Tomorrow is election day, and what a year it has been leading up to this point. If anyone back then had said that the two major candidates would be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the rest of us would have nodded in agreement to the first prediction and shaken our heads and laughed at the second. Yet here we are.
To call this election “contentious”, even among evangelicals, would be an understatement. I think most of us are ready for November 9 so we can see the end of robocalls, political ads on TV, and Facebook posts about how civilization as we know it will come to an end if either major candidate is elected, or how it’s morally unconscionable for a Christian to vote or not vote for Trump.
Tomorrow I will go vote. Though this election is about our choice for president, there is also much more on our ballots. In my county, one of the most contested races is for coroner, of all things. And when I vote for each candidate and issue, I will vote my conscience, and then I will go to sleep on Tuesday night trusting that Jesus is still on the throne.
As I make my decision, here are a few things that will guide my choices and I hope may guide yours as well…
First, there are certain issues that ARE that important. In other words: deal breakers exist. Frankly, I’m an odd conservative at times. Though agreeing that the second amendment clearly protects a person’s right to own a gun, I favor stronger laws concerning background checks, assault style weapons, and safety education. I would also like to see an end to fracking, the Keystone pipeline not built, and more money pumped into research and development of “greener” energy sources. Yet depending on the candidate, on these things I am somewhat flexible. These are not deal breakers.
The candidate’s view on the sanctity of human life, on the other hand, is. I could agree with a candidate’s position down to the minutia of every other issue, yet if they are pro-killing-babies-in-the-womb, they will not receive my vote. Human life is human life, no matter how small and no matter where it is located. While there may be rare cases where abortion becomes medically necessary, such as the sure endangerment of the life of the mother, most abortions do not fit into this category. Ultimately, what we need is a pro-life platform that points to solutions for poverty, health care, and other issues that play into the tough decisions women face. But pro-life convictions are a necessity for one to have my vote.
Second, character matters as much if not more than platform. The Bible is replete with examples of good character among the rulers leading to prosperous times within a country and bad character leading to disaster and ruin. Proverbs 29:2 captures this reality well: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Simply put, it doesn’t matter what a person promises according to his or her platform, if their character is highly suspect and visibly corrupt, they will not receive my vote.
It is amazing the things that some Christians say to defend politicians of poor character. “Nobody is perfect, and we’re not electing a pastor but a president/governor/senator/etc.” True, but character still matters. No one is perfect (including pastors and presidents), but a person can still strive for integrity and other virtues. “God used wicked rulers in the Bible to accomplish his will.” Again, true. But God’s faithful people didn’t vote them into office.
If righteous leaders help the people rejoice and wicked leaders cause the people to groan, then character matters greatly. A person who has demonstrated poor character as a matter of lifestyle will not receive my vote.
Third, in the end, I must act according to my conscience and faith. All of us Christians should hold this principle in great regard. The Bible doesn’t say much about casting votes in a democratic-republic. It gives us certain things to consider, like those mentioned above. As an informed voter, I must search scripture and spend time in prayer. I must look into the candidates and issues while seeking the wisdom of God above the rhetoric of man to guide me. Then I must act in faith and according to my conscience.
In Romans 14:23, after teaching on what we call “Christian liberty”—our views and actions concerning things to which the Bible does not directly speak, Paul concluded: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” In terms of God’s commands and laws, it may not be a sin to vote for Candidate X; but if it goes against my conscience to vote for Candidate X, then I have sinned. I have acted contrary to my trust in God.
This is a category that seems to be lacking in much of what Christians have written on the topic of this election. We’re not going to agree on the candidates, that much is for sure. However, we must respect one another’s conscience decision and not judge one another whether or not we agree on a particular candidate and even whether or not we agree on the necessity of voting.
Fourth, when the day is done, go to bed and sleep well. When David was being pursued by his son Absalom, he cried out to God and said:
You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. ~Psalm 3:3-6
No matter who will be president after the vote on November 8, Jesus is still on his throne. The United States is a part of God’s plan, but it is not the center of God’s plan. His plan is for the global exaltation of Christ, and no matter who the rulers are or what they do, Jesus will be exalted above all (Psalm 2, Acts 17, Philippians 2). We do not worry about tomorrow, for God is not worried about tomorrow. So, when election night is over, we can lay down at night and sleep well knowing that Jesus is still on his throne.
Not long ago, I heard a radio advertisement for a conference featuring a particular former presidential candidate as the main speaker. One of the lines in the advertisement was: “If we lose religious liberty, we lose everything.”
We should pray for, cherish, and work for religious liberty in our land as much as we can, but the ad is wrong. Even if the laws of the land declare Christianity illegal, if we have Christ, then we have everything. If we have nothing other than Jesus, then we have everything. Our hope is not in politics and laws, but in the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
So tomorrow, I will vote. I will vote for people who I believe have good character, I will vote for those who are pro-life, and I will vote according to my conscience. Then when the day is done, I will rejoice and rest in the reality that Jesus is King.