There are record numbers of people voting in the 2020 election, so far. This is a good thing. However, for some, there is a temptation to walk away from it all. We seem to live in an anger-filled, 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year election cycle. The question some Christians are asking is: How do we engage in the brawl?
Jesus and politics
One day Jesus was in the temple in Jerusalem when he was confronted by a group of elite politicians, each with their own agenda (Matthew 22:15-22). They asked him a trick question: Should we pay taxes to Caesar?
If he answered “yes,” he would lose credibility with his followers. If he answered “no,” they could charge him with treason. It was a political question.
Jesus showed them a coin and asked, “Whose image is on this coin?” They answered, “Caesar’s, of course.” Jesus threw the coin back at them and said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus’ answer was actually quite enigmatic.
What belongs to God? The answer (in Jesus’ day) depended on your perspective. Some would have said the Temple; some would have said the throne; others, the Promised Land; others still, the Law. A few might have said, the human heart.
Jesus’ point: It’s all of the above. Everything belongs to God. In other words, there are things more important than your petty political questions.
Jesus couldn’t escape politics (any more than you can), but he kept it in perspective.
A biblical foundation for voting
Let’s begin with this basic truism: Politics is not the most important thing in life.
Can you take a deep breath and just live in that for a moment? We have survived ugly political circumstances in the past, and we will survive these days as well.
“Living out your faith in Jesus Christ and being his disciple is more important than politics.”
And for the Christian, I would add this corollary: Living out your faith in Jesus Christ and being his disciple is more important than politics.
Nations come and go. If you think ours is any different, well, you’re wrong.
Jesus is the One who is eternal, and our relationship with him is the most important thing in life.
Two reasons for political engagement
That doesn’t mean politics is unimportant; quite the opposite. Our political life is important.
Unfortunately, the way we talk about political issues has become frustrating at best, nasty and vicious at worst. The national conversation has denigrated to such a place that it is often antithetical to the Spirit of Christ.
So, it’s understandable that many Christians might be tempted to wash their hands and walk away. That, I believe, would be a big mistake for two reasons.
First, political decisions impact people. The decisions we make as a country impact the lives of people all over the earth. And, we are called to care deeply about people.
“We have a mandate from Jesus to stand on the side of the weak and oppressed.”
We have a mandate from Jesus to stand on the side of the weak and oppressed — to fight for the rights of the vulnerable and the voiceless — to advocate for the responsible and ethical stewardship of our collective resources — to fight against corruption and hatred and violence and racism wherever we find it.
Political action is a way we stay true to that mandate.
Second, Jesus is Lord over all things. The central confession of the Christian church is this: Jesus Christ is Lord. That confession means Jesus is not only Lord over our lives; he is Lord over the entire universe.
Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The Bible teaches us that God cares deeply about his creation — all of it — and he calls us to care for it as well. One of the most effective ways for us to be good stewards of the earth is to be involved in the political process.
How does the Christian vote?
The Bible is our roadmap, and the Holy Spirit is our guide.
First, we must be consistent. Too many of us are inconsistent in the way we apply biblical principles.
“We must strive to be consistent in our moral outrage.”
A consistent outcry from non-Christians is that the church is full of hypocrites. Hypocrisy is found everywhere. However, Christians have an extraordinary call to be open, transparent and true to our principles.
We must strive to be consistent in our moral outrage.
Second, we must place a high value on truth-telling. Christians are people of the truth. It is core to our faith. We are devoted to the one who said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We follow the one who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
In contrast, we understand that God hates lies. The Evil One is called the father of lies and the deceiver. The New Testament word for “devil” means “slanderer, false-accuser or liar.” It is the word used to describe the one who is antithetical to the Spirit of Jesus.
We should always demand clear truth-telling from all our leaders. There is a danger in becoming so enamored with one candidate that you begin to love the candidate more than the truth.
We are all guilty of hearing what we want to hear and ignoring that which might contradict our hopes, desires, pre-conceived notions and a priori assumptions.
Don’t sacrifice the truth for your political ideology. The Christian witness is at stake!
Third, we must choose love above all things. Jesus said the center of his program was this: Love God and love your neighbor.
Jesus also said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And then he did it. He laid down his life on the cross for his friends. But not just for his friends — for his enemies too. He asked God to forgive the very ones who were crucifying him.
“When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemy,’ he meant your political enemy as well.”
When Jesus said, “Love your enemy,” he meant your political enemy as well.
Our faith in Jesus demands that we show respect to every person, no matter how much we may disagree with them. We do this because every person is made in the image of God and is loved by God.
Pray for the ‘better angels of our nature’
We live in a great country. We will survive this election. We have survived far worse.
Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address was delivered on March 4, 1861. Even as he was being sworn in as the 16th president of the United States, seven Southern states were seceding from the Union. Before he took his hand off the Bible, the nation was disintegrating.
The closing words of his address were directed to the Southern states. He said: “We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Christians should get on our knees every day and pray for “the better angels of our nature.”
Here’s a suggestion: Sometime between now and the time you vote, do a 48-hour fast from all media. If you are serious about voting the heart of God, then get away from all the noise, so that you can actually hear the voice of God.
God bless you as you seek God’s heart and engage in the important work of making our nation a better place to live.
Ellis Orozco serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Richardson, Texas. A Houston native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University before going on to earn a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of ministry from George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University.