“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” -Abraham Lincoln
“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor 15:25).
The national election is upon us. What are we to do? Let’s go to the Bible and see. The first national election I know of is when, out of all the nations of the world, God chose Israel to be his own (2 Sam 7:23). So it should be a simple matter to decide what to do in an election. We should make a godly choice. Vote for the underdog! But clearly, this is not the answer to our question. It is a simple answer, as we may wish it to be, a simple answer, but the wrong one.
Many years ago, I worked in a Christian bookstore. At election time, we distributed “Biblical Scoreboards,” where a candidate’s policies were compared to Bible passages. You could see in colored columns who was best. I found this to be annoyingly simplistic until one customer complained, “Just tell me who to vote for, don’t make me think!” I decided the scoreboard represented one of our lesser problems.
More time has changed my perspective yet again. I still support attempts to deepen Christian ethics and educate people regarding civics to know how our system works and how to promote change within it. But my earthly hopes have come up against a pessimism regarding human perfectibility. And I find the Biblical writers share that pessimism.
Remember the world Jesus stepped into? Israel was a nation founded by God himself. We sometimes have discussions of whether or not America is a Christian country. But whatever the answer, Israel was God’s country in a less ambiguous way. God gave them their laws. God established their monarchy. If a divine political arrangement could have fixed the world, it would have done so then and there. But it did not. God’s people were unfaithful. They went into exile and returned. They rebuilt and were invaded and occupied. Jesus stepped into a nation hoping for a Messiah to deliver them. But instead of fulfilling that hope, he failed to lead an uprising against Rome. He was sentenced to death and rose again. And even after this, his disciples still wondered if he would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). They could not let go of the idea that a political deliverance was high on the agenda. But Jesus had another plan altogether.
Jesus is putting all his enemies, including death, under his feet. How electoral wins and losses are a part of that process, we may only find out at the end of time. But he will set right the messes of both the worst and the best presidents.
This has implications for our own time. If fixing Israel’s political situation was not a top priority, fixing America’s is even less so even if it is crucial to us, and even if there could be real suffering under an evil regime.
The apparent divine aloofness here drives people crazy. It isn’t as if the world at Jesus’ time, or our own, couldn’t use a fix. We live in a world where our decisions have real-world ramifications. It matters who is president. The wrong president can wreck an economy or get us into war or ruin civil discourse or sell us out to foreigners or destroy our liberties or fail in the hour of trial. Should we not vote?
You are free to vote. As with “rendering unto Caesar,” you know some of your participation may be put to wrong use. (Some of the Roman soldiers paid for by the taxes did very bad things!) Any sins your vote may involve you in have been canceled against you, so you are free to love your neighbor with your vote.
After you vote, remember this is your Father’s world. God is the ruler yet. When I travel overseas, I often have little awareness of who is in power or what political party they belong to. I see the country as a place to enjoy. God has made it a gift. America will remain a gift—“with persecutions” (see Mark 10:31)—whoever wins this election.
And remember that Jesus is putting all his enemies, including death, under his feet. How electoral wins and losses are a part of that process, we may only find out at the end of time. But he will set right the messes of both the worst and the best presidents.
But while it is difficult to discern God’s will for us in our national election, his eternal election of us is not hidden but revealed. It was announced. It was sealed in your baptism. The results are declared again in Holy Absolution, in the Lord’s Supper, in the encouragement of friends. Israel was chosen from all the nations of the world. But you were chosen before the foundation of the world and before the foundation of Israel. Whoever your president is, you have a King. A king who elected you.
A lot can happen in the meantime. But don’t fret over what happens in the foreign country you are in. You are privileged to have some rights here, too. But this is not your true country. Your citizenship is in heaven. In that country, it is so much better. One day you will finally go there and tell stories of how crazy things were in your years in the far country. In the meantime, enjoy your journey.