As some of you know, today is Election Day. I say that a bit tongue in cheek, for you know this for numerous reasons: the plethora of junk mail, phone calls from surveys and campaigns, signs either on the lawns or being held by supporters, and, last but not least, the political ads on TV.
I just flew back from North Carolina, and guess what? Political ads flew at us at every turn. Clearly, each side has a particular strategy.
If you’re classifying yourself as ‘moderate’ or ‘progressive’ classify the opposition as extreme. If you’ve been hit with the ‘extreme’ or ‘out of touch,’ then you counter with how that candidate is running a one-issue campaign.
If you’re on one side of the aisle, be sure you note how often the other side of the aisle has voted with the President–and it has to be over 95% in order for this to be effective.
It’s amazing how my children pick on these things. One time, my kiddos around the breakfast table asked me, “Dad, are we Republican or Democrat?” I honestly told them how we voted, but I also tell them that our main identity is not Republican or Democrat–we are followers of Christ. That has to trump all allegiances.
Some haven’t picked up that memo. Many believe than Jesus is, at heart, an American, thus blending a Christianity in not only the red shed blood of the cross, but in the red, white, and blue of the American flag. Often in our thinking, in preaching we’ve heard, and songs we’ve sung, we want to compare the liberty of Christ. But we must be careful here: American liberty is a freedom to pursue what you wish in the bounds of our law. Christian liberty is setting us free from the bondage of sin in order to pursue not what we want, but what Christ wants.
How do we as God’s elect, as God’s chosen people (and I mean as Christians, not as Americans) approach this election? We approach it the same way as every day–remembering where our primary citizenship lies, and it’s not here. Our earthly citizenship must never transcend our heavenly citizenship .
Remember a few months ago that I told you how pastors and preachers are CRO’s, the chief reminding officers? Paul urges Titus to be a CRO. “Remind them, Titus. Remind them over and over again.” To what? Paul first hits our inward character.
First, to be submissive to rulers and authorities, obedient, ready for every good work. We looked at this when we covered Romans 13, to the chagrin of many. Allow me to do a little reminding:
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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Romans 13:1-2).
Keep in mind, God did not place these men in office because of their pristine character or because of their devotion to Christ nor because of his approval of their politics. History shows that rulers (kings, presidents, dictators, congressmen, etc.) did not often look to Christ for wisdom and guidance, but elsewhere. So God may put rulers into office as (1) judgment against the citizens of that country, or (2) to show the extent of wickedness in the heart, so they will look to the Ultimate Ruler, and not just to earthly ones.
On the way back from North Carolina, I read Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience which was originally named Resisting the Civil Government. It was written in 1849, just over a decade before the Civil War. By that time, they had grown accustomed to being happy in casting their vote and letting the majority move forward, then going on with their day. Then, when they vote on their leaders, they find themselves unhappy that their leaders aren’t doing what they feel is personally right. It happens in church, and it happens in civic leaders. We have that passive rebellious streak in us as part of our DNA as Americans.
But God calls us to obey, because He put them in place. This is nothing new. Turn with me to Jeremiah 29. When Babylon took the people of Judah into exile, they were taken away for a land promised them from centuries before to Abraham (about 1500 years prior). Through Moses, God led them into that promised land about 800 years prior. But they rebelled against the Lord (both king and citizen). As God did with the Northern Kingdom about 140 years prior, so he did with Judah.
These kings in Babylon were pagan. Surely, they didn’t have to obey them, but yes! Insert Jeremiah 29:4-11.
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
“Seek the welfare of the city.” They were to seek the welfare of Babylon? They took them away from the Holy Land. They destroyed the Temple. They ransacked the Land of Promise. Seriously?
We live in a land where by law abortion is legal. We live in a state that has legalized things that are contrary to not only Scripture but common sense. I facetiously joked at how some wanted to move out of here (and thanks to you Texans who allowed me out of here alive), but that’s not what God has called us to do. “Be ready for every good work!” “Seek the welfare of the city.” Don’t remove your Christian presence from a place that needs your Christian presence!
This leads us back to Thoreau’s understanding–which is unintentionally biblical. He wrote,
All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.
Voting is important, but it’s not the only step. It’s passive. Just like in church, voting at a business meeting or sending a check far away is helpful, but it’s passive. “Seek the welfare of the city.” We must be a part of it. Which leads us to the conduct: speak evil of no one, no quarreling, be courteous to all people. We will see next week that this is most certainly an issue that arises among God’s people, quarreling over minute issues, all the while missing the major issues. But we must also see how this spills over into how we interact in the marketplace. When Jesus said, “They will know you are my followers if you love one another.” Who are the ‘they’? Those outside of Christ who watch us–and let me tell you, dear friends, they watch us and watch us closely.
(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)