Just so we are clear, I do not believe the Bible directly tells us how to vote in the 2016 election. And, yes, I have my personal opinions. However, this posting is not about my opinions. This post is about what the Bible instructs believers in regards to our duty as Christian citizens. It is a historically and biblically Christian ethic to be good citizens. While this is true, our faith has also resulted in being subversive to power when it oppresses. As a pastor, Martin Luther King Jr. believed in non-violent protest as the means to fight injustice and inequality for African Americans and others. Paul eloquently defended his rights as a Roman citizen as he traveled to preach the gospel. This got Paul out of some tough spots and Rev. King as well. (Acts 16:37, 22:26-28, 25:11). Being a good Christian citizen means that, when we preach the gospel or fight for justice, how we fight matters.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
How to be a Good Christian Citizen?
The first duty we have as Christian citizens is to be in prayer for our political leaders.
The gospel trumps trivial disruption and selfish distraction. The purpose to live peaceably is not about making our lives easier or compromising our beliefs. Quite the contrary, our aim is that the gospel would be lived and preached for the benefit of all. If we do not honor the authority that our government has over us–which is from God, according to Paul–then we risk being poor messengers of the gospel. God desires “everyone to be saved,” so if we use all our political chips on non-essential battles, we potentially make ourselves known for what we are against, not for what we are for! Praying for our leaders means we trust that God can turn their hearts, it does not mean we agree or validate their views or methods.
For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. (1 Peter 2:15-16)
Don’t squander your liberty for bad behavior as action speaks louder than words.
By living right and well, we can–like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.–help change the injustices of society. We can subvert the evils of power only by having the right hierarchy of ethics. Who comes first? People matter to God, so all deserve dignity. We love our family of believers as they are our family. Our governmental leaders deserve honor. However, God deserves our fear and ultimate allegiance. Giving fear to God is not mutually exclusive from honoring our political leaders. This is just as true as loving our family of believers does not mean we refrain from honoring the dignity of all in our society–no matter how “unchristian” they are. Our liberty and freedom is not a license for bad behavior. The error of the idea of “Not of This World” is that we are dual citizens–of earth and of heaven. How are we handling our discourse this political season? If our Facebook feeds are more about hate and anger rather than giving dignity to all and honor to political leaders, perhaps we are losing our Gospel edge. Our freedom then is spent poorly and wasted.
Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (Romans 13:7)
Honor the authority of government as all authority comes from God.
Pay your taxes, vote, and serve your country out of good conscience. Yes, it is prudent to obey our duties for many reasons, one being a good witness and another being kept from the consequences of breaking the law. However, our conscience as a believer calls us to give honor where it is due. And, it seems clear that the Bible does not say in doing so that we endorse the ideas and action of our government or leadership. In the New Testament context, the Emperor of Rome eventually called himself “Lord”–beyond political leader to a deity. This became a matter of conscience where some would forgo giving any honor. We surely do not have this oppression on us and with a clear conscience, we have a duty to pay taxes and vote. Voting is stated as a responsibility. As believers, we should not neglect participation. Honor is due, no matter how distasteful the people may seem to be to us. The higher ethic is to be present as a Christian citizen rather than absent, especially if in giving honor it means our vote is a potential vote for justice and righteousness.
The Bible says we must pray for our political leaders, use our freedom for the gospel, and honor our governmental authority. What it does not say is who you should vote for! But, I believe the choice to not participate in these three levels means we risk being considered poor Christian citizens in a society that desperately needs a loving group of people to show them Jesus. This comes by how we live as good Christian citizens. This means we know our Facebook feed is watched by others who need to know the love of Jesus, rather than our anger and entitlement.