The current presidential election in the United States has presented a conundrum of sorts for conservative Christians. My aim here is not to defend any position or support any candidate. Rather, I would like to answer the question, why should a Christian vote in this presidential election?
But first, I need to address bad reasons for Christians to vote.
Unfortunately, this presidential election has brought out some of the worst in professing Christians, and one of the ways in which this is manifested is in the reasoning some Christians give for why we as Christians need to vote in this election (for one candidate or another). Each of these is not a good reason for Christians to vote:
- In order to maintain our “Christian nation.”
- In order to make the United States a more “Christian nation.”
- In order to defend our “rights” as Christians.
- In order to protest against the system.
Each of these reasons, in my opinion, are bad reasons for Christians to vote.
Rather, there is one primary, fundamental reason Christians should vote, and I believe if we understand this reason, it will also affect how Christians vote. Christians should vote (and be otherwise active in the political process) so as to obey the Second Greatest Commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.
God established human governments (yes, government was God’s idea) for a few very specific purposes, namely to protect innocent life and punish wrongdoing (Gen 9:6, Rom 13:3-4, 1 Pet 2:14-15). Anything outside of this central purpose is beyond the God-ordained function of human government.
Christian involvement in government, therefore (including voting in a representative governmental structure) should have this fundamental purpose in mind. We vote candidates into office who will best protect innocent life and punish wrongdoing. Christians should not vote, on the other hand, so as to somehow “redeem” the nation, establish Christianity in the nation, or to defend our so-called “rights” as Christians. The fact of the matter is that while we can certainly pray for conditions in which we can worship God and spread the gospel in freedom as Christians (1 Tim 2:2), God never promises that we will have freedom, and most Christians through history and around the world have had to deal with some sort of oppression in the political systems in which they find themselves. Furthermore, the only way any redemption will take place is through the spread of the gospel, not politicians or laws.
Even worse, never should a Christian vote because he or she wants to protest the system, a particular candidate, or a political party. I’ve been disheartened by Christians during this political season whose motivation for their vote seems to be little more than the fact that they dislike a candidate or wish to see a particular party or the system in general destroyed. This motivation is very short-sighted, self-focused, and fails to obey the Second Greatest Commandment.
In other words, it seems to me that a lot of reasons Christians are giving to vote in this election are self-focused rather than others-focused. It is about our “rights” or something we are upset about instead of what would be best for our neighbors.
Rather, “Love your neighbor as yourself” should be the underlying motivation behind any political involvement. We should vote for no more simple a reason than in order to encourage a long-term political system in which innocent life will be protected (especially the unborn) and lawlessness will be punished because this is what is best for our neighbors. Even a noble desire to defend the God-ordained definition of marriage and gender or religious liberty should be based, not on the desire to defend our so-called “rights” as Christians, but primarily on the fact that a culture in which these ideals are upheld will be best for all of those who are a part of that culture, even (or perhaps especially) the unbelievers in that culture.
We should vote because we care about and love our neighbor.