Carl Laferton asks: Will you be a voter who happens to be a Christian, or will you be a Christian voter? The difference is subtle, but massively important.
Election day tomorrow casts its strong shadow over the United Kingdom. Have you decided yet who you will vote for. If so, how did you reach your decision?
On a radio programme yesterday, listeners were asked to text in to explain how they’d arrived at their voting decision. Which of these three approaches would you be closest to?
To be honest, my answer could easily start with 1, 2, or 3! And it’s struck me recently that all three of these approaches are inadequate. If my answer as to who I’m voting for could equally well be explaining a decision by someone who is not a Christian, then the truth is that I’m a voter who happens to be a Christian, not a Christian voter.
But the Bible tells us to:
“be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise … understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5 v 15, 17).
What defines us as Christians is that Jesus is our Lord. And that is as true when we are voting as much as when we are singing or praying or sharing the gospel. As the theologian Abraham Kuyper put it:
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ … does not cry, “Mine!.”
And that includes the ballot box. So our answer should, must, surely begin:
“As a Christian, I’m voting for…”
Simple. Except that it isn’t.
What issues should Christians care about?
We live in a created, fallen world. We live as redeemed people in a world that has not yet been redeemed. We all make mistakes, either from the best intentions or because our sinful hearts and minds compromise us or deflect us. And none of us have all the answers. So even if every politician were a genuine whole-hearted believer, they still wouldn’t agree on issues such as a Christian view of the economy, foreign policy, foreign aid, or many other things.
And, since none of the main political parties’ manifestos are written out of an attempt to establish the rule of the land to be under the rule of Jesus, things get even harder.
So, the Bible makes clear that God cares deeply, and judges us, based on our treatment of the poor and the vulnerable. But what does that actually mean for our economy? What is the role of a secular state in providing such care, or should it be provided by the church, or philanthropic individuals and families? Is small government necessarily uncaring government? Is big government necessarily inefficient government? Any simple answer to this is unlikely to be a careful answer…
Then there are issues which some Christians see as so important that they outweigh every single other issue put together. Take protecting the unborn, for example -- which would be the single issue I feel most strongly about. Here are some questions every Christian should wrestle with:
There are no easy answers. And the same questions can be asked of other issues—who has the right to end life; protection of vulnerable children; the welcoming of the poor and persecuted into our land; the treatment of those who are marginalized; and so on.
But let’s be honest: it’s unlikely that God is going to ask us on Judgment Day why we didn’t vote for the party that would have extended Working Tax Credits or cut Corporation Tax or increased spending on universities. He may well ask us whether the rights of the unborn or vulnerable weighed at all in our decision. Just because the world talks more about tax rises and spending cuts and tuition fees and privatisation, don’t be fooled into thinking that God cares more about these things than how we treat the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized.
What will make your vote truly Christian?
Because there are no easy answers, Christians will vote in different ways. A few years back, I knew a very godly Christian couple who voted very differently. He voted Conservative, because he felt that their policies on ethical issues was most in line with the Bible. She voted Labour, because she felt that their economic policies were most in line with the Bible. Who was right? Both. Because both were voting Christianly, albeit differently.
So here are two pleas for this election.
First, ask yourself: Why am I voting the way I am—whether that’s for a major party, a smaller Christian-based party, or a spoiled ballot paper, or not at all? Does your answer really begin:
And second, let’s accept that Christians will finish that sentence differently. Let’s not look down on others for voting differently. Let’s not sneer at those who vote UKIP, or Green, or for the Socialist Workers Party, or whatever. Let’s respect both those who in conscience vote for a small Christian party, or who base their vote on a single Christian issue; and those who vote “tactically”, by weighing up which of the major parties they feel will best reflect Christian values as a whole.
Let’s assume the best, not the worst, of each other; and in how we speak to and about each other, let’s build up, not tear down, our brothers and sisters.
After all, who is God going to be more pleased by? A Christian who prays, wrestles, and seeks hard to base their vote on their Bible-shaped convictions, and then votes for a party you or I don’t like; or a Christian who doesn’t pray, doesn’t wrestle, doesn’t think much, and votes for the party that you or I do?
Let’s vote Christianly, even as we vote differently.
Tuesday on TGBC Blog: How should Christians vote on Thursday?