Everyone that's old enough to understand anything about what's going on will know that this is election year - when a new president will be elected to office in the US. As Christian people, what does the Bible have to say regarding our attitudes toward the candidates. How does a Christian look at all this? I believe to have the scriptural attitudes in this time of national election, it is imperative that we understand what the Bible teaches in relation to the church and state.
God set up the government and chooses its leaders
The first thing we need to understand is that God is over all. He's all authority. He's all power. Under God, the church is on one side and the government on the other side. "…For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1). God has established both organizations. God knew that mankind would fall into sin, men would be evil, and they would do evil things; and so there needs to be a restraint on evil. God has established the government as a restraint.
“God ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men" (Daniel 4:17c). Nebuchadnezzar spoke these words. He was the king of Babylon. He had been lifted up in pride and God had brought him down. God humbled him. He made Nebuchadnezzar act like an animal. At the end of the time that God dealt with him, Nebuchadnezzar completely changed his view of himself.
So as we think of scriptural attitudes in times of national election, we know that God will place the one in office that he has chosen. God knew before the foundation of the world who would be elected president of the United States in 2016 and God has not revealed that to us. As we study the purpose of the church and also the purpose of the government, we very soon understand that the genuine Christian cannot be involved in politics. There's many reasons for that. Just as God and Satan are opposites so the church and the state are opposites.
There are conflicts of interest between church and state
The church has been established to present the light of the gospel to mankind. Jesus said we are to love our enemies, and pray for those who despitefully use us. God ordained the government to restrain evil - to use a sword. God designated the government to be a restraint when evil men do evil things. Romans 13:4 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” When evil men do evil things, there needs to be a restraint put there and the scripture says that the government bears not the sword in vain. That doesn't mean that they will not give account for what they do. Those in authority in the government that will take life will give account of that. Christians cannot be a part of the government because we are to love our enemies, we are not to go out and kill our enemies even when they are threatening to kill us.
The purposes are different
The church and state have different responsibilities, goals, and ways of operating. The responsibility of churches is to preach the word - to point the lost to the way that leads to heaven. The government is to bear the sword and punish evil doers. The goal of the church is to exalt Christ, to promote peace and goodwill, and to prepare people for a heavenly kingdom. The government promotes patriotism and national pride. We cannot pertain to two different kingdoms at the same time. It's impossible to walk on the road to glory and the road to destruction at the same time. There are two ways. Either we are in a narrow way with Christ or we are on the broad way with the devil.
What we should do
One very important thing that God calls us to do is pray - to pray for the election that will take place if the Lord tarries this year. This is a tremendous responsibility and privilege. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” We have the responsibility to pray that God's will be accomplished in the election. In the church we seek God’s will when we are seeking to fill an office and God reveals through the church who is to take that responsibility. In the government, it is so different. We have people that attack each other and will say all kinds of derogatory things about each other. God does not reveal through the church who is to be the next president, so we pray that God will reveal it however he chooses.
Do not vote
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (1 Pet 3:12). Many of you do not remember when John F. Kennedy ran for president. To many conservative Mennonite people, it felt like a Roman Catholic man was not the man that God would want in office. And so many of them went to the polls and voted. They voted against God! John F. Kennedy won the election.
At a time when the children of Israel were to come out of Egypt, God raised up Pharaoh, the man that would harden his heart against the message of God. God knew from the beginning of time who He would raise up to accomplish his purposes when He wanted to take the children of Israel to Canaan. And God knows who He will set up to be president of this country if He tarries till that time. Let us not be caught fighting against God. Let us spend time on our knees praying. God's will shall be accomplished in the elections this year.
Another attitude to be encouraged is the attitude of respect for those that are in authority. I believe we can be interested in knowing something about the candidates and what they would want to accomplish. We are interested in seeing if they have morals and principles that line up with the Word of God. But we need to be careful not to become involved. We need to be very careful in the remarks that we make concerning government officials. We need to respect them. They have their rules and their way of going about it. We need to respect that. In Titus 3:2 it tells us to speak evil of no man, and we understand that to mean anyone. God has called us to a life of non-resistance, to a life of love and humility; rather to be mistreated, than to mistreat anyone. Ephesians 4:31 says “let all… evil speaking, be put away from you”.
There may be some things that we would really like to see different in the lives of the candidates that will be running, but the scripture says that we are not to speak evil of anyone. We need to show by our lives that we respect those that are in authority.
We also need to be careful not to form strong opinions for or against the candidates. God will put in office a person that he has chosen.
Live as strangers and pilgrims
We are strangers and pilgrims in this world. Many of us could get a US passport if we do not already have one. In a natural sense we are citizens of this country, but our loyalty is to the heavenly country where we look forward to being in the presence of God. If our citizenship is not in heaven, we will not get there. Jesus in His high priestly prayer said that we are in the world but not of the world. Politics and government belong to the world. We have no more right to get involved in politics than what the government has to rule the church. The church and state are two separate entities. People fled from Europe years ago because of persecution from a government who was telling them to be a member of a certain church. We must be ready even to die for our faith. We need to be very careful that we do not get so wrapped up in making a living and earning all that we can of this earth's values that we lose sight of the fact that we are strangers and pilgrims here in this world. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1Jo 4:4-6). Notice the distinction which says we are of God and they are of the world. We need to choose which kingdom we will be a part of. God does not allow dual citizenship. We are either a citizen of heaven or of this world, and I'm sure we know which is the better of the two.
God is calling us to pray for those that are in authority. He also calls us to a life of separation – a life that shows that we pertain to the kingdom of God. May our lives show forth God’s faithfulness in this election year.