How Shall I Then Vote?

In a little more than a week, America will make what we're being told is the most important national decision we've ever faced. The choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has thrown many Americans, especially Christians, into confusion. While many Christians favor Trump's economic policies over those of Biden, Trump's unabashedly arrogant, scorched-earth demeanor as well as both candidates' history of sexual transgression and disregard for Christian values give voters pause. When presented with such a monumental choice and no good options, how should Christians respond?

These are the questions I've been asking myself for the last few months as the COVID pandemic has dragged on and the election drawn closer. It's been an eventful summer; with the lockdowns, the George Floyd demonstrations and riots, and the political antics leading up to November, there has been a lot that has caused me to consider how I believe a Christian should respond to national events. As I've watched believers tear into each other and non-believers alike over political ideology and personal opinion, I've struggled long and hard to figure out how I must act so that my primary calling as a Christian is not affected. After much study and contemplation, I want to offer my opinion to those who are struggling with the same questions.

Holding Fast to What is Good

The first passage that came to mind when studying this topic was Romans 12. In this chapter, Paul exhorts the Christians of Rome to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God, transforming their minds to follow the will of God (v. 2, 3). The rest of the chapter is spent enumerating what a Christian who is living according to this exhortation will look like. I was specifically drawn to verse 9: "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."

This verse is an opening statement for a list of things a true Christian will cling to. The list continues on:

10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

These verses exist in stark contrast to the entire political climate of modern America. Politicians regularly and repeatedly are boastful, arrogant, vengeful, divisive, slanderous, and dishonest, and Christians often take on those same characteristics when they wade into the political morass. Our personal conduct is held to a very high eternal standard, no matter the context, and right alongside is the conduct of those we support and promote. As I was reading Paul's command, it struck me that this list left no room for the concept of the "lesser of two evils." Paul says to abhor evil and hold fast to good — not to what is less evil.

The Eternal Standard

This idea holds special relevance in the midst of our election for two big reasons. The first is that our vote, along with everything else we've ever done, will be judged. Jesus promises in Matthew 12:36 that we will give an account for every idle, careless word we utter. If this is true, our vote will certainly be questioned, and according to the standard laid out in Romans 12, our support will not be judged by whether the alternative was worse.

There are those that would say they do not support the moral decisions of their preferred candidate, only their political decisions. The problem is at the end of the day, they still have to check a box that says "I want so-and-so to be President of the United States." By consciously enabling a certain person to gain this authority, no matter how insignificant your part is, you help to legitimize their actions in that position. And I believe because of the standard to which we are held, we will be judged on some level for the actions of those who we legitimize.

Our Testimony

The second reason the ideas of Romans 12 are relevant is that whether or not God judges us for who we vote for, the rest of the world certainly will. The primary way Christians demonstrate Christ in the world is by imitating Christ in all we do, and by loving what is good. This is our testimony — a comprehensive statement and demonstration that we have been saved through Christ from both Hell and ourselves.

The support and defense we demonstrate for others becomes just as much a part of our testimony as do our personal actions. Even a quick investigation will reveal that one of the biggest reasons the Church is despised today is because of its overwhelming support of President Trump. This hatred stems from a love of sin, yes, but it also stems from disgust at the moral hypocrisy of a group who calls men to be holy and yet defends a man who is anything other than such.

As a Christian whose calling is first and foremost to spread the good news of Christ, I am called to lay aside every weight that holds me back from running the Christian race (Hebrews 12:1). Anything that tarnishes my reputation in the eyes of the unsaved should be abandoned as something that limits my ability to share the Gospel with them. Yes, I will always be hated for my support of Christ (Matthew 5:12; 1 Peter 4:12), and I am to rejoice when I am persecuted for the cause of Christ (Matthew 5:10-12; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 16, 19). But we need to be careful to recognize that criticism is not necessarily persecution. When we suffer for our evildoing, we suffer justly because of our sin (1 Peter 4:15).

Being persecuted for my support of a political candidate is not the same as being persecuted for the cause of Christ. Being hated for my choice of leader is not honorable because it limits my ability to influence those around me who are lost in darkness. If my support for a human leader stops me from doing the will of my heavenly Father, I need to take a good, hard look at with whom my allegiance actually lies.

God is Still in Control

Most of the arguments I've seen regarding why Christians should vote for a certain candidate come from a place of fear. If so-and-so is elected, the argument runs, the country will be totally lost to hedonism and will turn completely away from God. Our duty, therefore, is said to be keeping in power those politicians who will keep America from further following the bad path.

I take issue with this argument first because a Christian response to any situation should never be based on fear or worry. In Matthew 5, Christ teaches that God watches over the animals of the field, and that He will watch over us all the more. Verse 25 states, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…" Any argument based on fear is illegitimate for the Christian and demonstrates a lack of faith.

The other issue I have with this argument is its subtle suggestion that God is not in complete control of the nation's rulers. We as Christians accept God's ultimate sovereignty in all aspects of our life, but somehow we leave this understanding behind completely when discussing the ballot box. The Bible clearly teaches that God appoints the rulers of the earth and that He guides their decisions (Daniel 2:21; Proverbs 21:1). We can have faith that God's will is going to be accomplished no matter what happens in the election, and that our vote will not thwart the sovereign will of God.

One could argue that voting is still necessary because God can be swayed by His people. While it's true He can give the people what they want, this is usually the result of rebellion. For instance, take the account of Israel's first king in 1 Samuel 8. God had His plan for Israel, but the nation rejected it, and therefore God relented and gave into the people out of the hardness of their heart, recognizing they would only learn through the results of their actions. God's plan is already best, and if we want to change it, it will be from pride and hardness of heart.

How to Respond

Considering all of these things and our primary responsibility as Christians, how should we respond to the choice set before us? After much consideration and study, I have decided that I cannot legitimize the actions of any of the current candidates, nor can I be forced to support a "lesser" evil, considering it is still evil. I have decided instead not to cast a vote, trusting that God will accomplish His will whether or not I place my support in a candidate.

This doesn't mean I do not care; rather, I am choosing to appeal to a power far greater than the president for the guidance of this country. We all should earnestly seek and pray for God's will to be done in our country, just as we pray for His will in all things. My hope is that when we surrender our politics to the One who controls the universe, we will then be tools even better equipped to spread His message of salvation to all people, even those who would shun us for our political views.

I also want to reiterate that no matter my personal opinions, my primary call from God is to spread the Gospel and to love people, and therefore I cannot judge others for holding different views. I enjoy discussion and I would encourage anyone to contact me if they would like to talk about the things I've written. But by the grace of God I will continue to love those God has placed in my life.

(All Bible quotations taken from the English Standard Version)