Leader to Leader

How To Vote Like A Christian

October 24, 2016 | Posted by Ken Chitwood

On Nov. 8 you will sin. I guarantee it. Especially if you’re planning on voting, or already have voted, there’s a 100% chance of sin being involved.

As human beings, created by God, we are called to participate in the political system of our community. This is part of the “cultural imperative” given to us in Genesis 1:28. We are called to live in, co-create, and engage our community — at the international, national, regional, state, local, and familial level. Sometimes, we are called to make tough decisions that affect the politics of our community.

Such as: does the toilet paper go up and over or down and under? Those of you who navigate the politics of a household know this is a political decision, one that has ramifications far into the future.

I say this not to make light of political decisions — like voting — but to call to our attention the necessity to hold these political deliberations in proper perspective and to diagnose them for what they are in light of God’s reign over all things.

Those with faith in God have been wrestling with the politics of living together in a fallen world since, well, the world fell into sin. Throughout human history God-fearing individuals and communities sought to know God’s will for their nation, their empire, their city, their family. At times, Jesus followers and God’s chosen leaders made wonderful decisions that led to breakthroughs in liberty, freedom, and justice. Other times, not so much. Still other times, they sinned gravely and were on the wrong side of justice, freedom, and liberation.

When we head to the voting booth on November 8 or send in our ballot by mail, we will enter into this long tradition of deciding.

Before you do, know this: voting will not save us. Only Jesus will.

When God gave us the mandate to create culture, to participate in politics, and contribute to the kingdoms of this world — from large to small, church councils to supreme courts — he did not intend for these systems of power to do anything but curb our sin and create a pathway for some liberation, justice, and freedom to progress in this world.

As powerful as our political arrangements may be, they cannot fully legislate our morality, heal the world, or save us from ourselves.

While God does not want us to opt out or think he does not work through the governments, public affairs, and leaders of this world he also does not want us to get the wrong idea about the limits, and liabilities, of temporal power.

Instead, God gives us the grace to be free from earthly constraints – legalistic rules, burdens imposed by the church, etc. – while simultaneously binding us to be the servant of all, actively seeking the welfare of others. This means playing a role in maintaining earthly peace, imperfect though it may be, but not setting our ultimate hope in earthly powers or processes — like voting.

And so, when you vote do not fall into the temptations of thinking there is a perfect Christian candidate, a flawless Christian platform, or a one-size-fits-all way to vote like a Christian. Be free to vote according to the scriptural imperatives, creative conscience, and personal passions of freedom, liberty, and justice that God has called you to; but know that you will not make a perfect choice. Nor will I. We will falter, fumble, and fail. So will the leaders we elect.

When you vote and sin, turn to these wise words, paraphrased and quoted from a letter Martin Luther wrote to Philip Melanchthon in 1521:

Be a voter, and let your votes be strong, “but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.”

Ken Chitwood
Ken Chitwood is a religion scholar, Ph.D. student, and graduate assistant at the University of Florida studying ethnography of Religion in the Americas and global Islam with emphases on globalization, transnationalism, and immigration. Chitwood is a forward-thinking Lutheran theologian, preacher and popular speaker who weaves together historical context, societal exegesis, and a fair dose of ironic humor. He enjoys ultra-distance running, well-placed sarcasm, craft beer, bike-commuting, traveling, hiking, camping, and rugby.