“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
This election season, millions of Christian voters will again look for candidates who tick the right boxes on social and cultural issues dear to Christian hearts. They will find their candidates, vote for them, and in many cases be disappointed.
I say this as a Christian who has voted Republican more often than not, and likely will again: It’s an open secret in political circles that many Republicans play Christians like the proverbial violin. They make promises they can’t or don’t plan to keep on issues that will attract votes.
There is a whiff of fear in Christian voters’ search for a political savior, and it says more about where their trust is than about the state of our society. If you are trusting the government to bend secular values to spiritual truth, then yes, be afraid. Progress might appear to happen here and there, but the worldly tide of history is flowing the other way.
The Bible doesn’t promise Christians a government guided by their values. “In God we trust” looks great on our bills and coins, and it’s a fine sentiment as long as we believe it with no asterisks. Our trust shouldn’t depend on whether God is giving us the government we want.
God permits governments to exist, and we are to obey them unless the civil law compels us to violate God’s law: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority…” (1 Peter 2:13, NIV). But civil government belongs to the world system, and the world system opposes God’s authority – hates it, in fact. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first,” Jesus said (John 15:18, NIV).
What will happen if Christians “lose” on gay marriage, school prayer, public Christmas displays or whatever other issues set the evangelical blood boiling? Well, God will still be God, and right will still be right, and our job will still be to speak the truth in love.
And what will it mean if Christians “win”? It would be nice to think revival will be at hand, and perhaps it could be. But more likely some critical mass of politicians will have learned to fear the Christian voting bloc, which is not the same as respect. And people outside the faith will live as before, though with an overlay of resentment where Christian ways of living have been forced on them.
This is not a call for Christians to drop out politically. Pray over your vote and, as the Bible commands, pray for your leaders. If you find candidates who authentically seem to represent the right values, vote for them, give to them, even work for them. But if you find yourself cheering for “your” candidate’s attack ads, or sniping at the opposition in online forums, it’s time for a hard look at where your heart is.
If your candidate’s walk while in office matches the talk on the campaign trail, all the better. But if your choice disappoints, there is no place for despair or fear. Your hope is not in that person anyway, and fear will only make you an angry Christian who lashes out at every perceived threat.
It’s a long way from writing God’s law into civil statutes, to writing it in individual hearts. The former will do little or nothing to accomplish the latter. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. I haven’t seen Him on any ballots lately.