The Christian in Election Year

Author Name: 

The title could give the impression that a Christian could be different in an election year than other off-election years. That is not the intent. Instead, in the time of national elections, Christians face extra pressure to become something they are not; pressure to join another kingdom and fight intellectually using the ballot box. Many times during election years, the question is asked of the plain community –”why don’t you folks vote; if you all did, we could finally change some things. Aren’t Christians to be a salt and a light? Why don’t you use the power of the vote and make a difference?”
Why do New Testament Christians abstain from the political process? Why not get involved? Would there be times that we should vote because the candidates’ personalities, lifestyles, or views force us to get involved to preserve some kind of normalcy or status quo? In the past forty-plus years, mainstream Christianity has made forays into the political world. Has there been a cultural revival stemming from the efforts of the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition? It seems obvious that there has not been; in fact, cultural shifting away from the Judeo-Christian foundation of yesteryear seems to be in vogue.
A study of this type focuses on the two kingdom concept somewhat under the umbrella of the doctrine of nonresistance. Our traditional Anabaptist/Mennonite system of church life is based on this doctrine of the two kingdoms – the kingdom of Christ versus the kingdom of this world. Out of this flow the twin doctrines of separation (nonconformity) and nonresistance. We sometimes use the term nonresistance to explain our non-participation in the political world. Still, a clearer understanding is given when we characterize it as being a part of one kingdom versus the other.
Some Scripture verses that give us the foundation for the two kingdom principle include - Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. (John 18:36) I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:14-16) Hebrews 11:9 tells us that [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country. Strange country here means “not one’s own, foreign.” Verse 10 says, He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By this we understand if he was looking for a city, he was not at home where he was. A similar thought is expressed in Philippians 3:20 For our conversation [our conduct, our citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 5:20 introduces the example of
ambassadorship: Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
What is an ambassador? Several definitions could be given.
Diplomatic – they are the top-ranking representative of their own country to the host country in which they are stationed; conducting negotiations with the host government on behalf of their own government; representing their state in meetings and delivering messages on behalf of their own government to the host government. They are the spokesman for their own country.
Ceremonial – They represent their own government to the people of the host nation at public events in that host country and are the most visible symbol of their own country, within the host country, and to its public.
Administrative - Being the top-ranking official within the embassy at which they are posted, overseeing operations at the embassy and other diplomats and staff members.
Every Christian has an important diplomatic job here and now. Ambassadorships are critical appointments, only conferred on those who can properly represent the ideals, laws, people, culture, policies, political ideologies, and interests of the country where the ambassador holds citizenship. They must also possess sound judgment. If an ambassador fails to uphold all these standards, he can disqualify himself from representing his country—and be recalled from his post!
Furthermore, any nation’s representative knows that as ambassador to any other country, he cannot participate in that country’s politics. He is a citizen of a different nation. He participates in the politics of that nation—the one he represents. He also cannot fight for the country to which he is sent. If he does either of these—under any circumstances—he loses his citizenship at home. In fact, he would be considered a traitor. This clearly indicates our role as Christians in our host country of the United States or where ever our earthly citizenship resides.
The question could be asked: do we as Christians have dual citizenship? Can we be citizens of the kingdom of God and be citizens of this world at the same time? When an ambassador represents his own country to a foreign one, he has dual citizenship, but his work focuses on the host nation’s needs. So, it is for the Christian - he cannot completely avoid the earthly, but his eye focuses on the eternal. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matt 6:24). So, while in a sense, he is a dual citizen, yet God’s kingdom takes priority. If the worldly kingdom takes precedence, he loses his citizenship in God’s kingdom.
So what are some more reasons why the true Christian is not involved in politics? On which side is God? As Christians, we need to stay close to God’s will and not be knowingly organizing or promoting something against His divine will. And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: (Dan 2:21). This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men
(Dan 4:17). Sometimes God may be on the side that we would not think or desire. In Jeremiah 27, God is telling Jeremiah that an enemy nation will take possession of Judah. God is giving all Judah’s lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, my servant. If Judah does not submit, God will punish them. God’s clear intent was for a regime change, and in verse 14, he warns of prophets that will say – Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you. If God wills a regime change in this country, should we vote against Him? For he is the minister of God (Nero) 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 (Rom 13:4).
Politics and political operations are a part of this world, even in a “Christian” nation. We could ask: Is the United States a Christian nation? No. There is no “most favored nation status” with God. This country is on the same tier to God as Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Mexico. We recognize that we do experience blessings because of the Christian principles that influenced its founding and subsequent manners and customs. The late D. James Kennedy is remembered for his call “Reclaiming America for Christ.” What does this mean? Or what are we reclaiming? There were many ungodly deeds done by the hands of the leaders of this country. This is trying to reclaim something that never was. Again, when any group or nation upholds Bible principles, God can bless it; but because a nation is a worldly thing, a part of this world’s kingdom, it cannot be a godly thing.
The tension with the world is lost when you become part of the political “machine.” This brings about a complete loss of the separation principle. God’s people are to come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2Co 6:17). Involvement in politics means alienating a segment of people. One side condemns the actions of the other side. That closes us off to them - hindering our witness. We need to have a people focus – not a nation focus; a focus on souls - not social betterment.
Politics aims at the controversial and specific, not on foundational and substantial - symbolism over substance. In 2003 Alabama’s judicial ethics panel removed Chief Justice Roy Moore from office for defying a federal judge’s order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building. While we share the justice’s concerns for the lack of respect for the Ten Commandments, the monument itself is a small issue when compared to the monument of monstrous, flagrant disobedience to all of God’s commands all around us. Focusing on hot button issues like the stone ten commandments, abortion, school prayer, gay marriage, and LGBTQ rights misses the point. Changing the law does not change the heart.
Politics equals power and power struggles. How does this line up with the stranger/pilgrim concept? Politics requires compromise. Negotiating and compromising with Labor Unions, and political donors of all stripes. Society changes from the bottom up, not from the top down; through repentance, and revival – one soul at a time.
What are the defining characteristics of a Christian during the election season? Separation and the two kingdom concept is lived out in daily life. To have a standard of non-participation in politics and then fail to live out separation in my daily life will define us as part of the worldly kingdom even if I separate from its politics. Pleading separation from politics while living as the world will prove hypocritical and counterproductive to our Christian witness. We are, or should strive to be apolitical (having no interest in politics, or not concerned with politics). There is not a political party that we identify with or are comfortable with as opposed to another. We are not silent Republicans or Democrats; we are representatives of the kingdom of Christ.
If we become casual or ambivalent toward light versus darkness, or the kingdom of Christ versus this evil world, or brotherhood versus neighborhood, we will open ourselves to the political process in one of two ways.
By becoming militaristic. They then will engage in what they call “just war.” Even though war is usually wrong, it is justifiable because of extenuating circumstances.
By becoming pacifistic. Efforts are made to force the state to operate under NT principles like turning the other cheek, abstaining from the sword (i.e., capital punishment,) or unjust wars. They try to force peace (oxymoron) using the power of government. This would include operations like “Occupy Wall Street,” Peace demonstrations, Marches on Washington, marches for minority rights, and various other pro and con social agitations involving inequalities and economic injustices. Both (militaristic & pacifistic) indicate a loss of separation and an embrace of this world’s kingdom.
Christians need to pray during the election year. But do we find it hard to know how to pray about the nation or election? Is it enough to simply pray that “your will be done”? We do want God’s will to be done in everything, even if there is an alternative that may bring us pain. But how do we pray for elections? What does the Bible say? 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 (1Ti 2:1-3). This is an example of defensive prayer or thanksgiving for the blessings we have under this administration, whether it is giving us blessing or bane. But how do we pray offensively? Or how do we pray “for something”? But we need to be careful not to “vote” on our knees!
We need to pray for the salvation of the souls of leaders.
We need to pray for truth and righteousness to prevail.
We need to pray for a national revival.
We need to pray that God would give political leaders wisdom.
We need to pray that wickedness, immorality, and lawlessness would be diminished.
May our prayers during election year be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
What about our speech during election year. How do we talk about it? We need to have a testimony and not be afraid to share it. (1Pe 3:8-17) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1Pe 3:15). We need to watch the political speak. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
(Jas 3:10-11) Can a two-kingdom, separated Christian be outspoken about political issues? Our speech determines our kingdom loyalty. For us, a testing question may be this: do I speak differently about our leader depending who is president – politically conservative president versus a politically liberal?
Another question; how do I know if I am too involved with the other kingdom? If I am having a bad day as a result of an election or even a Gallup poll, I am too involved and need to stop paying so much attention to the news. If I am a reader and my library is filled with war and political stories and very little
biblical/ Christian life studies, it may mean that I need to refocus – which kingdom I really want to be a part of? Of course, when we start to look, talk, and act like them - I am showing my true colors. Is my speech around election time bearing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or is it showing that I really have my heart tuned to the political process?
Is the answer then to know nothing? (Incidentally, there was a political party in 1856 known as the Know-Nothings!) No. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves
(Matt 10:16). While there is obviously a danger in a Christian losing his ambassador status because he is involving himself politically, it is an asset for him to have a working knowledge and understanding of the political times in which he lives. He knows that politics in the world shape the world that Christians live and move in. Let us be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
How should true Christians relate to elections and governments? The old adage is still true: Pray. Pay. Obey. Also, Christians relate best by being separate from it. Lot’s righteousness had little effect on Sodom even though he had the high position of a city leader (sat at the gate). There are too many Mennonites who cry out for righteous leadership and try to vote in righteous leaders while being addicted themselves to NASCAR, the NFL, and many other types of entertainment provided by the god of this world. May God help us to stay far away from these things.
The political process is poorly equipped to change hearts. That is our calling. Jesus changes hearts, and our calling is to be a ministry of reconciliation – reconciling the world to Christ through the New Birth and a changed life. JESUS IS THE ANSWER!!!!! We need to be a light in this dark world. In this election season, let us not miss our calling by getting distracted by the political processes. Let us not lose our focus or our light. Let the glory of Jesus shine through us in election year and every day!