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How Should Christians Vote?

Approaching the polls with a balanced attitude of detached diligence.

It is not the job of the institutional church to promote a particular political party or candidate in the civil sphere (Lk 12:14; Jn 18:36; 2 Tim 2:4). It is, however, the duty of pastors and elders to shepherd the flock of God in every area of life, explaining and applying the general principles of Scripture to the cultural situation in which the church finds itself, and allowing individual Christians to apply those principles to their own political decision-making as they see fit (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3). First and foremost, a faithful pastor will remind his congregation of the overarching posture or attitude that citizens of heaven ought to have toward earthly politics in general. With this delightful duty in mind, I will argue in this article that Christians ought to approach politics in general, and voting in particular, with a balanced attitude of detached diligence.

1. Christians ought to approach voting diligently. Civil government is a positive good, ordained of God for the preservation of common justice, peace, and order in this present passing world (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-16). It is not only a necessary but a noble element of God’s good creation and ought not to be despised or neglected by those created in his image as vice regents over his creation (Gen 1:26-28; 9:6-7). Those who live in free, democratic nations ought to count it both their privilege and duty to be involved in the process of selecting new leaders, recognizing the price that was paid for such liberty and its absence in other nations today. Those who profess to love God and neighbour ought to make it their business to know and understand how their own political constitution and processes work, what the competing parties and platforms stand for, what the main issues are in any given election, and how the outcome may affect the peace and prosperity of the church. In affluent, democratic countries in this information age there is no excuse for ignorance or indolence on election day. In a fallen world, one must not expect to find a perfect political party but must vote for the party that he believes will do the greatest good in the present situation. One must carefully weigh the strengths of one party against another, evaluate the relative importance of platform and personality, and consider whether one’s party of choice has a reasonable chance of success. All of this takes diligence, intentionality, time, research, and prayer. Such labour, however, is part of what it means to live under the rainbow of the Noahic covenant, seeking justice and the common good, and it is the least one can do for his country and fellow man.[1] 2. Nevertheless, Christians ought to maintain a proper sense of gospel detachment. New Testament (NT) Christianity is a profoundly other-worldly religion. On nearly every page, the authors of the NT remind us that we are pilgrims and strangers in this world (1 Pet 2:11), that the present world is passing away (1 Jn 2:17), that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), that here we have no lasting city (Heb 13:14), that our bodies are but tents (2 Cor 5:1), that we are born from above , and that we look for a heavenly homeland that is to come (Heb 11:16; Rev 21:2). Jesus himself lived as an alien and sojourner in this world (Jn 17:14), looking forward to the heavenly joy set before him (Heb 12:2), and He calls His disciples to follow in His steps (Jn 15:19). Indeed, the general posture of a Christian is one of an exile awaiting his deliverance (1 Thess 1:10), watching eagerly for the return of the King (Matt 25), the resurrection of the body (1 Cor 15:50-58), and the renewal of the cosmos – civil government included (2 Pet 3:10-13).[2] The problem with much western Christianity - and the source of much political anxiety, anger, fear, and frustration – is that we have forgotten that we are, by definition, a pilgrim people. Like spoiled children with a well-developed and theologically justified sense of entitlement, we speak and act as if God has promised heaven now, peace and prosperity now, freedom and triumph now, before the return of Christ. Perhaps unwittingly, we have embraced an over-realized eschatology of glory and forgotten the already-not-yet theology of the cross. Like the exiles in Babylon, we ought to joyfully marry and raise families, productively engage in commerce and politics, diligently seek peace, justice, order, and wellbeing for the common good, and expect the growth of the church (Jer 29:4-9) – but we ought not to be surprised or perturbed when Babylon turns out to be rather Babylonian. It is not as though Christ’s word has failed or his church has (necessarily) regressed. His kingdom is not of this world, and it has often advanced most when it has been countenanced least (Acts 8:1-4; Phil 1:12; 1 Pet 4:12). Our hopes and dreams must not lie with the success of any political party, candidate, policy, or platform, but with the power of Christ to raise the dead – spiritually now and physically in the world to come (Rom 8:10-11; 2 Cor 4:16). Thus, while we approach the polling stations with diligence, preparation, and prayer, we do so holding our ballots with open hands, so to speak, recognizing that kingdoms rise and fall, civil liberties come and go, peace and prosperity waxes and wanes, but our inheritance remains secure - untouchable, unshakable, eternal in the heavens. Ironically, it is this kind of apostolic, other-worldly confidence that originally turned the ancient world upside down and that will enable us to be the best kind of political citizens this world has ever known.

So as you go to the polls, do so with intelligence, diligence, careful research, and prayer, but do so as pilgrims in exile recognizing that your ultimate citizenship is not here and never will be – not until the King returns, the dead are judged, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev 11:15).

Even so, come Lord Jesus!


[1] For an excellent introduction to the history, principles, institutions, and processes of Canadian politics, see Malcolmson et al, The Canadian Regime. For current elections, the internet offers a number of helpful tools for comparing party platforms or situating yourself on the political spectrum.

[2] Such ubiquitous language does not fit well with some forms of postmillennialism, which emphasize cultural transformation in this present age. Happily, such transformation does occur (Mt 5:13-16) and ought to be desired (Mt 6:10), but it is never held forth as a guaranteed hope for the church (1 Pet 1:13).

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