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Some people wonder, if they vote for a candidate who holds some immoral view, are they having fellowship with evil (Ephesians 5:11; Romans 1:32). Or some may think that a candidate with a history of personal immorality cannot rule wisely (Proverbs 29:2; Luke 16:10).
These principles should be considered. But usually there is more than this to be considered.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 – The Scriptures provide us completely to every good work. They are God’s perfect and complete guide in the decisions of life. We are responsible to study God’s word so we know His will. This would include knowing His will regarding civil government.
God is in charge, and His will should prevail in all things, specifically in regard to those who serve in public office – Daniel 4:25.
Far too often people base their votes on tradition, family history, or promises of material prosperity. Those who respect the Bible should instead vote for those who would achieve the purposes that God intends for government to accomplish.
Proverbs 29:2 – When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.
See also Acts 17:11; Joshua 1:8; Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Psalms 119:47,48,97-99; 19:7-11.
God ordained government to punish the evildoer and to reward and protect those who do good. Government exists to restrict evil people from harming upright citizens – 1 Peter 2:11-15; Romans 13:1-7; Acts 22:24-29; 23:12-33; 25:10-12; Esther 4:8-16.
Christians should pray for civil rulers that we might live quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness – 1 Timothy 2:1,2.
So. God has revealed his overall purpose for government, but He has not revealed which specific individuals might serve His purpose best in office. This means we should pray and work to bring about the overall purposes of government that God has revealed, then we trust Him to provide what He knows to be best.
This may be compared to providing for a family. God’s word teaches the general principle that I am responsible to provide for my family (1 Timothy 5:8), but it does not tell me what specific job I should hold or where I should live. So I should pray and work to obtain a job that meets my family’s needs. Then I trust God to provide what He knows to be best.
Likewise, godly citizens should pray and vote for officials who will achieve the purposes for which God ordained government: restraining those who do evil and protecting those who do good so that good people may peaceably live godly lives. Then we must trust God to overrule in the affairs of men to do what He knows is best.
It follows that Bible believers should focus on issues of moral, religious, and family values as revealed in Scripture. These should take priority over issues of physical or material advantages.
Some are concerned about issues such as abortion and homosexuality. These are essential, but what about other moral issues, such as gambling, divorce, pornography, drug abuse, transgenderism, religious freedom, feminism, roles of men and women in the home, authority of parents, spanking, and problems in public education such as evolution, sex education, etc.?
Likewise, some people evaluate the personal morality of candidates in areas such as adultery or lying. But what about other issues such as divorce, alcohol use, pornography, business ethics, profanity, racial views, gambling, and even tobacco use? And what about the candidate’s personal religious views? Must we require him to be of a particular religious background?
And many candidates have changed from their past views or conduct. Many people dig into a candidate’s past to find immoral conduct or objectionable political views. But what if a candidate has matured and overcome past problems or changed views?
Obviously, the point is that evaluating candidates can become very complex.
The problem is complicated by the fact that the conduct and views of most candidates is nearly always in some ways objectionable. We almost never find candidates who uphold and practice Biblical standards in every aspect of their public and private life. I doubt that any of us have ever voted for anyone with whom we agreed 100% regarding every issue of politics and personal conduct. And if we knew more about the person, we would probably find more things with which we disagree.
And regardless of their personal views, government officials enforce and implement bad laws that already exist regarding abortion, gambling, homosexual marriage, divorce, etc. Legislators finance schools and colleges that defend evolution, abortion, homosexuality, feminism, etc.
These and many other responsibilities involve the candidates that we elect in numerous difficult moral and religious issues. Must we agree with all their decisions in every case? If they do something with which we disagree, have we had fellowship with error?
We are given a slate of candidates from whom we must choose. Usually we consider few, if any, of them to be perfect or ideal. So we must choose which ones we hope will do the best job.
When we make such a choice, no one thinks that our vote means we agree with the candidate about everything. It is generally understood that we are simply voting for the one we think is the better choice (or in some cases the one who is the least bad choice).
Voting for political candidates is not like choosing church leaders. God has set specific standards church leaders must meet (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). But we have no such list of qualifications for government officials. Rather we have general principles regarding the purpose of rulers, so we must choose who we believe will be the best from among less-than-ideal choices.
Voting for rulers is more like choosing a job. When we choose a job, the company for which we work and the people with whom we work are usually less than ideal. Nevertheless, we choose them because they meet a need in our lives. So long as we personally practice and stand for truth, we are not responsible for the errors of the company even though we chose to work for them.
In the same way, when we vote for rulers we will often find that the government and the officials are less than ideal. Nevertheless, we choose them because they meet a need in our lives. If we personally practice and stand for truth, we are not responsible for the errors of the government and its officials, even though we chose to vote for them.
In many ways my vote is similar to paying taxes. The Bible requires us to pay taxes, even if those taxes support things we believe to be wrong (such as issues already listed). The first-century Roman government was just as corrupt, if not more so, than ours; but Jesus and Paul still said to pay taxes. See Romans 13:1-7; Matthew 22:17-21.
So I must pay taxes even when I know government officials sometimes use the funds wrongly. God does not hold me accountable for the improper use of my tax money. Does it not follow in the same way that, if I vote for the ruler who I believe will do the best job, then I am not responsible for any wrongs he does in policy or personal conduct?
So, I should use my vote and my influence as a citizen to encourage righteousness rather than wickedness. But it is understood that my taxes and my vote will virtually never support complete righteousness.
In carrying out His purposes, God has often used people who were in some ways sinful. In particular, He has placed in office political rulers whom He knew were in some ways wrong.
God chose king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4), Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1), and various kings of Israel such as Jehu (2 Kings 9 & 10), etc. These men were all idol worshipers. God did not make them practice sin, but He placed them in office even knowing they were sinners, so they could do a job that needed to be accomplished.
God repeatedly upheld King David as the standard for rulers, yet even David was guilty of adultery and murder for which he repented (2 Samuel 11 & 12). Few Old Testament kings lived up to the standard of David, yet God still put those kings in office. He urged them to do the right and rebuked their errors, but He was not accountable for their sins even though He put them in office. (See 1 Kings 15:3-5; 11:3,33; 14:8; 2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 34:2; etc.)
Why would not the same thing be true regarding our vote? Just as God placed flawed men in office so He could use them to achieve His purposes for government, so we likewise at times vote for the best people available, even though they are flawed in their views and personal conduct.
Is God having fellowship with sin if someone He puts in office does wrong? Surely not. Does God understand the concept that the person who is unfaithful in little will be unfaithful in much (Luke 16:10)? Of course, He does. Yet He still puts such people in office in order to achieve His purposes. So why would the same thing not be true for us in our voting?
We must always remember that God is in charge, and His will must prevail. But the principle we consider here is the fact that, when we use our influence to vote for the one we believe is the best option, we often know they are flawed. That does not mean we did wrong to vote for them, but only that we viewed them as the best choice that we had at the time.
My conclusion is that, in choosing a candidate, a Christian’s first consideration should be choosing people who will accomplish God’s purpose for government. We should not make our choice primarily for material prosperity, personal favoritism, or past tradition.
We should use our vote to help choose those who we believe will best use the law to protect our families and God’s people from being harmed by evil people. We should vote for those who we believe will best accomplish God’s purposes on earth. That does not mean we must approve of everything they believe or practice.
So we pray and vote for the ones we hope will do the most good and the least harm. Then we must trust God to overrule in the affairs of men to do what He knows to be best.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2018
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.