This past year has seen some dramatic voting results – I’m thinking mostly of the election of Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. We’ve also seen an attempted coup in Turkey, terror attacks influencing the French general election and the worst migrant crisis affecting Europe since the Holocaust.
Politics doesn’t just dominate our news feeds and Facebook timelines, it affects every part of our lives – how much we’re paid, can we afford to get on the property ladder, can we afford to have children, how long we wait to get an appointment with our doctor, do we need to sell our house to buy health care for our parents, can we get a job that isn’t a 0-hour contract, or minimum wage, can we go to university or are the bills too steep?
Does God care? As a Christian, should I be investing my time into politics? Should I vote? Or should I be praying for God to take control? What does the bible say about the general election?
The bible has a lot to offer on all parts of our lives, and I thought I’d give this some extended thought in the run-up to the election.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2 that God wants us to pray for our leaders. He says “Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” (emphasis added, 1 Tim 2:1-3)
It’s how God wants us to live – to care about our government and what they do, to intercede in prayer on their behalf. This is particularly significant because Paul was writing under the rule of a tyrant. Nero was the emperor of Rome and he was a notoriously cruel leader – under his leadership, Christians were denied rights and some were slaughtered in public, burned, or fed to animals. Under these circumstances, Paul was still telling Timothy, and us, to pray for those who lead.
In Romans, Paul writes again of governing authorities. In the Message translation, chapter 13 is titled ‘To Be A Responsible Citizen’. As you might expect, it’s a pretty solid guide from Paul on how to live pleasing God – just as relevant now as it was then.
“All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order… If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible.” Rom 13:1-2, MSG
A government who keeps the peace is what God seeks, and submitting to that is honouring God. If the government does not ask us to break God’s laws, we should submit to them, as this is what God asks of us.
If they do ask us to break God’s law, then God allows us to rebel, like Peter and the apostles in Acts 5. They were brought before the High Council and told not to teach in Jesus’ name. Instead of submitting to this, they spoke out, saying “It’s necessary to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29, MSG)
We should never have had to be under the rule of anyone other than God – He created us and so we should submit only to Him. But the fall happened and we became separated from Him. He has appointed kings and rulers, but every single one is human and flawed – each one has failed in some way.
God created us with free will: the freedom to choose. We live in a fallen world and there are some hard choices we have to make, but we should face these situations with the advice given in Philippians: “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” (Phil 4:6, NLT)
We should be praying for our leaders, and other world leaders. We should be praying about the forthcoming election. We should be praying for God’s wisdom on who we should be voting for. We should be being responsible citizens as outlined in Romans. We should be challenging the government if we believe they are not allowing us to live our lives the way God would like us to. And to do that, we need to vote.