I’ve always been taught that voting was an important part of being a “good Christian” in America, but I’ve recently started questioning whether that is biblical. After all, Jesus didn’t get involved in politics during His time on earth. Are Christians called to participate in elections or stay out of politics?
– Political Christian
These questions are not new, and throughout the centuries, many a thoughtful Christian worked through these questions and came to different conclusions.
As the cycles pass, and the American political system devolves and cultural Christianity wains, it’s easy to view the political process and our involvement in it with greater and greater skepticism.
So what are we, as Christians living in America, to do?
When considering Jesus and politics, people typically make one of two errors: They either say something to the effect of, “Jesus was not political, His Kingdom was not of this world, so we should forsake this world and seek only the Kingdom to come.”
Or they say, “Jesus was nothing if not a subversive political revolutionary who challenged the status quo. We should likewise overcome evil with good and challenge this system with radical lives of political activism.”
The former sees only the spiritual and inspires a retreat from culture, and the latter sees only the physical and puts politics on a pedestal. Both notions chip at the edges of the truth, I think, but fail to hit the mark. And they fail to provide any guidance that reflects the Gospel or influences culture.
It’s true that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world, but His constant proclamation throughout the Scriptures is that His Kingdom had come and no part of this world would be left unchanged. The apostle John described it as a light breaking into a dark world, but the light is not overcome, but rather overcomes the darkness.
Christians are to be bearers of that light—the world should be different and brighter because we are in it. The funny thing about light is that it doesn’t change what it shines on—it enhances it. Turn a light on in a dark room, the room remains the same, but the experience of the room is totally different—and better. Salt also does not replace what it interacts with, but rather it enhances it and preserves it.
No, there’s no direct biblical directive to vote, but Jesus did say we are to be both salt and light in our culture.
We are the cultural enhancers in the world. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus spells out the characteristics of those who would call themselves Christians, then He proceeds to teach how those Christians should live in a fallen world.
One of the first things he says is that we should choose to live a consistent life. If we truly believe, then it will be reflected in who we are in private and what we do in public. As Christians, we are to be the salt of the earth, the lights of the world, enhancing the lives of those around them and brining light to dark places.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
So, how does all this relate to politics? In America, we get the opportunity to vote. After great sacrifice, we have been given the reigns to steer our country’s course through history, and shape its culture. If we fail to take advantage of that opportunity, we become like salt that loses its saltiness, or a light that is covered up—in essence, useless. We should be prayerfully involved, informed and interested in the leadership of our country.
The presence of Jesus within His context was both political and personal: He transformed lives, changed hearts and upended an empire. We are a shadow of of His glory, but one of the chief ways we let our light shine before men is to take up the mantel of citizenship we have been given and get involved. Do not be discouraged by the darkness of political cynicism, but rather overcome the darkness, vote.