With the election looming we have started thinking in the SNAC about how a Christian should make their decision of who to vote for. Last week we saw the key underlying principle the Bible gives us for how we respond to our government – Christians are called to honour and obey our governments as we submit to them. Importantly, this applies even to those governments we don’t agree with and did not vote for!
However, there is one other command of Scripture concerning our relationship to our government. In 1 Timothy 2 the Apostle Paul sets out what should happen when Christians meet together. In particular he talks about who and what we should pray for. Interestingly, one of the very few things we are commanded to pray for is “kings and all those in authority”. In modern terms, we are commanded to pray for the Prime Minister, the Premier and their parliaments.
Of course, the next question is what should we pray for? 1 Timothy instructs us to pray that they govern in such a way that we, as Chris- tians, are not hindered or stopped from living godly and holy lives so that people can hear the gospel and be saved. However, that
is surely only the start of what we should pray for. We should pray that they would govern fairly and care for people who are unable to care for themselves. We should pray that, as far as possible, the laws they enact are in step with God. We should pray with respect to specific areas, where laws are put forward that are out of step with God; areas such as the legalisation of abortion, the definition of marriage and so forth. We should pray that our politicians would seek after God’s will on those issues.
Which leads us to thinking about the current election. Before we decide who we vote for we should be praying for all the parties and all the candidates in the light of those priorities. However, the things we pray for are the very same things we should consider before we cast our vote. While there are no ‘How to vote’ cards in the Bible, there are principles that should guide our decision-making. Here are some of those principles:
1. Our number one priority and concern must be to honour and glorify God. In that light, the No. 1 question we must ask about any candidate or party is how do their policies impact on the preaching of the Gospel. Do they enable freedom of religion and freedom of speech? Do they enable freedom of gathering together as Christians? Do they leave Christians free of entanglements to
get on with living godly lives preaching the gospel?
2. The second guiding principle is what the Bible calls the law of love. Christians are called to put other people’s needs before our own. We have an obligation to rise above personal interest. The temptation in voting is to vote for our own needs – generally financial. Too many Australians vote for whichever option gives them the biggest tax cut or the lower interest rates. If we are driven by the law of love, how will that impact our vote? We will think about questions like:
a. Will a candidate or party’s policies support those who are most needy in our society? Do the policies help care for that group the Bible often calls the widows and the orphans. Of course making that decision is not as simple as asking who pays the biggest benefits. It might lead us to think about which policies create an environment where it’s easier to find work and so forth. However, the principle is love and concern for others.
b. Will a candidate or a party support the rights of the unborn (perhaps the most needy and unrepresented group in our society). Is a candidate or party opposed to abortion and research on embryos?
c. Do a candidate’s policies seek to limit ungodliness? One of the ways we show our love for people is by seeking to limit ungodliness in our society. God’s laws are not arbitrary. God de- sires what is best for us and as a result ungodliness causes harm.
Of course, none of these issues are easy to work out. Some parties or candidates will be strong in one area but not another. Deciding our vote requires serious thought to consider the options. In fact, on many of these moral issues it is not simply a matter of supporting a particular party. Many of these issues are decided by conscience votes and so we need to contact our local member or look at their website and ask them their view on these issues.
I would never dream of telling people who to vote for! However, in the end how we vote as Christians should be the same as any deci- sion we make. It should be made prayerfully and on the basis of: 1) What is best for the Kingdom of God; and 2) What is best for the eternal well being of all people, not just myself.