Honoring God with Your Vote
By Erik Bennett, October 19, 2016
During the interview process at my previous church, I had a number of Q&A’s with members of the congregation. During one Q&A, a question came up about my political views. I was a little surprised and uncomfortable by the question. The person who asked the question seemed to sense that I was struggling with how to answer, so they followed up with a more straight-forward question, “Did you vote for Obama?” It was clear to me that if I had voted for President Obama, that I would not have this person’s support.
It is obvious that politics play a significant role in the lives of many Christians and many are strongly vocalizing their opinions about how Christians should vote this election. As the race get nastier and uglier, I have personally struggled with whom I will vote for or if I will even vote this year. I imagine many Christians are struggling along with me about how to honor God with how we respond to this election.
I feel the best way for Christians to find answers during this disturbing election cycle is to stop listening to politicians, pundits, and even other Christian leaders who are actively engaged in the political process. We have heard every opinion under the sun telling us what we should do, but the only wisdom we should follow is the guidance from the Word of God.
One passage that has guided me in my search for answers is Romans 14. This passage speaks about how Christians should handle conflict and disagreements. As I studied this passage, I discovered three principles that I am applying to how I respond to this presidential election. These principles have helped keep me focused on what is really important, and I pray they will help others who are struggling with what to do this election year.
Principle 1: Honor your Conscience
Romans 14:5 says, “One person esteems one day better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (ESV). In the struggle of the early church over whether a Christian should eat meat offered to idols or if they should observe certain holy days, the message from God was honor your conscience. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit working in your life and don’t do anything that will violate your conscience.
The reason we should not violate our conscience is that whatever we do should be done in honor of the Lord (vs. 6). God’s opinion of us is the only one that counts, and His approval of our actions is the only thing that matters. Our loyalty as Christians is not to a political party or to a political figure. Ultimately, all of us will answer to God for our choices, and we should not allow manipulative arguments or dishonest rhetoric to sway us in our decision (vs. 10). Our purpose in whom we choose to vote for should not be to get our candidate elected but instead to give glory to God through our lives.
Principle 2: Honor the Conscience of Others
All Christians should study the issues, evaluate the character of the candidates, seek direction from Scripture, pray for wisdom, and vote their conscience; but this does not mean everyone will come to the same conclusion. When Christians come to different conclusions on difficult issues such as this, Romans 14:13-19 tells us to “not pass judgment,” to “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother,” to walk in love, and to remember the kingdom of God is a matter of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
God wants us to honor the conscience of other believers when they disagree with our conclusions. Instead of arguing with other Christians or trying to persuade them to violate their conscience, we should walk alongside them in love because we are more concerned about their spiritual welfare than we are about getting them to agree with us. This requires our focus resting firmly on the kingdom of God instead of on who is elected as our next president.
Principle 3: Don’t Destroy the Work of God for Politics
The conclusion of Romans 14 includes the following rebuke, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God” (vs. 20). I fear many Christians are destroying the work of God for the sake of getting their candidate elected. Politics has become an idol for the Christian to the extent that winning this election has become more important than giving glory to God by focusing on the work of God and doing His will.
Unity in the Body of Christ must be more important for the Christian than who is the president of the United States of America. Loving and building up our brothers and sisters in Christ must be more important than who is appointed to the Supreme Court. Taking the Gospel to Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians must be more important than defeating our political adversaries. Until we focus on these eternal priorities, we are in danger of destroying the work of God by placing undue emphasis on politics.
This election year we need to stop spreading political rhetoric and start spreading the good news of the Gospel. We need to stop attacking other Christians and start building bridges for the sake of unity in the body of Christ. We need to stop trusting in politicians and start trusting the sovereign plan of God.
I implore all Christians to seek the Word of God for guidance and to ignore the political noise. God’s Word tells us when it comes to questionable matters where Christians disagree to honor our conscience, to honor the conscience of others, and to not allow a secondary issue to destroy the work of God. May we all honor God with our words, with our actions, and with our votes.