Friday, 21 February 2014
Should Christians vote?
South Africa, the country where I live, is going through a rough time. Unemployment continues to rise while those who are fortunate enough to have work are having to scale down their lifestyles due to the soaring cost of living. Petrol has doubled in price since 2007 which has caused a ripple effect into almost every other industry, electricity prices have gone crazy despite Eskoms faltering ability to meet the demand for it and on top of all that, the government implemented its highly controversial e-tolling system in December 2013 onto all of the already existing highways in Gauteng, making the major routes unaffordable to many of us. We are among the worlds worst rated countries when it comes to AIDs/HIV and violent crimes such as hijackings, murder and rape. There is incredible corruption within the government as billions of rands of tax payers money continuously goes "missing". And while the people continue to suffer more and more the president thought that this would be a good time to do a R200 million plus renovation on his home (also out of the peoples pockets). Yes, South Africans are hurting. Yet despite the elections being around the corner most people carry little hope for seeing any change at the top.
So this brings me to my question which is also the title of this post, should Christians vote? That is something that I have been debating in my head for the last 4 or so years. I spent the majority of that time thinking that in the future I would no longer be marking my X at the ballots, mostly based on the following reasons.
Are we like Israel putting our trust in man rather than God?
In 1 Samuel 8 we read the story of Israel requesting of Samuel that he would give them a king to rule over them like the other nations had. The Lords reply in verse 7 is sobering, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me." Does our hope lie with man or with God? Do we place more trust in political parties than we do in prayer?
Do not overcome evil with evil but by doing good. (Romans 12:21)
Jesus' words here along with his teachings in the sermon on the mount about not resisting an evil person but rather to "turn the other cheek" (Matt 5:39) are in total contrast to the ways of the world. Any politician who preached non resistance or "blessed are the persecuted" would have a very short career.
And herein lies the greatest issue that I have with voting because it always feels like your choice is to go with the lesser of the evils. Sort of like an exercise in damage limitation. There is simply no government
Jesus was not interested in the "power over" type of governance that the Kingdoms of the world operate by.
Gods ways are not our ways and his kingdom is run vastly different than the kingdoms of men. Some have described His as the unkingdom of God or the upside down kingdom. His kingdom is characterized by acts of servant hood rather than exercising power and authority over others. In Mathew 20:26-27 Jesus rebukes the worldly kind of leadership.
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave." Similarly we read in Mathew 23:11-12
But he who is greatest among you will be your servant, and whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Having said that, there is another side to the argument
One of my friends said that he does not vote because anything done without faith is sin (Romans 14:23) which is a valid argument. But it got me thinking about what kind of faith we are talking about here. If the question is "do I have faith that someone else could be doing a better job", then I would have to answer in the affirmative that I do indeed have faith that someone could be doing a better job.
And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." Mathew 10:42
The above verse also came to mind while meditating on these things. If my vote can help put someone in office who is willing to provide clean and running water into the poorer communities then on some level we are fulfilling this verse.
Similarly in our schools, if the required pass mark had been raised to 50%, only 24% of Matrics would have completed their schooling in 2013. Hardly a week goes by when we do not hear of a pupil stabbing a classmate to death or of an assault on a teacher. Many of my friends who struggled with drugs say that they were introduced to narcotics while still in primary school. As a parent of 2 young children I am deeply disturbed by the current trends and I would love to see someone in charge of education making some inroads into these problems.
So should Christians vote? Honestly, I still do not know. But regardless of whether one chooses to exercise their right to vote or not, there are things that I consider far more important which this little exercise has helped me to realise more deeply.
We are to be about our Fathers business. (Phil 4:8, Luke 2:49)
Jesus followers should always primarily be concerned with their Fathers kingdom. We certainly can and should be doing our all we can to better our communities. But this is to be done not by trying to make the kingdoms of the world godly, they currently belong to the Devil (Mathew 4:9) and are under his sway (1 John 5:19). Instead, we should rather be focusing on bringing Gods kingdom to earth using his ways and his methods. Christianity and politics do not mix precisely because Christianity is about a counter kingdom. At this stage in history, it exists in parallel with other kingdoms and the two cannot be yoked married.
Change starts with us.
It's one thing to complain about poverty, injustice, illness and education. It should not surprise us to see things going downhill as scripture has warned us to expect it. But we as citizens of heaven have been commissioned to feed the poor, look after the widows and orphans, heal the sick and preach the good news of Gods kingdom. We have far more reason to trust in the transforming power of God rather than the oppressive power of man which seeks only to conform others outward behaviors. As Paul said, let us overcome evil by doing good.