There would be many people who would say that like UK bank holidays and sunshine, faith and politics just don’t mix – but although the relationship may be tense at times, is separation really the only way forward? With the Senedd elections coming up this Thursday, we take a few minutes in this blog to think through how a Christian should cast their vote in the question of leadership.
A Vote of Confidence?
We have seen (to the delight of some, and the horror of others) that in recent times referendums and elections are incredibly powerful things. The democratic system (though far from perfect) does allow each of us a voice – and how we use that voice really can affect change, and at the very highest levels of power too. This week here in Wales, we are being asked a question that deserves careful thought, prayer and discernment.
So how should we, as Christians cast our vote on Thursday?
1) We Can Vote Prayerfully
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 TIMOTHY 2.1-4
Paul, who wrote these words to his young apprentice pastor, recognises that as part of being able to live peacefully in “godliness and holiness” means praying for all those in authority. He urges the church to pray, to petition God, to intercede for them, and to be thankful for them.
I wonder if that is how the church is perceived by those in authority. Do they know we’re grateful for them and their work? Do they know we’re praying for them, both as individuals and in the huge responsibilities they have taken on?
If you watch the news, or the debates, (or resist the urge to mute party political broadcasts when they pop up on the telly!) you will have heard so many voices, so many promises, so many words… but our first call is to talk to God about it.
As a Christian, it strikes me that I’m often guilty of praying more about policies than the policy-makers. When it comes to faith and politics we can easily become issue-driven rather than than people-focused. We forget that behind their position is a person – and that person is someone who God loves, made, called to that position (see point 3 below), and someone He now calls us to pray for with thankfulness and intercession!
So, don’t vote without praying… and don’t pray without voting.
2) We Can Vote Carefully
In Deuteronomy chapter 1, Moses shares his heart with the people of God and expresses what a heavy burden it has become to carry the whole nation on his shoulders. So he sets out a plan:
Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.
Moses casts the responsibility onto the people to choose tribal heads, but just asks that those people be appointed carefully. He sets out three simple criteria:
- Wise: People who are careful in the thinking and decision-making
- Understanding: People of compassion and a listening ear
- Experienced: People of proven-character
In day where personality and charisma so often seem to win over policies and character – that’s not a bad place for us to start too!
But even once we’ve waded through all the glossy literature that lands on our doorsteps, how can I know which ones are careful, compassionate characters? As with any vote, we always take in on the basis of trust, but there are good resources out there to help us.
For example, the CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education) have an excellent website that allows you to view each party and their pledges – but also of the way each candidate has voted on key issues in the past. You can check that out here: https://elections2021.care.org.uk/ if you’d like to know more.
3) We Can Vote Confidently
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive their approval, for they are God’s servant for your good.
For these words to be in the Bible at all is quite incredible, but that they were written to the church in Rome – a painfully impossible place to live out your Christian faith – should make us sit up and take notice!
Now Paul is not arguing that being elected to a position of authority elevates anyone to some sort of infallible status; all of our human leaders, in the end, turn out to be just that – human. But their authority is a delegated authority; and while they may make mistakes at times – we have to believe that God has a purpose in them being there.
Having read and thought and prayed hard, we may still not always get the result we personally wanted, but we can be sure that God’s thoughts and way are higher than ours! Just because God’s plan might be mysterious to us, we can always trust Him to know what He’s doing!
When we read the stories of those who God called and used to change the political climate; the Moseses, the Josephs, the Esthers, the Daniels, the Shadrachs, Meshachs and Abednegos, the Nehemiahs, and yes even the Pilates and Judases, we can so easily forget that most people living in those nations at those times were completely unaware of what God was doing behind the scenes!
So we can vote confidently, knowing that far above our political system, our God is still sovereign – God of heaven and earth, ruler of every nation, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
He needs no elections because He has no equal! He doesn’t run for power because He has no rival!
The Lord reigns forever; He has established His throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Putting the cross in the right place…
I love what Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, wrote about the recent American Elections:
Our hope is not in the man we put in the White House but in the Man we put on the Cross.
Whatever the outcome, His seat in heaven is not up for grabs – His care, compassion and character remain forever the same.
His promises are trustworthy, and His Kingdom will endure forever!
He knows what He is doing; and, come what may, our lives are safe in His hands!
I came across this new song from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity recently, and it strikes me as a great prayer as we go into election week!
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