We don’t put out political yard signs at our house. For 21 years as a journalist, I could not take a publicly partisan stand on political matters. And now as a pastor, I should not take a public partisan stand.
But I’m thinking of having a special yard sign made. Here’s what I want it to say: “Love Your Neighbor with Your Vote.”
No doubt, some would read that as a partisan sign. But my intent would be fully bipartisan. Passersby would have to wrestle with their own sense of what this statement means. If they read it as a partisan statement, I fear that would say more about them than about me.
Here’s why: This is nothing less than what Jesus teaches us in the New Testament. Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan, right? That was a story Jesus told. And the point was that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. There’s no getting around that message; it’s clearly what Jesus says.
What would happen in America if Christians applied Jesus’ command to their voting habits? For starters, I doubt anyone would be pulling a party lever but instead would pay careful attention to each candidate in each race and vote according to individual records and commitments. More importantly, it would change the conversation.
Right now, our political conversation is full of “me”—as in, “I want to make sure I get mine.” We want our tax breaks, our Medicare, our pet causes, our control of social issues, our health insurance, and on and on. It’s rare to hear someone say they’re basing their vote on what’s best for their neighbor, especially if what ‘s good for your neighbor might not appear to benefit you.
So here’s a challenge. Ask yourself how your vote could be cast in ways that would demonstrate love for neighbor. If you study and pray about it and come to the conviction that trickle-down economics offers the best hope for your neighbor’s prosperity, then vote for that kind of candidate. If you study and pray about it and determine that more government-funded social services are best for your neighbor, then vote for that kind of candidate. Or if neither of those models appears best for your neighbors, choose a third way. The challenge is to make a decision based on the welfare of someone other than yourself. Take your own interests out of the equation, and see how things add up. I think that’s what Jesus would do.
Be a Democrat. Be a Republican. Be an Independent. The label really doesn’t matter. The label that does matter for a Christian is to be found imitating the Good Samaritan, whom Jesus praised as a model for us to follow. So go out and love your neighbor with your vote.