship is elsewhere. Peter, also refers to the time of our sojourning, which is elsewhere translated alien, foreigner, strangerThe Anabaptist and Mennonite traditions have taken this as a clear indication to maintain a separation from the world and its systems. To abstain from voting is a manifestation of that.
The argument for voting usually rests on political engagement as a means to an end. That end is to engage the culture for God, to influence public policy to protect the vulnerable and to ensure liberty. Much of this ethos hearkens back to the 1980s, and the Moral Majority. Similar organizations grew up to join this fight, but  what have we gained by this? Has there been a reversal of the trend toward greater secularism? What has public policy been enacted that Christians can really get behind and say, at last, we have stemmed the tide of departure from God? The “culture wars” have not been kind to Christians, despite any “get out the vote” effort.
On the contrary, we have recently witnessed a casting aside of the distinctive testimony of the gospel purely in the interest of retaining power. Evangelicals have supported candidates who, were they members of our churches, would come in for discipline by that local church. The justification is, we need that vote. We need to ensure we get the right justices on the court, and no matter how personally distasteful a candidate may be, how poor an example he may be, we must still vote for him.
It is an open question whether using public policy to achieve such ends is even desirable. The gospel does not need government to accomplish its ends. The transformation that the gospel brings is entirely inward, and it then shows itself outwardly. But public policy effects no inward change whatsoever and runs the risk of deluding us into thinking we have achieved something for God. He has not called us to establish a theocracy, nor to Christianize society. Rather, we preach the gospel, and men and women are saved out of this world.
I know the argument that as long as we are in the world, we are called to faithfully influence our culture for the gospel and for God’s kingdom. But there is a difference between engagement and entanglement.
When we set aside faithfulness to the truth, and fidelity to all that the gospel encompasses for the expediency of power, is this not idolatry? What have we sacrificed in the testimony of the gospel when prominent Christians put political power above the witness of the gospel. This is not theory, but it’s happening before our eyes.
I am not saying that anyone who is a Christian should not vote. But I am saying that the argument for Christian influence in politics is weak, and getting weaker all the time. I am also saying that the more I consider it, the more I see the logic and consistency of the non-voting position from Scripture itself

Encourage Those Whom You Think Don’t Need It

Posted by M.Ferris on
The character of the first churches in the New Testament varies widely. Most were founded in trial and affliction, and often there were issues that needed to be addressed. In Phillippi, a couple of women had some disagreement Paul needed to straighten out. The Galatians were in grave danger of accepting another gospel, and the Corinthians had a load of problems. Paul’s counsel and at times, rebuke, of them spans two letters. It is almost with overflowing relief that Paul writes his first letter to the Thessalonian church. The believers in that city were doing much to commend. Faith, hope, and love characterized their discipleship, and Paul expresses his affection several times. “For this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.”(3:7.)
One may think that things are going so well in Thessalonica that Paul has little need to tell them what to do. But he does tell them and does so with the embrace of both praise and challenge. “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” (4:1)
Paul acknowledges how they are following the Lord Jesus just as he instructed them, and his delight in them throughout the letter is evident. What a comfort and joy their faith is to him! But he also urges them on to do so even more. There is always room for conformity to the Lord Jesus. You are doing well – keep doing it!
Many times elders and pastors spend time helping the struggling and the hurting, as they should. Those who don’t hold a New Testament office can and should do this also. The body builds itself up. But there are those faithfully going on with and for the Lord, month after month, year after year, who aren’t struggling. They aim to please God quietly, and like the Thessalonians, pursue the “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:3)
We should encourage such believers in the two-fold way that Paul does. Thank them for their steadfast example, and urge them to continue, striving to be imitators of the Lord with even greater closeness. You know some of these believers; they are part of your local church. They don’t seek recognition, but they are the bone and sinew of the body of Christ. Thank God for such Christians, and perhaps without fanfare, encourage them to persevere in their faithful testimony.