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Voting as a Christian

[This was a short sermon I preached to First Saints Community Church on Sunday October 25, 2020. My co-pastors, Rev. Trish Watson, and Rev. Cindy Caldwell, also preached their take on this subject, too. Our text was Mark 10:35-45

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:43-45

We Americans are blessed to live in a democracy in which we the people choose who will create and enforce the laws that govern our society. And as tumultuous as things are right now, we are indeed in an election season to make those choices.

As your pastors, we will never, ever tell you who to vote for, or even to hint at it. We just ask you to please vote. We must remember that most of the people who have ever lived on this planet have not had this basic right.

That’s certainly true for ancient biblical people who lived under unelected rulers, judges, kings, and emperors. Thus, when addressing those who govern, the Bible’s concern is not so much how leaders acquire their power so much as defining where that power comes from and what rulers do with the power they have.

As I’ve grown and matured as a Christian, these biblical concerns have increasingly shaped how and who I vote for. We are electing fellow human beings and entrusting them with tremendous power. Do they know where this power comes from? How will they use this power once they are sworn into office?

I know that for many Christians, the overarching concern is how candidates stand on some key moral and ethical issues of our day– things like abortion, marriage, and immigration. They will vote for people who share their views and convictions on these fundamental issues and enforce them. Of course I, too look at how candidates stand on the pressing issues because their convictions will most certainly shape law and policy.

And while a candidate’s stances on the issues are an important aspect to consider, it is most definitely not the only consideration.

Of equal importance is a candidate’s character and leadership temperament.

Romans 13:1 says that the office and authority of a leader is given to them by God. And, Romans 13:4 says that these authorities are God’s servants, placed in power for the welfare of the people.

So I’m looking for leaders who know that their authority and power is a sacred trust to be used exclusively for the sake of those they govern. Are they humble and teachable? Can they receive criticism and own up to mistakes? Can they respect and work with political opponents?

Now, do candidates meet these ideals perfectly? Of course not. But who comes the closest?

Weighing these two qualities of a candidate— how they stand on the issues and the composition of their character and temperament– can make a choice quite difficult.

On the one hand, I may resonate with how a candidate stands on issues, but may have doubts about the nature of their character and temperament.

Or, I may really admire a candidate’s temperament and character, but differ with how they stand on the issues.

This can make our choices a long and prayerfully discerned process! And you know, it should be. If making a choice seems all too cut and dry and painfully obvious, then perhaps I’m overlooking something crucial. There’s a good chance I am.

A candidate’s stances on the issues, character and leadership temperament can sometimes create quite a tenuous dilemma in my choices. So what’s the underlying factor beneath all these considerations?

At the end of the day, the decision about who to vote for boils down to asking this question: Who would benefit the most from the power and authority a candidate would be given by God? Who will most likely benefit from their use of power?

Jesus said to his disciples that he came into the world to be a servant and not to lord it over people, as worldly powers do. That’s what Jesus did with his divine power. In another story, we read that when Jesus fully realized that he had come from God and was returning to God– grasping the fullest extent of his power and authority– Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. (See John 13.) Jesus, the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, became a pure, humble, and self-giving servant to all people, even those who would deny and betray him.

As difficult as it may be, I have to prayerfully discern who will use the power entrusted to them to nurture, serve, and protect the justice, welfare, and rights of ALL of my neighbors, not just me and my interests, or their own.

No, unfortunately we’ll never get to elect Jesus Christ into public office. (Although I must confess I wrote him in once. He lost.) Yet second to voting for Christ, I’ll vote for the one who best emulates his kind of selfless, loving, and self-giving servant heart and compassionate dedication to everyone, regardless of party, place or position.

That’s how I vote as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Sure, it would be a heck of a lot easier to vote for someone based on the political party they belong to or if they agree with me on my pet issues. Many Christians will take the simple route and do just that.

As for me, I want and I fully expect Christ-like servant leadership from each of our leaders for the full and equal benefit of all my neighbors, and so I vote for those who come closest to that godly standard.

If you’ve already voted, thank you.

If you have yet to vote, please do, and I would implore us all to vote for those who best embody Christ-like servant leadership for the benefit of all our neighbors, in order to make where we live more whole, holy, and more like Christ.

Amen.

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