It’s election time again. Should Christians vote for Trump? Biden? A third party candidate who doesn’t have a chance? Or should we abstain from voting at all? What should a Christian do?
1. Remember the Bible is silent about voting
The Bible doesn’t say one word about voting. (And no, this isn’t because they didn’t have elections in the Roman Empire. They did). We must abstain from making commandments where God has not spoken, and from passing judgment on other Christians who approach their opportunity to vote differently than we do (James 4:11-12). If you decide to vote for one candidate or another, there is no Biblical authority to require others to do so (or for that matter, to require others to vote at all).
2. Keep your confidence in God’s sovereign choice
The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. (Daniel 4.32)
Jesus said to Pilate,
You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above. (John 19.11)
Paul reminded the Roman Christians who were living under the dreadful rule of Nero,
There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1)
Sometimes it can truly baffle the mind to understand why God would exalt certain men to their thrones. Why did God exalt the Babylonians? Why did God exalt the wicked Assyrians? Why did God exalt Pilate? Nero? King George III? Adolf Hitler? Barack Obama? Donald Trump? Joe Biden?
We may not always understand God’s reasons, but if there is one Being in the universe in whom we can fully trust, it would be the God who is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, Yahweh. Although our votes may be wasted on candidates who will not end up winning, we can be thankful that His vote counts most.
3. Keep your confidence in God’s sovereign authority
Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
I send it against a godless nation
And commission it against the people of My fury
Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations
Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?
Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?
That would be like a club wielding those who lift it,
Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.” – Isaiah 10. 5, 7, 15
In speaking of the same Assyrians, Habakkuk wrote,
You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct. – Habakkuk 1.12
Although our rulers may (like Assyria) have no intention of willingly submitting to God, God still uses them to accomplish His will. (Also consider Jeremiah 25:9-12, where God calls Nebuchadnezzar “My servant“). Paul confirms that God continues to function in this manner, even in the era of the New Testament, when he spoke the following words in regard to the wicked emperor Nero:
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God, and avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. – Romans 13.3-4
We can take great courage in knowing that while our rulers may think they are in charge, the Lord Most High still rules in the kingdoms of man.
4. Remember that governing authorities exist for the good of God’s children
It is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13.4)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8.28)
God used the wicked Assyrians and Babylonians to punish His children for their unfaithfulness, and ultimately to preserve a remnant who would put their faith in God. God used Pilate to crucify Jesus, thus giving us the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Through the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the early church learned to place their hopes firmly in the heavenly city, whose ruler and maker is God. Through their persecutions, God taught His children patience, thus helping them to grow in their maturity. As wicked as these rulers were, God chose them for a purpose, He used them to accomplish His purpose, and ultimately these authorities served as ministers of God for the good of His children. With this confidence, we can rejoice in whoever God chooses as the next president, however wicked he or she may be.
5. Be prepared to submit to whoever God selects as president
We are not merely commanded to submit to those rulers who we think do a good job ruling. In keeping with the historical and textual context of Romans 13, even if our next president ends up being the modern version of Nero, the worst enemy Christians have faced in decades, our responsibility remains the same:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are appointed by God. (Romans 12.29-13.1)
Yet as Peter makes it clear, our submission is not motivated out of our support for the person in power, but rather:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise o those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2.13-15)
This is not a time to grab our pitchforks and torches and charge the White House lawn. To rebel against whoever is elected is to rebel against the Lord’s ordained authorities. Rather than overcoming their evil with evil, we are to overcome their evil with good. We do this through our peaceful submission to them.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2.1-2)
As Christians, we are commanded to pray for world rulers. It should be noted that our prayers should be for “all who are in authority”, and not just for the ones we want to be in authority, and not just for those under whose authority we ourselves live. It is therefore a prayer for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, and not for the advancement of one particular kingdom of men, for the purpose of the prayer is for the welfare of the saints, that they may flourish in peace, godliness and dignity under the reign of those rulers.
Jeremiah expressed similar words when he said:
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. – Jeremiah 29:7
No passage in Scripture even remotely suggests that we should be praying for our leaders for the purpose of advancing the cause of earthly kingdoms. Yet we must be in constant prayer for our leaders for the sake of the advancement of God’s kingdom.
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.15-18)
Regardless of who you vote for, or if you even choose to vote at all, may we never stop rejoicing in Christ our King. God is in control, and in this we can have great confidence. May we continue to trust in Him while laboring for the advancement of His eternal Kingdom.