(Photo by Chris Keane, Reuters)
I saw the most amazing thing on Election Day, 2016. At my polling place I witnessed a 60-something, native Filipina, who had just become an American citizen—vote for the very first time. She was so excited to cast her vote for President of the United States. Having diligently studied every proposition and each candidate’s stand on the issues, she was anxiously waiting for the polls to open, to fill her ballot.
What an honor! To have a say about the direction of your community, state and nation, is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. In 1776, the government of the United States of America was founded on the principle of a representative republic, wherein voters chose their leaders. However, the rights of citizens to vote in elections have come over a rocky path.
- The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, granted full citizenship rights, including voting rights, to all men born or naturalized in the United States.
- Two years later, the 15th Amendment was adopted to eliminate racial barriers to voting.
- In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote nationwide.
- In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act granted Native Americans citizenship and voting rights.
- In 1964, the Civil Rights Act ensured that all men and women age 21 and older, regardless of race, religion, or education, have the right to vote.
- Also that year, the 24th Amendment was ratified, eliminating poll taxes nationwide.
Next Tuesday, November 6, is Election Day! Please get out and vote…even if you think it is hopeless…even if you think your vote is insignificant…even if you are not thrilled about the candidates…you should vote! It is not only your privilege, but I believe, is your duty, as a Christian.
Paul made it clear that Christians are to “be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1). The Bible teaches that God uses human government for the good of mankind, His people included. This human government “is a minister of God to you for good” (verse 4) because it rewards good behavior while it punishes and seeks to prevent evil.
We should thank God for guidelines, laws and enforcement agencies that prevent anarchy, crime, lawlessness and wrongdoing. Based on the principles of God’s authority in human government, Paul writes, “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing” (verses 5-6).
Paul summarized this New Testament teaching with this command: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (verse 7). The word “render” means to give what is due, to pay what is demanded or owed. Christians are to be obedient and active in our government—that’s a debt we owe.
Peter also wrote that the Christian’s duty is to, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles” and to “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:12-14). Your conduct, as a Christian, is under constant surveillance by unbelievers. So, set the example of good citizenship.
God’s people owe the highest allegiance to their Lord and His commands. So, if government regulations violate the conscience of God’s people, they must say with Peter, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., phrased it well: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” In this sermon, Dr. King also said, the church “must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Sermon, “Strength in Love”).
Dr. King rightly stated that churches do not execute justice, but serve as the conscience of society. God’s people must be defenders of truth upon which our civilization is built, and we must continually present the Christian worldview on government, the function of the family and the role of the church. So, what should we, as Christian Americans, do?
- Consistently pray for our leaders. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
- Study the issues and be informed, especially in light of Bible principles.
- Raise criticisms against unjust laws.
- Work toward justice for all.
- Seek to be the conscience of society, presenting and defending God’s truth.
- And VOTE!
I am glad God is not a registered Republican or Democrat. He is totally independent. His cause and kingdom are much larger than any political party, nation or country. But as long as we have a voice in our community, let us speak transparently, live faithfully and vote biblically.