In Part 1 of the sermon, “The Gospel Agenda,” I talked a lot about the Republican mindset. It’s true that Christians also vote Democrat (D) and Independent (I) in elections. Contrary to what some think, not all Christians vote Republican. And yet, the largest voting base for the Republican Party every year has consistently been white evangelicals, according to political researchers. Those who believe in the sanctity of life and are pro-homosexuality (only) tend to vote Republican in local and presidential elections.
In part 2, we need to examine what has been said about Republicans in Part 1 and hold it up to what Scripture says. After all, Republicans believe that they follow the Bible. But if they follow the Bible, they’ll see today that their thinking is out of step with what Scripture says about the matter.
The political vote is not a vote for the salvation of human souls
Social media is filled with the hashtag #VoteBidenHarrisToSaveAmerica, but let’s be clear: the kind of salvation in discussion here pertains to political, economic, and social policies, not the salvation of every human soul. The problem that enters into the voting discussion with regard to Republicans is that many of them view their political vote as a matter of faith: that is, my faith should dictate how I vote.
But, there are two objections to the idea that the vote is salvation. First, there’s the idea that voting for the President is not like voting for a Pastor. When you’re voting in a Pastor of a church or elders/preachers, you’re voting for people of spiritual maturity, those who have strong faith in the Lord, those who believe as you do and teach in accordance with what you believe. You want those who are walking in the truth of God’s Word because a Pastor can’t preach a truth he or she isn’t living. In other words, the spiritual growth and character of a Pastor matters, as does his or her beliefs, when selecting a Pastor of your church.
When selecting a President, you’re looking for a political leader, not a Pastor.
What this means is that the President doesn’t necessarily have to share your spiritual beliefs to be worthy of your vote. Let me use an example. Though I wasn’t alive in the ’60s when John F. Kennedy was President, had I been alive, I could have voted for JFK without his Roman Catholicism posing a problem for me. I grew up staunchly Protestant, though I have Roman Catholic roots in my family background. But I am not Roman Catholic, and I do not support much of Roman Catholic theology (especially Purgatory). And yet, when choosing a President, I could have voted for JFK because of his financial policies and his commitment to everyone being treated fairly. His Roman Catholicism wouldn’t pose a dilemma between my vote and my faith, nor should it bc, again, I’m not choosing a Pastor.
Next, the political vote is not a vote for salvation because the President of the country is not someone I’m looking to as a spiritual guide or counselor. In fact, if you’ve noticed, every President within recent memory has had some sort of spiritual advisor (particularly a Pastor) they consult on matters of faith. This should be a tell-tale sign that the President is not a spiritual guide or counselor. If the President was meant to be a spiritual counselor for the nation, he or she wouldn’t need to look to a Pastor or preacher for spiritual guidance, prayer, and consultation. You don’t look to a lawyer, for example, if you’re valid legal counsel. So, a President could have some spiritual counsel around him or her and still be a spiritual leader himself/herself, but in many cases, the President has never been a spiritual leader of any sort. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an exception as far as political leaders who were spiritual leaders, but he never became President.
This matters because it pertains to much of how we think about everyday life. Do you concern yourself with the spiritual status of your mechanic, your dentist, your favorite local restaurant, the owner of the local grocery store or gas station? Do you only eat at your local IHOP if you believe the manager or owner is a person of faith? I grew up less than 5 minutes down the street from a convenience store where the owners didn’t discuss faith or politics. My mother tried to witness to one of the owners (the store was family-owned), though in vain. But he didn’t have any faith, and he didn’t care for politics, either. But he was a convenient option for us to have food and access to it without having to drive so far to get to the local grocery store. So, despite the fact that his spiritual views were opposed to ours (he was a man of no faith, he said), he still provided a valuable service to us close to home. And his opposition to our faith didn’t move us to drive so far out because he wasn’t a Christian like us.
Simply put, my mother taught me how to see the value in everyone, even those that didn’t believe like us or weren’t Christian like us. And that remains a view I hold to this day. I’ve met some Christians who won’t eat at a restaurant unless the owner is Christian, or put their kids in a school unless it’s a Christian school. Everything they surround themselves by has to have the word “Christian” in it, otherwise they won’t associate. And that’s good for them, but the state provides excellent schooling for those parents who can’t afford to send their children to rich, expensive, fancy Christian schools. Jesus came for all, whether rich or poor, and Christian schools should be available for all, but that’s another sermon for another day.
When it comes to politics and faith, every Christian must learn to see them as separate venues. That is, political leaders are not Pastors, and Pastors are not political leaders. This isn’t to say that as a Christian, you shouldn’t care about the world you live in. You should. The Lord tells the Israelites to “defend the orphan and widow,” and this is a political statement. But you have to remember that you, unlike the Israelites, live in a world where the prophet or judge is not the national leader. The “king” of the land (Americans call their highest leader “President”) is not the spiritual leader of the land. Americans don’t get their sermons from the President. The President doesn’t extend the invitation to discipleship, he doesn’t teach or preach the Word regularly to the nation, and so on. Many Republicans view the nation as a theocracy where God rules, but God doesn’t rule in the USA. I wish God did; a lot of things that are legal would be prohibited if we lived in a theocracy, but they aren’t.
Back to the mechanic and dentist that I mention above. Do you only go to “Christian” dentists? Good luck with that. Some of you may be proud conservatives, but the closest dentist down the street may be a Mormon dentist. Are you still willing to go to the Mormon dentist and forfeit seeing the dentist with the same exact spiritual and theological persuasions as you — since the like-minded dentist lives further away? Will you refuse to go to the atheist mechanic to fix your car because he’s an atheist? Will you only allow Christian mechanics to fix your car if it’s broken down?
So, when it comes to the President and voting for the nation’s highest leaders (President and Vice President), they don’t have to share the same theological persuasions as you. In fact, their theological persuasions are irrelevant because they can fulfill the role of President without the spiritual component. In theory, though most conservatives cannot stomach it, an atheist President could be just as moral and upright in office as a Roman Catholic/Protestant President. One need only have a conscience to serve in the nation’s highest office, along with a commitment to American ideals. Atheists, like Christians, are moral and upright, can be faithful to their spouse, work hard, and serve well. Barack Obama served the nation well in his eight years, but there is an atheist counterpart to Barack out there that would do the nation just as proud.
Voting for a President is not a vote for salvation. The President is not your Savior; Jesus is. The President is not gonna save the nation, any more than a mechanic will. The President is a mortal human being like you and me, full of imperfections and flaws. And voting for him or her (or the opponent) isn’t a vote for Heaven or Hell.
You’re not omniscient; you don’t know everything
The reason? Because voting in political elections is not the condition for salvation, but rather, believing in Jesus Christ as the One who died and rose for your sins is (John 3:16-18). None of us are perfect and omniscient (we don’t know everything). No matter the candidate, none of us will enter into the election process knowing everything up-front. Think about dating. When you start dating someone, you don’t know everything about the individual, but you take a chance on the person. The dating relationship may go well and turn into something more, or it may not. It may be the worst relationship you ever had, but you won’t know if you don’t try.
You know far less about the political candidates than you’d know about a potential date (perhaps more), but in either case, you still don’t know everything. And you’re not meant to. It’s impossible to know everything. You’d have to be God to know everything — and you and I are not. So when we vote for two people (President and Vice President) to lead our country, we’re voting for two imperfect people quite like ourselves, with their own flaws and imperfections and weaknesses. And there are bound to be things that we don’t know. So no one can make a “perfect” vote or cast a perfect ballot, having chosen “all the right people,” because there’s simply no way to know all the factors involved in making such a decision.
It’s been said by a few preachers/Pastors as of late that “you’re voting for the lesser of two evils,” and that, “either choice is still evil.” The reality is, however, that as humans with flaws and sin, we’re all “evil,” to be honest. We’re all greedy, corrupt, sinful, selfish, and self-centered, just in our own ways in different things. Some may not like Donald Trump, but you and I know folks in our parts of the country that think and act and even speak on occasion just like him. And for all I know, there are some of these individuals that sit in our churches and donate large sums of money to the work of the church. These men could even sit as Deacons or Elders themselves in churches across this land. So before we write off Donald Trump, we must understand that we hate things about Donald Trump because many of us see those same things in ourselves. And, despite how committed Republicans are to their political party, they can look across the aisle and see respect in Joe Biden because he does things that they do, acts of kindness that they can applaud regardless of which human being does them.
So, if we’re all evil, how can we throw our hands up and refuse to vote (as some choose to do)? We should vote. We must vote. But the reason why some may be discouraged from voting is due to their belief that their vote has spiritual consequences: “my immortal soul is on the line and therefore, I can’t vote Democrat,” some evangelical Christians say who have been staunchly Republican for many years. But the only ones who believe that are those who think we live in a theocracy and that, the nation’s leader, like the Old Testament judges and kings, is appointed by God. Unfortunately, it’s erroneous to take that theocratic mindset and impose it on our democratic society.
But if you think this way, you see the political vote as a means of salvation and the leader as “God’s man” who could save the theocracy. The Jews shared the same erroneous conclusion, which explains Jesus’ words to them in Acts 1. And it is to those words we will turn in Part 3 of our Sermon on “The Gospel Agenda.” Stay tuned.