The Bible and the Ballot!

Pastor Terry Inman

11-4-12 

 

Abraham Lincoln said, “the ballot is stronger than the bullet”. Today we are going to talk about the Bible and the Ballot. Harbor Light is probably the last place you want to hear more about the up coming elections. 

Four year old, Abby got overwhelmed listening to politics on her mom’s car radio. This youtube clip went viral on the Internet. 

Some feel so alienated from the positions and the candidates that they choose not to vote at all. Others put way to much hope in a temporal civil system that will never fully bring about the kingdom of God. 

Jesus’ disciples were hoping for a political revolution. They believed Jesus was their political savior. They were fearful and despondent after his crucifixion. Their candidate for the empire lost an election he was killed! 

His resurrection rekindled their hope but they still didn’t understand the nature of His kingdom. Luke describes their last conversation with Jesus before his ascension. 

“Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?” He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit.  And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.” Acts 1.6 8 (NIV) 

Jesus was telling them they were going to be empowered to represent a spiritual kingdom. A witness is an influence. Voting may not always accomplish God’s ultimate purposes but it is a way to exercise influence. 

Sometimes we Americans think like some of the ancient Jews, that we are the center of the universe. But Jesus told his disciples their witness would extend beyond their local and national borders. God has a lot more fish to fry than American politics. He is a not a republican, or a democrat, he’s not even American. In fact our planet is just a speck in His universe! 

As Christians we are called to be transformers of culture by being a reflection of God and His love everywhere we go.

While imperfect, we are called to glorify God and we can do that by getting involved in politics, by serving and by voting biblical principles. 

I do believe America has a destiny. This nation was established on biblical principles. It is still “one nation under God”. So there is much more at stake in this election than who lives in the White House.   

You do not hear much from me on this subject because I don’t politicize the pulpit. You will never hear me publicly endorse a candidate. I will tell you to fully inform yourself of the candidates, their character and their positions. Then pray with passion and vote with conviction! 

I do from time to time address biblical values that have unfortunately become part of the public political debate. Biblical values like the sanctity of life, and biblical marriage are some of the more recent controversial political issues. 

Our constitution and laws have historically supported traditional Judeo/Christian values. These and many other values that have been in place for centuries are being challenged by an increasingly secular culture. 

We would like to blame politicians and parties for this huge shift in American values but this is a democracy and we the people still elect our leaders. The people in office reflect popular moral values. 

An article in Forbes says,“The political realm is not the primary vehicle for advancing Christ’s kingdom. Washington could get every social and economic policy right and would likely accomplish little arresting America’s cultural decay. Government cannot change men’s hearts.” 

As citizens participating in our American civic life, voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are "the salt of the earth-the light of the world" (Matt 5:13-14). 

It is our privilege as Christian citizens to let our light shine at the polls. The bible says, Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14.34 (NIV) 

Christians are often criticized for being focused only on some of the moral issues and not others. Unfortunately in some cases this is true.

The bible is just as concerned about justice and equality for the poor and marginalized as it is the sanctity of life and the preservation of marriage.

It is also true that some issues may take precedence over others. In God’s eyes sin is sin but some sins are more destructive to society than others. 

Another great tension in our nation is our value of religious freedom. We have attracted many non-Christian cultures. We are a pluralistic nation. As much as I may want everyone to believe the way I do they just don’t but they are still Americans. When the church can’t agree on what a Christian really is how can we expect the government to get it right.    

Biblical precepts must steer our politics; loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds obviously includes discernment at the polls. Author, R.C. Sproul says, “When you enter the voting booth, don’t leave your Christianity in the parking lot.” 

So how should we vote our beliefs? How can we be faithful to the bible on the ballot? Christians frightened for America’s future face an enigma.   

Who really best represents our biblical values, the republicans or the democrats? One presidential candidate says he is a Christian yet last year he came out in favor of same sex marriage. The other candidate is a Mormon. They make for great neighbors and nice people and may even share our Christian family values but we do not share the same understanding of the divinity of Jesus Christ. 

Do we vote for a third party candidate and basically toss it out? I have heard some say they are not going to vote at all. That’s a mistake. 

Today I am borrowing some ideas from a blog for Christians called, “Ten Commandments of the Elections” 

1. Thou shalt believe that Jesus remains King. Whoever becomes President, Jesus remains King. We often hear alarming voices saying this is the most important election in human history. It will change the trajectory of all things for eternity. Take a breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. No matter what, Jesus will still remain King. 

Paul told the Christians in Rome. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  Rom. 13:1(NIV) 

2. Don’t get into bed with political parties. If you run for office you probably have to identify with a party. It’s fine to register with a party but we ought to remain nonpartisan with a commitment to listen, and fully engage because no party gets it all right! 

In his new book, “How Should Christians Vote?” Pastor Tony Evans, calls us to be like referees and advocates. He says, “believers represent a kingdom viewpoint and they don’t strictly align themselves with one party or the other. We are going to vote differently because we prioritize issues differently.” 

My concern is that we can get so aligned with the parties of this world that we’re missing the kingdom of God. Let the Scriptures and our convictions about Christ inform how we engage the political parties, and the election process. 

3. No one has a monopoly on Spirituality. No matter what they say. No matter what the experts, leaders, the Pope, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Trinity Broadcasting, or whoever say. No party or candidate has a monopoly on morality, spirituality, and the Kingdom of God. 

Our political parties or religious institutions cannot contain the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is, ‘or‘ There it is, ’because the kingdom of God is with in you.” Luke 17.20-21 (NIV)

Furthermore, we have to leave room – and plenty of room – to acknowledge that people (including our very own friends) can have differing views so please respect the integrity of other believers as they seek to live out and vote their convictions. 

4. Remain in friendship and fellowship. There is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, (Republican or Democrat), but we are one in Christ Jesus. So remain in friendship and fellowship! 

As Christians, we need to agree that the most significant aspects of our relationships are not our political views, or our political affiliations but that we are connected together as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

5. Thou shalt not be a jerk. Especially during the election season, please be civilized and charitable. We all have strong opinions and preferences. I have to admit I have been personally offended by things some of my “facebook” friends have said or sent on both sides of the political spectrum. This election is not worth losing good friends over. 

Don’t insult someone’s intelligence just because they don’t agree with you. I don’t think the I.Q. of one party is greater than the other. 

Really is that important that you alienate your Christian friends

and potential followers of Christ? Be civil with one another. Be civil especially with those you disagree with. And please be respectful of the political candidates. 

6. Thou shalt respect the candidates. I have heard some of the most caustic and denigrating things said about the candidates and unfortunately some of the worst judgments come from Christians. 

It seems to me that some Christians are the first to believe the worst. We pass on speculations and conspiracy theories like they are gospel. The bible says love is “not rude, self-seeking, and easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, and always hopes. 1Cor.13.5 (NIV) 

I don’t understand or agree with some of the positions the candidates take on issues but I respect them for their willingness to serve our communities and our country. I am going to try to believe the best. 

Obama and Romney, are both good people. They are married to wonderful women. They have nice kids. Certainly not perfect. There are things about their positions I agree with and things I disagree with. But regardless, they deserve respect – especially for choosing to serve the country through this political process. 

Here’s some Breaking News: The “other” candidate is not an evil person. Join me in praying for President Obama and Governor Romney.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peace ful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1Tim. 2.-4 (NIV) 

Agree or disagree. Like or dislike. Republican or Democrat, Tea

Party or Coffee Party, it doesn’t matter. Lift a prayer for President Obama and his family. Lift a prayer for Governor Romney and his family. Pray for strength, conviction, and courage. Pray for safety and peace. 

7. Thou shalt not get played and swayed. Don’t get manipulated. Be informed and know the issues. Don’t be a simple headline reader. Don’t believe everything you hear in the TV sound bites. Don’t just read the emails you get from “concerned” friends. Be educated. Learn. Go deep. 

We have to realize that political parties and candidates may distort, manipulate, cajole, emotionalize, tug, and whatever other tactics to “speak” to our faith. Don’t be dumbed down by tactics to get the “Christian vote”. 

I care deeply about the biblical values of the candidates but they don’t have them all perfected in their platforms. Neither do I for that matter.

8. Stay engaged in the political process. Politics is not the answer or our ultimate hope. No political candidate should ever be elevated as a savior. But get smart, be informed, and stay engaged. Don’t get cynical. Manage your Spirit. We have to in engage politics because politics involves policies and policies impact people. Last time I checked people are really important to God.

9. Be informed. Be prayerful. Vote your convictions. Rather than being blinded by one issue, be informed on many issues and pray for convictions consistent with biblical foundations and a life ethic that encompasses the whole of life – from the womb to the tomb. It may not be as clear as you think. Take time to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. 

10. Love God and Love People. This might be the most important one so let me make it as simple as possible for you: May our love for politics, ideology, philosophy, or even theology, never supersede our love for God and neighbor – including neighbors who don’t share our politics. 

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