Elections are always a tense time in our society. As most of us cast a vote this week, we will do so hoping our candidate will win and shape our province the way we believe is best. Elections sometimes feel like the Super Bowl – many of us will gather around our televisions cheering our “team” to victory.
Elections are also tense because they can cause deep divides in our relationships. If you come from a family with strong political loyalty – one that you don’t share, it can be very difficult to have civilized conversations with each other when elections come around. The truth is – our political worldviews don’t necessarily fall into right or wrong categories – they are often based on our consciences and a variety of different priorities. Unfortunately, this perspective has seemingly been largely abandoned, which makes for some pretty ugly political dialogue.
Thankfully, there are some biblical principles which can help us navigate through elections. Although much damage can be done when the gospel is transformed from a theological truth into a political one, the Bible does speak to how Christians should conduct themselves in a highly politized culture.
1. Pray for our leaders.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2, that we are to “ to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”
Notice the phrase that God “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth”? That’s pretty remarkable given the context of Paul’s time. For Paul, those “in authority” over him were completely antagonistic to the gospel. Paul, who at one point persecuted Christians, understood the need for political leaders to come to faith in Christ. Regardless of who gets elected this week, it will be the duty of Christians to pray for our leaders and give thanks for them. Public life is an extremely demanding vocation – what better testimony can we have as Christians then to pray for our leaders and seek a life of peace? Furthermore, a good argument can be made that Canadian Christians are on the verge of experiencing persecution. Central to the Christian faith is the precept of loving one’s neighbour, a teaching that makes no room for the dehumanization of the “other.” Imagine a world in which our political leaders were committed to that truth?
2. Don’t demonize the other.
Dehumanizing the other is a major problem in our culture. Part of me simply wanted to vacate the internet this election because I couldn’t believe how demeaning things have become. I’ve seen lots of memes with messages calling people stupid, dumb, and ignorant for supporting a particular party. For some reason, we haven’t figured out that the words we use on social media aren’t spoken into a vacuum but to real human beings.
What exactly do those comments and harsh memes accomplish? Not much I’m afraid. They are bound to cause division. Being passionate is one thing, but allowing that passion to get to a point of name-calling is not helping at all. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christians were known to discuss politics in a level-headed, considerate, respectful, and charitable manner? I’ve always found it fascinating that Jesus used a despised outsider as an example in one of his most famous parables. I think there is a serious lesson to be learned by this – we need to be careful we don’t use labels as weapons.
3. Remember the bigger picture.
However, our main goal as followers of Christ is not to establish a “kingdom of this world” (John 18:36) but to proclaim that God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ, “who purchased our freedom, and forgave our sins.” (Colossians 1:14) Regardless of who sits at Queens Park, God is still seated on his throne. Sadly, we often put our faith in earthly powers and lose sight of the bigger picture. While it is important to be an informed voter and participate in our civic duties, we should never forget that long after these days are forgotten, the Good News of Christ’s redemption will remain. (1 Peter 1:25)
So whoever we vote for this week, let’s pray for our leaders, treat each other with respect, and remember that the cross, and not the colour red, orange, green or blue, should be the most important thing that defines us.