I feel that I am beginning to have a real aversion to that inalienable right of our society … voting in the political machine. As a matter of fact, so strong is this aversion lately that I am seriously considering never voting again. I know, I know, many will then say, “If you don’t vote, you cannot complain.” The truth of the matter is, however, I’ve done my share of political complaining and/or whining in the past, and quite frankly, I’m tired of it. Maybe God is tired of it too.
Furthermore, I’m really am beginning to wonder as to the wisdom of always voting according to the proverbial “the lessor of the evils.” I mean, does not that very mantra suggest that, regardless who we vote for, we’re still voting for … evil? I know it’s just an expression, like saying that I’m “playing the devil’s advocate” (his defense lawyer), but there’s still a measure of truth to it, no matter how much we try and mask it over with cute clichés. Perhaps it’s a little ironic that voting in our “Democracy” often appears to have “Dictatorship” overtones to it. As an aside, I have a book in my library called “The Friendly Dictatorship” featuring the profile of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (Liberal) dressed like some third world dictator. Coincidence? Hmm.
Please understand that I am not trying to be legalistic or religious about all this. Likewise, I am not suggesting that Christians should or shouldn’t vote in secular politics, for to each their own. However, there are also a couple biblical themes that have contributed to my thinking that I may never vote again, and to those I’d now like to turn. At the very least, I have found myself meditating on them a little more lately as I wondered if there isn’t also within them a modern application to our polling station pilgrimages.
A lesson from Samuel: Does it apply today?
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’
“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.’” (1 Samuel 8: 4-9; NIV)
As we read further, Samuel does warn the people as the Lord instructed him to do, but in the end, the people adamantly refused to listen and still demanded a king. Bottom line was, they wanted to keep up with the proverbial Jones’ and be like everyone else around them. The bigger bottom line was, God called it a rejection of Himself. Still, God was not going to force Himself on the people, and so He told Samuel to give them what their hearts longed for; He told him to give them a king (1 Samuel 8: 19-22).
I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t a correlation between that event leading up to Israel’s first king, and the way many of us chase after political leaders today through supporting our electoral processes. Society says we have an obligation and a right to vote, and the implication is that we are somehow deemed unpatriotic if we abstain from casting a ballot on Election Day. After all, it’s the democratic way (whatever that means), and democracy is good, right? Hmm. But what if, in casting a ballot for a political leader, we also inadvertently cast a ballot against God as leader? Is King Jesus not enough?
Likewise, politics and big money go hand in hand, begging a possible rethink of Matthew 6:24 where Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (NIV). Let’s take this one step further. Is voting an agreement with the political machine, and then by default, essentially a bowing of the knee to the worldly god of Mammon? Ouch!
Is it such a stretch to apply Israel’s rejection of God (remember, that’s what God called it) by asking for a king to our asking for a new king (President, Prime Minister, etc.) every four years as a rejection of Him as well? For me it certainly is beginning to beg the question. Still, I do not wish to be dogmatic about this, and so I will just leave that thought here on the back burner and move on to the second reason why I may never vote again.
Strangers and aliens: Am I one?
Let me ask you, where is your true home? Where is your true citizenship? There are three interesting related words in the New Testament, which basically describe an alien living in a place that is not his home. They are: paroikeō (Luke 24:18, Hebrews 11:9), paroikia (Acts 13:17, 1 Peter 1:17), and paroikos (Acts 7:6,29, Ephesians 2:19, 1 Peter 2:11). Are we living in a place that is not really our true home? For the purpose of this blog post, let’s focus on two of those verses.
“Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here” (1 Peter 1:17; NIV). “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11; NIV).
It is interesting to note that in the Apostle Paul’s day, most people who lived in the Roman Empire were actually not Roman citizens. Having said that, they still had to pay taxes to the Roman political machine and abide by its laws, much like we have to, but the rights of citizenship most didn’t have. Even the Roman centurion who was about to flog Paul seemed surprised to learn that he was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:26). What does that mean for us today when we read Peter’s call to live our lives as strangers and aliens? Did that only apply to the early Church in his day, or is there a call to do likewise here today as well? In many ways it’s just as if I were travelling or vacationing in another country. I would not be a citizen of that country, and as such have no voting rights. I would, however, still have to obey and abide by the laws of that country.
Taken a step further, just because your home country gives you the ‘right’ to vote, or any other ‘right’ for that matter, does that automatically mean that you must exercise that right? I don’t think so! As a matter of fact, just because society says something is good and acceptable, doesn’t mean that God necessarily sees it that way too. In fact, as He told Samuel, it is possible that God may actually see the exercising of some of those rights as a rejection of Himself. What are we going to do with that?
Remember, Jesus said, “if you belonged to the world” (John 15:19), implying that we do not belong to it. Certainly we are to be lights to the world, just as Jesus said that He was the light of the world (John 812), but we do not belong to it. If Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and if we belong to Him and to His kingdom, “then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), then is it not also right to say that we don’t belong to this world anymore than He belonged to this world?
Where is our true home and true citizenship, regardless where worldly political machines have drawn the borders on this planet Earth? While I’m a Canadian by birth, and by default my citizenship is Canadian, and while it’s true that as far as my earthly existence goes, I really do like living in this country, that in no way means that I have to support the politics of this country. Fact is, true sojourners don’t have votes at all.
Prayer: More effective than casting a ballot?
So if you don’t see me in the voting booth, it may be that I’ve finally made peace with this strange dichotomy of being a citizen of Heaven while being a stranger and an alien in this world and struggling to keep from embracing its crooked and often anti-Christ values. At the very least, I’m asking myself a few questions these days. Do I really want to cast a ballot endorsing an individual or party that does not share my values? Am I really OK with simply shrugging my shoulders and nonchalantly saying, “it’s the lessor of the evils,” out of a twisted belief that I must vote for someone? Why would I vote for any kind of evil? As a Christian, I already have a perfect King; why would I even think of voting for a lessor one? As I asked earlier, “is King Jesus not enough?”
Having said that, though I may never vote again, I am not completely lethargic or apathetic on the subject; Jesus did in fact call us to pray even for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Despite the fact that sometimes God has been known to use evil world leaders for His purposes, by default I’d suggest that Matthew 5:44 extends to include our political leaders as well, whom we sometimes seem to see as enemies of God and His ways, or at least subjectively so in our own mind’s eye we appear to do.
Though I may choose to never vote again, I also choose not complain about worldly leaders. Rather I choose to pray for them, and then leave them and their earthly kingdoms to God. My King is already on the throne and I know that He isn’t about to be voted out.
That’s the way I see it. Peace and blessings.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2: 15-17; NIV).
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