My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 28, 2020, issue of The Polk County Pulse.
It was shortly before noon when we pulled up to the old armory building. Outside was a sandwich board sign with the words “vote here” written above a rippling American flag. When we walked into the large open room, a couple of people were in line ahead of us. I was thankful to be avoiding a large group by voting early. We stood on our circles that were placed on the floor to help us stay six feet apart. The people working the polls were friendly and helpful. Before long, both my wife and I were standing in front of our respective voting machines.
After voting, I carefully reviewed the ballot before giving my final approval. I was now one of the more than fifty million voters who have cast early ballots. Most people are expecting an above-average turnout for this year’s elections. Political pundits on both sides consider this election crucial and try to convince those on their side to be sure and vote. The rhetoric has been scathing, harsh, and bitter.
In the past weeks and months, ugly, hateful, and often downright false political posts have filled my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Most of the time, they are reposts of someone else’s memes or articles. I wonder if the hateful vitriol has ever changed anyone’s mind. Do Christians want to be known for such anger?
One of the best-known sayings of Christianity is the Golden Rule; “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” Matthew 7:12 (NCV) Most Christians believe this. They would agree that it’s correct to treat others right and believe in showing respect and kindness. But there’s one area of life where it seems that Christians forget the Golden Rule, and that’s politics. I am amazed by how many Christians become downright uncivil when it comes to discussing politics.
They are polite in everything else, but they become vicious once they start talking about politics or politicians. It seems that they forget that the Bible says in Romans 12:10 (NIV), “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
When we, as Christians, are tempted to fire back when confronted with beliefs that we disagree with, we need to listen to the advice given in Romans 12:2 (NLT). “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
When we feel that our beliefs are under attack, the primary human response is to fire back. We let our natural, carnal, human emotions dictate our behavior. Anger consumes us, and we want to lash out. We feel fear and want to defend our beliefs or attack perceived wrongs. But, is that how a Christian should handle conflict? In Proverbs 15:1 (NET), Solomon wrote these words of wisdom; “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” And James wrote in James 1:19,20 (ISV), “You must understand this, my dear brothers. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. For human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
I am not suggesting that there is never a time when Christians should speak up for their beliefs, but I have noticed that often we as Christians are slow to listen but quick to speak and get angry. Angry Christians fill my social media feeds. Some answer every difference of opinion by angrily returning fire. Political views do matter, and your vote counts. But your political ideas and thoughts should not be the primary things in your life. As Christians, our ultimate hope does not rest on political candidates or political power or political initiatives. Speaking of voting in elections, John Piper wrote, “Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. We deal with the political system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But it is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls.”
I’m thankful to live in a country where your vote matters and my vote matters. I’m grateful that we can be a part of the political process. By all means, vote. But remember that the Bible informs us that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” 1 John 2:17 (TLV). Don’t let politics consume you and cloud your judgment. Don’t be complicit when others condone slander. Winning arguments isn’t more important than truthfulness.
Gentle Reader, your vote matters. When you vote for someone to represent you, whether in the local, state, or national government, it is crucial to vote for someone who shares your principles. But your vote this year is not the most important vote you will cast. Every day you have to vote for who you want to represent you that day. Do you want Jesus to represent you, or are you willing for Satan to be your representative? “If you don’t want to serve the Lord, you must choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 (NCV) National elections only happen every four years, but we have the opportunity to vote every day. Who will you choose to vote for today? Will your vote matter?