“The very Ground of our Liberties, is the freedom of Elections. Every Man has in Politicks as well as Religion, a Right to think and speak and Act for himself. No man either King or Subject, Clergyman or Layman has any Right to dictate to me the Person I shall choose for my Legislator and Ruler. I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any Man judge, unless his Mind has been opened and enlarged by Reading. A Man who can read, will find in his Bible, in the common sermon Books that common People have by them and even in the Almanack and News Papers, Rules and observations, that will enlarge his Range of Thought, and enable him the better to judge who has and who has not that Integrity of Heart, and that Compass of Knowledge and Understanding, which form the Statesman.”
~ John Adams
We are less than two months away from Election Day 2016 and one need only hop onto Facebook for a mere 5 minutes to see that tempers are – and have been for a while – flaring. Name-calling, bickering, insults, personal attacks, putdowns, and heated answers are becoming the norm when discussing politics and one’s own voting choices this year. The really sad thing about all this? That’s all among professing Christians! And it is resulting in what one Facebook friend of mine has described as a “Christian Civil War”.
The biggest source of angst seems to be between those Christians who feel morally obligated to vote for Trump and those Christians who feel morally obligated not to and to instead go the third party route. When entering into such a discussion, watch out! Because, unfortunately, professing Christians are ready to beat you over the head if you happen to not agree with their stance in this area! They see you -moreso than Hillary Clinton almost!- as the great enemy because we all know that how you yourself choose to vote will determine the entire future history of America. It won’t be God, Who turns the hearts of kings however He chooses to (Proverbs 21:1). No, it will be you and the box you check on November 8.
I cringe when I see how my brothers and sisters in Christ are behaving in such as way so as to put America above the Bible, one person’s conscience above the conscience of another, human choice above the sovereignty of God, and -saddest of all- debate above love. Lest you think this is all no big deal, let us dig into the Scriptures today to see how our Lord views how we are acting and the manner in which we are treating fellow brothers and sisters in Christ this election year.
No Direct Commands and Merit on Both Sides
First of all, before moving on, let me just quickly address the Great Debate of whether or not a Christian should vote for Donald Trump.
There are Biblically-literate, well-meaning Christians who are voting for Donald Trump. Yes, it’s true! They are doing so because they believe that in our nation’s current two party system, the best way to keep Hillary out of the White House is to vote for Donald Trump instead. They do not necessarily like him, but they feel that they really only have two choices and that he is the better of the two. Therefore, they will vote for him. They will not vote third party because, though there may be better candidates our there in the third parties, their conscience tells them that to vote third party is to make it easier for Hillary to be elected, for every vote that Trump does not receive is one less that Hillary needs to win.
Then you have Biblically-literate, well-meaning Christians who are not voting for Donald Trump, but are instead choosing to vote third party. They are doing so because their consciences tell them that Donald Trump is morally reprehensible as Hillary Clinton also is and that he would do harm to this country, as well, so they cannot lend their support to him and will instead vote their conscience and choose a third party candidate. They do not see this action as making things easier for Hillary to get into office, they merely see their action as being faithful to God and His standards for leaders.
Here’s the thing – there is merit on both sides of this Great Debate!
There is merit to fighting someone as evil and anti-God as Hillary tooth and nail by voting for her main competitor! And there is also merit to refusing to vote for a man with Trump’s background. And here is another newsflash for us all – the Bible, though it does outline the duties and characteristics of a good leader, does not expressly state what a Christian should do in an election such as this one. There are principles in the Word, but no direct Biblical commands pertaining to this specific issue and situation. So, in absence of Biblical command, it is not Biblically appropriate to bind the conscience of another (to use one of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s sayings)! We do not have ground to stand on when we accuse our brothers and sisters of sinning if they vote for – or do not vote for- Trump! We are adding to God’s Word in a case such as that, which is a serious offense (Proverbs 30:6). Whether a Christian votes for Trump or not is between that Christian and God and we have no right to beat him over the head for his choice. We are not the Holy Spirit. The Lord may be leading that person in a different way than He is leading us and that is ok.
The Most Important Thing for Christians to Remember This Election Year
Now moving on to my main point! 🙂 Christians right now are acting as if restoring or saving America is the most important thing we could do. But, you know what? It isn’t. It almost pains me to say this, because I am very patriotic, am a military wife, love my country so much, am abundantly thankful for the freedoms the Lord has graciously afforded us here, adore the great Christian heritage we have as a nation, and believe America to be that last great “city on a hill”, as it were, spreading light and freedom to others. I want to restore America. I do not want to see this great country, founded on such great Christian principles, to crumble and go the way of Europe. But, as Christians, we must remember we are aliens in this world, this world is not our home, and America is not Heaven. Furthermore, [clickToTweet tweet=”God is not an American. ” quote=”God is not an American. “]The biggest thing on His agenda is not seeing America flourish or crumble, either one. The biggest thing on His agenda is bringing people to Himself, redeeming lost sinners, building His Kingdom, and preparing a place for us in Heaven, where we will be with Him forever.
And, unfortunately, the way in which we professing Christians are treating each other this election year is not only deplorable but is a hindrance to, and the antithesis of, what God is working to do. Because we get mixed up, distracted, and sidetracked and begin thinking that our Christian duty is first and foremost to save America, emotions flare when we feel that the fruitfulness of that duty is being attacked or hindered by someone voting differently than we choose to, and we begin to treat them as the great enemy. This ought not be so! Our love for America is crowding out the most important thing Christians ought to remember this election year, which is… love for the Lord and for one another is the most important thing to God (and before all my fellow advocates of doctrine and truth get up in arms, bear with me on this one).
The Greatest Commandments
Many Christians today are acting as if fierce love of country is the most important thing this election year. But we would be sorely mistaken to believe it so. Consider the words of Christ,
“ Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 22:37-40
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets! That’s saying a lot as to the vast importance Christ places on us loving God and loving others. When we love God as we should and love others as ourselves, everything else follows. Ponder with me the following Scriptures which further illustrate how our being loving in the way we treat others is the most important thing to our God:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing…….. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away…….And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8, 13
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:7-16
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:34-35
“19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” ~James 1:19-20
“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” ~James 3:8-10
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…..but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—……do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. ….Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. ~Ephesians 4:1, 15, 26-27, 29-32
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” ~Romans 12:10, 18
From these passages and others like them, we see the vast importance our Lord places on us being loving to others, kind, tenderhearted, slow to wrath, etc. Why is this so important to Him? Because He Himself is not merely loving, He IS love. He is the very embodiment of love. And if we are to be like Him, accurately representing Him to the world as His ambassadors, then we, too, must be loving. We cannot be faithful to the ambassadorship we are called to if we are not loving to those with whom we come into contact. In fact, Jesus said that the watching world would know we were His disciples by the love we had for one another. Not by our voting choices, our political life, our American patriotism, or our stances in the public arena. Voting for (or not voting for!) Trump does not make one a good and faithful Christian. Being Christ-like does. And in order to be Christ-like, we are first and foremost to be people known for being loving and gracious.
Now, I know what you are thinking (because I’ve thought it, too!). What about doctrine? What about standing for truth and righteousness in the public arena? What about righteousness exalting a nation, but sin being a reproach to any people? Shouldn’t we as Christians be concerned about those things? Of course we should! But amazingly, in order of importance, the Lord puts love for Him and others above truth. Before you think me a heathen, hear me out here. Is doctrine important to God? Are His Word and truth paramount? Certainly. No one can be saved apart from them! But truth alone, without love, is worthless. Consider again 1 Corinthians 13:2, 13: And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…..And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The gift of prophecy, the understanding of all mysteries, the possession of all Biblical knowledge and accurate doctrine, all faith, etc. Pretty important things, right? Yes, but if we have not love to go along with them, we are nothing! And more than nothing, I would say we are, in fact, a hindrance to the very Gospel itself.
To further illustrate this point, consider with me the following passage, as well:
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” ~Revelation 2:1-6
Our pastor preached a most enlightening sermon on this passage just a few weeks ago, and I found it to be very timely in light of my plan to write this article! In this passage we see that the Ephesian church was excellent at holding to truth and sound doctrine, that they were most diligent in exposing and rejecting false teaching, that they hated sinful deeds just as the Lord did, and that they were faithful to labor for the sake of Christ. Sounds like a pretty awesome church, right? What could the Lord possibly have against them? Why would He threaten to do something as serious as to snuff out their church if they did not repent? The problem was plain and simple: they had lost their first love. They had lost their love for God and their love for people. Their dedication to truth and sound doctrine was admirable and applaudable, for sure, but it was not enough to please God and bring His blessing upon their church. They had become as the Pharisees – lovers of self, know-it-alls, and self-righteous in their vast knowledge of truth. There was no longer any love in them. And that – even though they were great proclaimers and defenders of truth – was enough for the Lord to want to snuff out their church if they did not repent and return to their loving ways of old. Is that not amazing? We so often think that the best thing we could do is to proclaim truth. But if we are doing so out of a self-righteous, prideful, Pharisaical, judgmental, rigid heart, then we are doing the cross of Christ a great disservice and we are warping the picture the world will have of our Lord. This passage is quite the sobering one, especially considering that a church to which so many verses were written (see the book of Ephesians) pertaining to being loving, speaking truth in love, etc., and who were known for their love for others (Eph. 1:15), had so fallen from that first love. Unfortunately, that is precisely what is going on among many American Christians right now during this election year. And it is time we get on our knees and repent.
For, you see, being loving and proclaiming truth always ought to go together in our lives, for truth and love, mercy, and grace are always paired together when describing the characteristics of our God Himself:
“And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master.” ~Genesis 24:27a
“But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” ~Psalm 86:15
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.” ~Psalm 115:1
“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” ~2 John 1:3
The Conclusion of the Matter
The whole point of this week’s article is this: we are doing the cause of Christ a grave disservice when we go around spouting hateful remarks towards those brothers and sisters in Christ who are approaching this election in a different way than we are. We see throughout Scripture that we are to love others as ourselves, speak the truth in love, and be gracious and compassionate, humble and lowly. If such is the case when dealing with people who are actually adhering to and practicing beliefs and and lifestyles which are directly contrary to God’s express commands and teachings (for example, see Rev. 2:1-6 again), how much more ought we extend grace and love, understanding and compassion to those who are merely approaching issues which are Biblically left up to one’s own individual conscience and Christian liberty before God! As we saw above, there is some merit to both sides of the “voting for Trump” issue and therefore, rather than getting up in arms and accusing a brother or sister in Christ of making a stupid mistake or being a fool or being “the problem with America today”, let us instead head the wisdom of James 1:19-20, which I believe bears repeating again: “19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” When discussing political and election year issues with our brothers and sisters in Christ, let us seek to understand their point of view, hear their hearts, and not immediately jump to conclusions, all of which are possible only if we are swift to hear and slow to speak. For, whether we believe their stance to be a good one or not, the fact remains that our wrath in the situation would do nothing to produce the righteousness of God in their hearts. Love, however, covers a multitude of sins and failures, mistakes and misunderstandings.
Let us go forth in love, brothers and sisters! Let us not major on the minors and add to Scripture teachings which are not there. Let us hold fast to those teachings which actually are found in God’s Word. And may we be a shining, radiant, peculiar example to the watching world of the great love of Christ as we interact with others – especially those with whom we disagree! For, remember – our brothers and sisters in Christ are not the enemy here! There is, however, a true raging enemy prowling around as a lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), and he wants nothing more than to sew discord, disharmony, and disunity in the Body of Christ. May we not be his advocates and assistants in doing so!
Love to you in Christ, brothers and sisters!
Until next week,
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