I have a confession to make: I don’t think I’ve ever voted in a Presidential primary. I joke that the only reason I voted in my first Presidential election was for the free Starbucks, and I voted for the guy my parents liked.
I’ve always kind of excused myself from voting because I’ve felt I don’t know enough about politics or the way government is run to be confident in my vote. Mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to do the research needed to figure out who deserves my vote. And, in all honesty, I really don’t think I can educate myself enough to truly know who will run the country well. It’s confusing, it’s frustrating, and I have other ways I would like to spend my time.
All joking aside, I understand my duty to vote, and I think it’s an important one. But I also know it’s important to check my views, my actions and my reactions to politics against scripture.
So what does scripture say about government? I found this blog post by Tim Challies that gives a great summary with scripture references. He breaks it up into five main points: Every government is put in place by God; God uses even sinful governments to do His will; we ought to pray for those who govern us; we should honor and submit to those who govern us; all human governments will eventually end and Jesus will reign over everyone forever.
I’ll admit the prospects for the next President are not looking good, especially for Christians. We have the right as citizens to speak out about immoral behavior in our leaders, and the right for our voices to be heard about political issues. And as Christians, I think we have a moral obligation to fight against injustice and seek God’s will when it comes to our country and its leaders. But I struggle to find the line where our Christian calling veers away from our rights as citizens and calls us to something more, something different.
So thinking about Tim Challies’s list, I want to try to break his points down and apply them to the current situation.
1 – Every government is put in place by God.
This may be a hard one to swallow, but if we believe in His sovereignty over human history, we must believe this. As ungodly and lawless as the current political landscape in America seems, God has known from the beginning of time that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would be leading in the polls on this day, March 3, 2016, in the running for President of the United States of America. And if He didn’t want it that way, He could stop it in an instant. So I can vote, like I did, and I can speak out if I feel the need, and heck, I can move to Canada if I feel like it, but I shouldn’t be afraid that somehow things have spiraled out of God’s control and He’s up there somewhere on the phone with all of his angels trying to figure out how this whole thing went so wrong so fast.
2 – God uses even sinful governments to do His will.
If we believe the first point, that God puts rulers in place, we must believe this one, because until all things are made new, all governments will be sinful. Some more than others, but any government run by humans will be sinful, and that’s a fact. And guess what? God still uses them. In fact, two extremely sinful governing figures played essential roles in Jesus’ crucifixion, which had to happen in order for him to conquer death that we might be saved from it.
“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you [God] anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)
So what does that mean? We may not like it, but God is using Hillary Clinton, and yes, even Donald Trump, for HIS PURPOSES. We may not know how, or what those purposes are, but we can be sure that He is, because all things in this world are used for His purposes, to His glory.
3 – We ought to pray for those who govern us.
Well, this is just convicting. How many times in my life have I prayed for our President? I could probably count them on two hands. I’m so self-focused, so myopic in my prayers, that this barely ever enters my prayer radar. But you know what? I bet the current political situation has brought a lot of Christians to their knees in prayer for our leaders even if they’ve never thought to do so before. Well would you look at that, evidence of God’s will being done, and we haven’t even made it to the end of the blog post! Keep praying. Always. Prayer changes things, more than my vote, more than sharing an article on Facebook, more than debating with my peers, more than this blog post, prayer has the power to change things. Keep praying.
4 – We should honor and submit to those who govern us.
This is becoming more and more difficult as the tides turn away from the “Christian Nation” we once claimed to be. It’s not as simple as it sounds, and I don’t know the answer to questions like “when do we stop obeying a government when they are clearly going against God’s laws?” But it is clear in the verses Tim Challies cites that we are called to submit to our leaders, and it is because God has put them in place and has done so for a reason. But it is also clear that we are to submit to God first, and it is only because we submit to God first that we can then submit to those human institutions. Peter puts it a lot better than I do:
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)
It’s almost as if he is saying that because we are God’s, we are free to obey human institutions, even if they are sinful or ungodly. We know who our true ruler is, our ultimate King, who is sovereign over all, so we can freely submit ourselves to governments because ultimately He is in control. And how do we put to silence the ignorance of foolish people? Not by rebelling, not by arguing with them, not by being louder, not by making sure they know they voted for the wrong person and because of them the world is going to end, but by doing good.
5 – All human governments will eventually end and Jesus will reign over everyone forever.
If nothing else in this list reassures you, I can only hope that this last one will. If you are afraid for our country, your children, your grandchildren, and nothing else allays those fears, I hope and pray that this last truth will sink into your heart and give you some sense of ultimate peace. The fact that God appoints governments, even sinful ones, and uses them to do His will, does not mean that governments will not sometimes commit great sins, atrocities even. There are real, tangible fears that come along with certain rulers being in power. But, as with every fear we have in this world, we must return to the one truth that we can cling to in any circumstance, which is that one day all things will be made new, and the only ruler worthy of our full allegiance will reign supreme, forever and ever.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. … From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11, 15-16)
So should we vote? Yes. Should we speak out? Yes. Should we take action when necessary? Yes. Should we fear? No. We should know in our hearts that God is in control, we should submit to our leaders, we should pray for our leaders, and we should long for the day that Jesus reigns not only in our hearts, but over everyone, forever, in all of His glory.