The week of the election is upon us, the campaigns have entered their final days and come the weekend we will probably have a good idea of the outcome of the election. Perhaps you are excited about the news, satirical comedy shows and political dissection of the election results. Or maybe you are fed up with the whole thing and ready for it to be over. Either way, as a Christian I believe there are some things which we should be doing beforehand, on the day and afterward.
In all honesty praying is something we should be doing constantly with all things in our lives. Nevertheless, Scripture does explicitly call us to pray for authorities and rulers. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes, ‘First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…’ (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Therefore, after the election and throughout the intervening years we should be praying for our governments, rulers and authorities.
However, in the run up to elections I believe we should be praying very particularly. We should be praying for Christian politicians and their witness; we should be praying for honesty and integrity in election campaigns; we should be praying for wisdom and sober mindedness in those who vote; we should be praying for fair reporting and representation of all parties and candidates. We must be people praying about the significant events taking place in our country, as well as other countries.
- Prioritising Issues:
As we consider who to vote for something we must do is prioritise issues. What are the more important issues for you as a Christian? Is it the union? Is it our inclusion in the EU? Is it welfare? Is it the personality of candidates? I believe these are all important issues to be thought about. But for the Christian there is another set of values and issues to be thought about. Issues such as protection of religious freedom, free speech, ethical issues on abortion, same-sex marriage and the character of candidates must be considered from a Christian point of view. I admit this is a very difficult task, but it is one in which we must engage.
- Reading Literature:
In order to prioritise our issues and know who holds the same values we do we must give the candidates a fair chance. I am not naive enough to think all candidates are open and transparent about what exactly they believe in their election campaign literature. But it does give us an idea of what direction they face on important issues. There are also further opportunities to attending events such as husting’s events to ask questions and hear answers. We must not judge a candidate simply on the badge they wear; we must seek out the candidate who will best represent our ideals.
On the Day
We have a great privilege and responsibility living in a democracy – we elect our leaders! This is a freedom that not everyone in this world enjoys, a privilege that many are not given, and sadly a responsibility that we often squander. Now there may be some reading today who have not registered to vote, unfortunately it is too late for you. But there are many people who register to vote and then get fed up with the campaign and fail to cast their vote. This should not be the case, we have a privilege and Christian duty to care about the governing, ruling and running of our country.
- Don’t Expect too much:
I begin with a warning, especially if this is the first time you have voted. Don’t expect your vote to change the world. Indeed don’t expect your vote to cause any drastic or immediately visible changes. Graciously our government functions in such a way that there is no noticeable pendulum swing from one government to another. Therefore there will not be immediate changes. However, we must not become discouraged by this. The power of a vote is subtle and exercises its power over time.
- Remember God is Sovereign:
Psalm 22:28 reminds us ‘kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.’ Paul is even more explicit in Romans 13:1 ‘For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.’ If the complete opposite of what you hoped for happens do not fret, God is sovereign. No human government, no matter how impervious and powerful they appear, is beyond the control of God. No matter what the outcome of Thursday’s vote, God is still ruler over the nations and the government has been instituted by him.
- Submit to the Ruling Government:
Paul explains the Christian response to governments for us in Romans 13:1-7:
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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.
Beforehand, pray, prioritise your issues and read all the literature. On the day, go cast your vote. Afterward, don’t expect too much to change too quickly, don’t forget that God is sovereign in it all and submit to those in authority over you. This is how I hope to approach this week of over-excited hype about an election that will change very little, but in which I have a Christian duty to exercise. How will you approach it?