If Jesus is King regardless, does it matter who Christians vote for — or whether they vote at all?
Thank you for your question. It is on the mind of many believers, not only because it is an election year, but it seems that the whole enterprise of voting is built on a personality cult or who has the most money.
It is a very important question and I will try to answer it adequately, albeit not exhaustively, as this is a subject of many viewpoints. Naturally, there will be much left for further consideration.
This is a question that wrestles with the dual concepts of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God is sovereign over His work; yet, as part of the image of God, He has created man with intellect and will in order to make moral, practical, and spiritual choices in his life on earth.
Unfortunately, man exercised that will in the beginning to disobey God, and chose death over life. The resulting Fall affected every aspect of man’s nature so that man, as a unique being, is always choosing to rebel against his Creator and to set up his own will as sovereign rather than submit to the sovereignty of his Creator. So, while fallen man still bears the image of God in aspects unique to him — such as reason, morality, love, verbal communication and aesthetics — it is terribly disfigured.
God is sovereign over His work; yet, He has created man with the intellect and will to make moral, practical and spiritual choices on earth
As in all aspects of human existence, there is nothing perfect ― and this includes human government. The first concerted display of man’s rebellion against God was at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. This has become the driving force in human government-autonomy: man ruling himself independent of the laws of a moral Creator. This is a foundational revelation given in the first three chapters of Genesis.
Different forms of government have existed throughout history. About six types are predominant today, namely: democratic, socialist, constitutional republic, monarchical, dictatorship, and anarchy. In all of these forms of human government, the kingdom of God continues to be present and operative, and flourishes through the subjects of King Jesus.
Most of the examples from Scripture see believers under either a monarchical or dictatorial form of government. Today, most of us live under a representative expression of government. Regardless, a Christian’s allegiance is always, and only, to Jesus Christ. We see this clearly demonstrated in Esther, Nehemiah and Daniel, and in the times of our Saviour and the early church.
At this point, it’s also worth adding a note about the concept of earthly vs. heavenly citizenship. In Matthew 22, when the Herodians asked Jesus whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not, Jesus responded with an answer that defines responsibility to the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s, He said.
Voting belongs to the kingdom of men, and in the context of a constitutional republic, we have the freedom to vote or not vote. God uses our process as the means to place into leadership whom He will, just as He uses other systems of government to raise up earthly leaders.
Regardless of what form of government we live under, a Christian’s allegiance is always, and only, to Jesus Christ
Having given some foundational and historical aspects to the question, I want to address the practical aspect of whether to vote or not. The Bible gives us clear direction on some things as to the will of God, while it seems to be silent on others. For example, we are told in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality”, and in 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
The difficulty arises in determining God’s will on issues such as where to go to school, who to marry, where to go to church, and hundreds of other decisions where no specific Scripture is given. Man is created in the image of God, as we discussed, and the redeemed of the Lord have received significant healing through the new birth. That includes the capacity to reason and use wisdom to direct our lives as God intends.
Proverbs is essential to exercising good logic. We are told there that a man’s heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps (16:9); and that the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD (16:33). In both verses, we see the concepts of individual freedom and divine sovereignty at play.
Whether we should be involved in the privilege of voting for officials in government is a personal decision, hopefully instructed by wisdom that doesn’t lead to an offended conscience. I include the conscience because we cannot, in good conscience, support a candidate that has a political position that will lead a nation into ungodliness. But, at times, this becomes a source of great conflict as to which candidate is best!
Whether it matters or not is totally in the realm of “He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).
One of the best books to meditate on for this topic would be Esther. Though the name of God is never mentioned, one cannot read it without the sense of His unseen hand guiding the affairs of the chosen people under the pagan ruler, Xerxes. In chapter 4, the question, “Does it matter?” is challenged with, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (v.14).
We cannot, in good conscience, support a candidate that has a political position that will lead a nation into ungodliness
Let’s rephrase the question for clarification: If Jesus is King regardless, does it matter whether Christians pray at all? I say this in light of the exhortation in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Christians live under the lordship of Jesus Christ regardless of which earthly ruler governs, but there is better and worse leadership to be had. Since all aspects of life are to be lived coram Deo (before the face of God), then voting matters as an aspect of earthly citizenship and responsibility, especially for the generations to follow.
To summarise then, Scripture affirms that God is sovereign and man is free. We are not capable of finding out how this works, but by acknowledging the former, we then must understand and acknowledge that man’s freedom is limited rather than absolute. There cannot be two sovereign wills in the universe. Neither men nor devils nor angels can frustrate the purposes that God has determined. But God uses appointed means to accomplish His sovereign ends, as evidenced in the great fish and Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and Herod.
Representative government is a unique freedom preserved by participation in the process of choosing our president, congress, and local officials. Citizens under this form of government are encouraged, not forced, to be involved in choosing their representatives. The extent that individuals involve themselves is a matter of conscience and conviction.
I hope this is helpful and that we would continually seek the Spirit of God for wisdom for living in this broken world.
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