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The Truth of how Christians should think about voting?

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Like moths to a flame so are we drawn to the unfolding non-fiction-fiction of the 2016 Presidential Election. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are like moths to an apocalyptic bonfire. We, as a nation, so it seems, are flying at full speed toward our own destruction cheering and singing along the way.  And with eyes glazed burning for new revelation, we watch yearning to find that one final straw that will break the camel’s back, i.e. our conscience, leading us to the voting box confident that we have finally received enough information to make a God-approved choice for president, attaining the inner affirmation that we have the endorsement from heaven.  And every day we wake up to the alerts of “newly leaked emails” and T.V. ads smearing the opposing candidate’s self-tarnished reputation.  And every day, as a result, the camel gets back up and begins wandering with a limp back and forth between the “vote against” and the “non-vote” of neutrality and innocence for the simple fact that a “vote-for” is quite unthinkable .  For some of us, the camel kneels and prays for another straw and another miraculous broken back. To our great surprise, a whole bale of straw falls from the sky in 650,000 newly discovered emails, 5 more woman bringing accusations of sexual assault, or a dark horse candidate gaining steam in Utah.   (We have to imagine that God has heard some rather strange requests and misguided tributes of praise in 2016.  Prayers like, “Please God, help people to see that Trump really is your Chosen One.”  And others such as, “Oh thank you, God, for Donald Trump! Thank you for sending us a Savior that will bring us back to the Promised Land and rescue us from our enemies on every side.”  And even stranger still, “Hey God, what’s up with Satan dressed like a woman? I always imagined the Beast as a man.”)  

As much as we tend to think that “the more information we have the better,” the fact is, this overwhelming dumping of “truth” seems to be taking an unforeseen toll upon us all.  Our heads spin dizzy from this “new report” and our fascination with “revealed secrets” has us longing for more, believing we are getting closer to the truth.  But the truth is…well, that’s just it. What is the truth in all of this?  Where do we go to find it?  Fox news or CNN?  Does Hannity have it or is it Don Lemon who is in the know?  The sources we once trusted to be telling us the truth, now tell us two completely different stories about the same event or person. Current polls suggest a greater distrust and suspicion of media sources than ever before. The conflicting narratives are disorienting and cause us to question the identity of our character in the unfolding drama. We begin to ask ourselves questions, such as, “Should I as a Christian identify with Trump supporters even for virtuous and noble reasons?” And, “Can I be okay voting for a woman like Hillary even with all the corruption that seems to surround her?” Additionally, other haunting questions emerge in our hearts, such as, “Will I really be responsible for the sins of the future president if I don’t exercise my right to vote? Will God understand this terrible situation I’m in?”   These questions and many more plague our consciences as election day is upon us.

So, again, I ask myself (and you), what is the truth and where do we go to find it? As one who seeks to follow Jesus and worship Him with all that I am and do, let me offer three overly simplified observations that should guide us in the days ahead.  (Feel free to skip to my conclusion, “So…how should we vote?” if you don’t have time to read the whole post).

  1. The Truth is a Person

Before Jesus was flogged, mocked and crucified, he was interrogated by Pilate, a senior Roman governmental official of Judea at the time.  Pilate asked Jesus if he was King of the Jews and Jesus responded saying, “My kingdom is not of the world…You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:33-37).  And Pilate responded with a question that many in the world today are asking and seeking answers to, saying, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38).  The irony of the question is apparent.  This official charged with the duty of deciding Jesus’ guilt or innocence is unconcerned with factual evidence that would inform his verdict. And if you keep reading in John 18:38-40, you may be shocked to find just how grave the consequences are for having no answer for such questions like his as we see Pilate release a robber instead of Jesus, who was innocent, for mere pragmatic reasons.

Such is the concept of truth for many today.  Facts are convenient as long as they serve to produce a favorable outcome.  Referring to our current election, this kind of pragmatism leads people to say things like, “It doesn’t matter what the friggin legal and ethics people say, we need to win this….”   Truth is foundational for morality and ethics.  And when truth is replaced with a prag-for-power mentality, the whole world suffers or, in Jesus’ case, the Son of God suffers and dies. Pragmatism, untethered from the truth, often leads to death.  

So what are we to do with this question: “What is truth?”  Jesus provides the answers for us, answers which Pilate would have done well to listen to.  In a discussion with his disciples, Jesus, in response to questions about finding the way to his Father’s house (i.e. the way to God), proclaims unashamedly that He is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6).  What an astounding and breathtaking claim! Many philosophers and teachers of his day sought to expound on the nature of reality asking and seeking to answer questions such as, “What is meaning and how do we find it? How do we know what we know? What or who is god? Where do we find true life?” The greatest of them would simply expound logical arguments hoping to provide proof for belief that reality is a certain way based on common axioms or first principles. And here is Jesus, not only proclaiming that in order to find the way to God and to true life one must come to him exclusively, but also in order for someone to know the truth about God they must believe in Him and the one who sent Him (Jn. 12:44-50). Here we see Jesus making an authoritative claim that the way in which one finds the truth about life in God is found in a person, not in a web of logical proofs and axioms.  In some sense, Jesus is the axiom or first principle by which God may be known and experienced.  And in knowing God, we begin to see the truth about all of reality. Therefore, knowing Jesus opens the door to finding true knowledge and gaining an understanding of life from a truly-true perspective.  

Thus, when questioned by Pilate, Jesus reveals his nature and purpose saying, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37).  Therefore, if we want to know the truth and have an anchored view of reality concerning who God is, what He has done and how to rightly view the world around us, Jesus says that we must come to him and listen to his voice.  Among all the contradictory and competing voices, there is one voice that will not lie to us or seek to deceive us for pragmatic reasons.  And Jesus says if we are of the truth, we will hear his voice.  So, the question for us is, where or how do we hear his voice?

  1. The Truth Shapes What We Value

In the previous chapter of John’s gospel (John 17), we can read Jesus’ longest recorded prayer.  In His prayer He makes a number of requests from His Father.  He asks the Father 1) to glorify the Son (v. 1, 5); 2) to keep the believers in His name (v. 11); 3) to keep them from the evil one (v. 15); 4) to sanctify them in the truth (v.17); 5) that the believers may be one (v.21-23) and 6) that the believers may be with Him in glory (v. 24).  What I believe is important to see in this prayer is the pivotal nature of just how God the Father will answer this prayer. Equally, we should see how this shapes what we value amidst a bewildering election cycle.  

There’s a lot to think through here so let me draw attention to the central idea.  The believers Jesus prayed for, whom the Father gave to Him, became believers through the words of truth that Jesus spoke to them.  And Jesus prays that these same believers will go on believing the truth, and in believing, be sanctified.  This word sanctify simply means for something or someone to be set apart for a special or holy purpose. Just as Jesus is not of the world neither are those who believe in His words and follow after him.  Just as Jesus was sent into this world for a sanctified purpose, so also are those who believe in Him (v. 18).  God answers Jesus’ prayer by sanctifying the believers by the word of truth, which keeps them in His name, keeps them from the evil one, keeps them unified and keeps them on the road to be with Christ in glory.  And all of this glorifies the Son and the work that He accomplished on earth. Therefore, in order to hear the voice of truth, we must go to that word in which Jesus asked the Father to sanctify those who believe.

The result of belief in Christ’s work and word is a new identity for believers. Our new identity as believers is now one in which we identify with the truth and in identifying with the truth, we identify with Jesus. Thus, we are set apart from the world in its pursuits, its definitions of meaning, its value propositions, its understanding of the nature of reality, its promulgation of human autonomy that has no regard for God or His words. Our sanctification by the truth will look like greater expressions of devotion to Christ and simultaneously greater real-time manifestations of death to sin and the kingdoms where sin reigns.  In other words, our being sanctified by the truth will cause believers, for all intents and purposes, talk like Jesus, love like Jesus, sacrifice like Jesus, live like Jesus, and perhaps even, vote like Jesus. I choked on that last one.  What does that even mean, Jake? How did Jesus vote?  How would he vote today?  Let’s consider one final point as we seek to understand our role as Christians in this election.

  1. The Truth is King of a Kingdom

“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world” (Jn. 18:36).  Let me offer a few observations here.  

First, the kingdom of the King, Jesus, is not of or from this world.  His kingdom is of/from heaven and not born or derived of/from the earth and its affairs (see also Jn. 8:23; 15:18-19; 17:14-16).  His kingship was not given to him as a result of human will or action.  His kingship comes from the Father and is in no way dependent on human desire (Jn. 6:15).  

Second, because His kingdom is from above and is not a result of human means of attaining power, he says to Pilate, “My servants would have been fighting…” (Jn. 18:36).  This is not an exhaustive statement about war or the role of Christians in fighting or not fighting for just causes.  Rather, Jesus was declaring to Pilate and the world that he does not need help setting up his kingship or his kingdom.  He is king apart from any kind of democratic vote or conflict for power.  His means for becoming king were counterintuitive and quite unpredictable.  No one foresaw that the inauguration of His kingdom with Him as its rightful king would require Him to first suffer, die, and rise again, though the Scriptures pointed to this reality. His kingdom is a counter-kingdom, one in which the king displays His authority to rule and reign by first humbling himself and suffering in His lone conquest of sin and death.

Third, as servants or citizens of His kingdom (Phil. 3:20), so shall we live.  Jesus explained to Pilate that servants of his kingdom do not act like servants of the kingdom that is of/from this world.  Just as the inauguration of His kingdom is counterintuitive, so also are the actions of the citizens of that kingdom.  As citizens of this counter-kingdom, our minds are to be set on things of the heavenly realm where Christ is king.  If you’re wondering what that looks like for you as a Christian, I would suggest that you read the New Testament looking for the Apostles’ imperatives or commands to local churches and individual believers.  For example, being a citizen of the kingdom means we are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1).  This means we, as citizens, are to be done with sexual immorality, all impurity, covetousness, filthy or foolish talk, crude joking (Eph. 5:3-4).  Instead, we are to walk as children of light, seeking to please the Lord, being wise, making the best use of our time, not getting drunk, but being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:8-18; my paraphrase).  This is just scratching the surface of all that God wants for citizens of his kingdom.  Yes, we will do and be these things imperfectly while in this present age.  Nevertheless, we are called to pursue the holiness that he alone has purchased for us by His own blood.   As blood-bought citizens, this is our holy calling in Christ Jesus and will shape the way we do life on earth.

So…how should we vote?

This blog post has been longer than I first wanted.  But as I began to think, pray and study, I saw it as opportunity to help provide perspective to the members of Waukesha City Church and Christians elsewhere, assuming anyone has the time or desire to read this.  So let me try to bring these points home and offer a summary of how I think we as Christians should vote.  I have argued that three realities should guide our thinking as we approach the ballot box: 1) The truth is a person, 2) The truth shapes what we value, and 3) The truth is king of a kingdom.  I do not believe it is my place as one on a team of pastors of a local church to tell the members of the church whom to vote for.  However, I do think it is appropriate for pastors everywhere to help those within their care to think about why we should or shouldn’t vote and what specifically we should vote for.  In light of this, I would suggest that first and foremost a Christian should seek to have their conscience informed by the three realities that I have written about above.  As we have our consciences and view of reality formed by these three things, we will be concerned with the values and policies that correspond with Christ and His kingdom.

A belief that suggests that there is no overlap between life on this earth and the kingdom of God is simply an unbiblical view and is in need of correction (perhaps in a future blog post).  If Christians are to have love for God and love for neighbor, this means we are to seek that which is best for our neighbor.  So we ask the question: which party or platform of policies represent those views which correspond with the ethics of the kingdom and love for neighbor? Additionally, we must ask, does the candidate represent the platform on which he or she stands in a way that is trustworthy.  For example, which platform and candidate upholds a biblical view of marriage, a biblical view of the unborn, a biblical view of women’s rights, etc., and can we trust to a great degree based on their history that they will seek to enact those policies. This is the hard work for us as citizens of the kingdom of God.  Our consciences must be informed by the truth, His Words, and His kingdom.  This takes work, study, much contemplation, prayer, dialogue, humility to learn from others and a willingness to have our beliefs challenged.  So while I cannot tell you who specifically to vote for, I can certainly tell you to submit yourself to the king of the everlasting kingdom whose rule and dominion will go on forever and ever even after this election cycle.  I can urge you to let your conscience be informed by the truth.  I can exhort you to seek first the kingdom of God.  I can lovingly challenge you to see what’s at stake not only for you and your family, but also for your neighbor.  While I cannot and should not suggest for whom you should vote, I can and should encourage you to let Jesus and his kingdom be the guiding factors in your decision. As Jesus said to Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Are we listening?

 

Author: Jake Cadwell

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