Kenya’s 2017 General Election is just a month away and I can’t help but wonder, how would Jesus vote?
If you are a Christian, you have probably wondered how you should go about choosing a presidential candidate. Who do you vote for when every name on the list seems tainted by past and present scandals? Does God approve opting for the lesser of two evils? And what about abstaining from voting entirely, would I be absconding my civic duties and thus disobeying Romans 13?
These are difficult questions. Okay, maybe they are easy for some Christians reading this; but I know enough people who find these questions paralyzing. I happen to be one of them. How does a Christian vote with a clear conscience when he or she knows she will be choosing a sinner either way? One more tough question: Should Christians only vote for Christian candidates?
A Democratic Kingdom?
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in November 11 1947:
‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
His point is self-explanatory, but there are many times we have been tempted to think that a democratic government is the ideal form of government. Well, the truth is that even a perfect democracy has its flaws, and one of the biggest flaws of such a government happens to be the biggest flaw in every other government: it is made up of human being.
The problem with the world is that it is made up of sinful human beings. This means that no matter who we vote for, we can almost be assured that they will let the country down in one way or another. But even before I go deep into the depravity of humanity, another question must first be answered, is our way of choosing leaders (democracy) God’s choice way of choosing leaders?
In other words, have we considered that perhaps we are finding it difficult to decide who God wants us to vote for because we are already working within a system that is fundamentally flawed? The Bible does not event hint at the possibility that a democratic form of government is the biblical way. In fact, all we get from the Bible about the process of selecting leaders is what Paul says in Romans 13:1;
‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.’
The implications of this passage are staggering. In essence, the passage seems to imply that all forms of government, whether socialist, democratic, communist… have been instituted by God. God has ordained them in their respective times and places and we better get in line and follow the rules of the land in which we find ourselves. This also means that voting for ANY leader in a democratic process will not guarantee that life will be better under his leadership.
A Timeless Warning About Earthly Leaders
What, then, is the biblical way? Should we only vote for Christians? Or should we establish a monarchy (or even better, a theocracy)? Lest we forget, God was the first to raise an objection to Israel’s request for a human king when they entered the promised land.
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.
And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.
He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” [1 Samuel 8:10-18]
Now read the warnings of Samuel about kings and think about the current leadership in your democratically constituted government. Look, for instance, at this part “… He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants…” Suddenly, thoughts of corruption, land grabbing and oppressive taxes begin to take shape.
What God said about a monarchy back then is the same thing He says about democracies today. Same frogs, different ponds. One may point out the fact that God still “chose” kings for Israel even though He fundamentally objected to the idea of a human king. He had His purposes for choosing both “good” and “bad” kings for Israel, but that is a topic for another day.
The Hope for Your Vote
It would appear, from the passage above, that God has never planned to have a human being on the throne of this fallen world. The fact that we have to choose earthly “supreme leaders” in the first place is a problem. In fact, it is a two-fold problem; we are choosing between fallen human beings, and we are fallen human beings doing the choosing.
How then shall we vote? Or shall we all then burn our votes and sit at home on election day because it won’t make any difference whom we vote for? Not so fast. We have established that no amount of diligence or research when choosing a candidate (which is important) will guarantee us a “good” government. What we need is a change of focus, a shift in our perspective. It turns out that the questions I started with are only difficult because we are approaching them from the wrong box.
The question that every Christian needs to answer when making a choice is this: Where lies my hope for my country? Is your hope in the leaders? The manifestos that the candidates have published? Is your hope in the track record of the candidates? Their promises? Their sincerity? Their professional background?…
If your hope is in any of these things that are humanly cultivated, then it does not matter if you vote for the person who will bring the most good to the country. In fact, even if you do your due diligence, vote for the best candidate and that candidate lives up to his promises, this will in no way be the proof that you did the will of God in your voting decision.
If we are truly in Christ, we must make a clear distinction between God’s standards and the standards of this world. We must be in this world but living by the rules of another world, the world to come. This distinction can only be seen, not in our voting patterns, but in our voting attitudes. We must put our hope in the right place, and this place is: The fact that God is on the throne.
Even after I have done my humanly best, the choice I make must be submitted to God’s will. God is the ultimate decider. He is the one who will decide which leader we deserve at this season of our lives.
This does not mean that my “voting” is inconsequential, it only means that my “vote” is inconsequential. Yes, there is a difference between your vote and your voting. There is a difference between the act of marking an ‘X’ on the ballot paper and the attitude with which you mark that ‘X’. This is the difference between a Christian’s vote and the vote of any other citizen.
It means that two Christians may vote for opposing candidates and it never be a question of one making the right choice while the other makes the wrong choice. It also means that two Christians may vote for the same candidate and one of them ends up making the right choice while the other makes the wrong choice. The difference is in the posture of our hearts, the source of our hope. The rest is detail.
PS: If we really must put our hope on any human leader, then let that leader be the man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us as the atoning sacrifice for our sin. He is coming back again, to fully rule the world He created and over the people He purchased with His blood. Are you a citizen of this kingdom?
PPS: God willing, a group of Christian friends will gather in Nairobi tomorrow evening (Friday, July 7) to discuss the topic: “Christianity and Politics”. I plan to attend the forum. Would you care to join me? Follow this link for more details: Meaty Forum