Do I have a Christian responsibility to vote?

It is an election week in the United States, so I thought this was a good time to reflect on the Christian responsibility of voting in a democracy. The following is an excerpt from the message, “A Christian in the Voting Booth,” originally preached November 2, 2008, the Sunday before the 2008 Presidential elections.

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“Do I have a Christian responsibility to vote?” Some people feel that Christians should have no part in the civil process, that we belong to another kingdom and that we should not get involved in the affairs of this world. Others believe Christians should be heavily involved in politics and culture and that we have a cultural mandate to rule this world according to God’s principles. Others come out somewhere in the middle. Let’s look at some Biblical principles that might help us answer this question.

    A. You are responsible to exert a godly influence. (Matthew 5:13-16, 6:9-10)

First of all, you are responsible to exert a godly influence in this world. If you are a parent, you are responsible to raise your children in the Lord. If you are a boss, you are responsible to run your company according to Christian standards. If you are in government, you are accountable to God for the decisions you make on behalf of other people. Whatever you’re sphere of influence, you have a responsibility to use that influence for God and for good.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13-16) Light points the way, and salt preserves. We should live in such a way that we point others to God and preserve godliness in a culture that is contaminated by sin. We should seek for God’s will to be done in our homes and in our cities and in our nation. As Jesus instructed us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) So, first of all, you are responsible to exert a godly influence.

    B. You are responsible to pray for your leaders. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Secondly, you are responsible to pray for your leaders. We read in 1 Timothy 2: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) The Bible urges you to pray for your leaders and to be thankful for them. We are to pray for those in authority that they will make good decisions so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives, and that we may freely worship God and share the gospel with others.

    C. As a voter you share the responsibility of government. (Romans 13:1-5)

So, you are responsible to exert a godly influence, you are responsible to pray for your leaders, and then thirdly, as a voter you also share the responsibility of government. Those who share in government are accountable to God for how they lead. Romans 13 tells us that all governing authorities are established by God and under God’s authority.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God … Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13:1-5)

Of course in those days there was no such thing as voting. People lived in monarchies and empires. Your role in government as a Christian was basically to pray for and submit to the ruling authorities. But when you live in a democracy or a republic like we do, things are different. As President Lincoln described our government in the Gettysburg Address in 1863, we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” (The Gettysburg Address; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; November 19, 1863) And so as a voter you share in the responsibilities of government.

The word “vote” comes from the Latin “votum,” meaning “will or choice.” Instead of just praying for your leaders to make good and wise choices on your behalf, you are part of the decision-making process, and so you are responsible to make good and wise choices on behalf of your nation. And we do that through voting. As theologian Dr. John Frame writes:

“…in some cultures (like the ancient Roman, in which the New Testament was written) there is not much that Christians can do, other than pray, to influence political structures and policies. But when they can influence them, they should. In modern democracies, all citizens are ‘lesser magistrates’ by virtue of the ballot box. Christians have an obligation to vote according to God’s standards. And, as they are gifted and called, they should influence others to vote in the same way.” (John Frame; The Doctrine of the Christian Life, p. 617)

Now that does not mean you should just vote willy-nilly or fill in the blanks on a ballot like a multiple choice quiz where you don’t know the answers. You have a responsibility to vote responsibly. The uninformed voter probably should not vote, at least in those areas where he or she is uninformed. But as Christians we have a responsibility to be informed on the issues and the candidates, and then to vote accordingly. As a voter you share the responsibility of government and thus share accountability to God for what takes place in our nation.
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Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

3 Comments

  1. Bethany says:

    I believe strongly that we should vote – carefully, prayerfully, and knowledgeably. I don’t think I’ve missed an election since turning 18 and proudly heading down to the Town Hall to register for the first time. That said, I also agree that ultimately God is Sovereign, and although I do what I can do make the changes I believe I am called to as a believer, it is He that puts kings/rulers in their places and He who brings them down. I’m actually very thankful this is so, as there is no call for despair when our candidates lose, or smug gloating if our candidates win.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Bethany – Good thoughts, thanks for sharing!

  3. yana neby says:

    I still have a question about our responsibility to vote. If the first church of the New Testament saw no need to fight against the corrupt government of their time, or to fight against practices such as slavery, why do we? Their main focus was to reach out to the world through the message of the Gospel and change each individual’s hearts. In fact, history has shown that Christianity flourished most during times of persecution. So where is our concrete biblical responsibility to get involved in the governmental practices?

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