"Voting is a precondition for good government and therefore a major responsibility of good citizenship," according to a leaflet from the Secretary of State of Idaho, my state, encouraging people to vote on Election Day. As November approaches in the United States, the media bombards us with election propaganda. We've heard it all our lives. Long before they're old enough to cast a vote, children are told that when they reach 18 they have to vote on Election Day in order to be responsible citizens.
It's important to keep the act of voting in its proper perspective. Voting is neither a Christian nor a biblical way of making choices. It fails to take into consideration the needs and wishes of the minority, thereby disenfranchising large numbers of people on Election Day. Rarely does voting give power to the powerless or food and shelter to the hungry and homeless. Neither does it make the structure of our society more just.
It's difficult to find anything specifically about voting in the Bible, but the Bible does tell us something about responsible citizenship. In the Old Testament the chief defender of the nation was not the king with his armies, nor the participation of individual citizens in government, but the prophet who kept calling the people, including the king, to repentance. When they responded to that call the nation was saved. When they ignored it the country was doomed. Sodom was not destroyed because people failed to vote, but because God could not find at least ten righteous people living there.
In fact if the people in the Bible had voted, at least some of the time, it would have led them away from God. Can your imagine what the election results would have been if Moses had called for a vote to find out what the Israelites wanted to do when they were caught between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptians? How many would have voted to walk into the Red Sea?
In addition to living a righteous life, the best thing Christians can do for their country is consistently, fervently, and knowledgeably remember the nation and its leaders in prayer. James 5;16 says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person availeth much." How often has anyone been able to say that a vote they cast "availeth much?"
However many of us do vote and will continue to do so. Voting can be a small acceptable act that occasionally leads to minor, usually temporary, improvements. Selecting the best candidate is often difficult.
Perhaps the ideal candidate would be someone who could handle the job description mentioned in Ezekiel 22:30 - "I have been looking for someone among them to build a wall and man the breach in front of me, to defend the country and prevent me from destroying it. " The people had sinned and their sins were threatening to destroy them. A righteous person was needed to help defend the nation, not with military violence or power, but as Moses did when the Israelites sinned by worshipping a golden calf for which God said he was gong to destroy them. Moses pleaded for their lives and, according to Psalms 106:23, "stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them."
That is perhaps the greatest accomplishment any leader can strive for - to be a God-fearing, compassionate, righteous person who leads a nation toward God. To be one who can honestly respond to the mandate in Matthew 25, one who has helped to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison. A good leader is one who has the ability to plead to God for another chance if a nation's sins threaten to self-destruct and destroy them.
Moses handled that assignment. In the New Testament, Paul offered his life and soul for the sins of the people. More than anyone Jesus stood in the breach and protected us from our own sins. By living righteous lives all of us help protect our nation from the destructive effects of its sins.
It might seem mildly optimistic to think that we can find candidates who are able to handle such an assignment. Perhaps our biggest responsibility is to pray that God will change our leaders, regardless of who they are, into God-fearing, biblically obedient individuals who will be able to bring about positive changes in our nations. Even though this may seem unlikely, if we pray and share our faith we have a right, perhaps even an obligation, to be hopeful. God can bring about dramatic changes in people. Remember that both Moses and Paul were murderers before they became great leaders.
Previously published in slightly different form in the October 16, 1990 issue
of Gospel Herald.