Over the past several weeks, as the presidential election campaign has heated up, I have had several Christians say to me, “I am so disappointed with the quality of the candidates who are running this year, I may just sit out the election and not vote at all.” Just today, James Dobson publicly stated that he would not vote in the presidential race if John McCain is the Republican Party’s nominee. I began to think about how such thinking fits into a biblical perspective on the Christian’s relationship to government.
Romans 13:1-7 is the biblical passage which provides the most comprehensive instruction in the Scriptures regarding the believer’s relationship to government. In that passage we learn that every government is ordained by God and that Christians are to submit to the government, including paying taxes and demonstrating honor and respect for those who lead. The question is, then, is the believer also obligated by this passage to vote?
The answer to this question is found in understanding the comprehensive nature of the submission to which Christians are called in this passage. There is no question that the passage instructs us to pay our taxes, and there is no qualification on that requirement. In other words, we are not given the option to pay taxes provided we approve of the purpose for which those taxes will be used. Even though the government may use those taxes in support of such issues as abortion and homosexual rights, we are told that we must pay our taxes, thereby demonstrating our submission to the government and to our Lord.
I believe the same principle applies to our voting for a presidential candidate. Our government has given every citizen the right to vote for the candidate of his or her choice. Although the government does not require that its citizens vote, such an awesome responsibility is one which should not be ignored. Christians should demonstrate their submission to the government and their good citizenship by voting for the candidate they believe will best represent their values and interests—even if the choice between candidates is less than optimal.
It is rather naïve to think that a candidate must agree with one’s viewpoints on every issue in order to be worthy of one’s vote. There has never been a president—even those for whom I voted—with whom I agreed on every issue. But when given the choice of two options, I chose the candidate with whom my views most closely agreed and cast my ballot.
Another important biblical passage on this issue of the Christian’s relationship to government is 1 Peter 2:13-17. In it, Peter says that we are to “submit for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” One of the human institutions which is a part of government is the Supervisor of Elections Office and the entire system of voter registration. If Christians are to demonstrate their submission to a watching world, they can best do so by registering to vote and then following through by actually voting.
Every day Christians in many nations around our world are imprisoned or martyred for their faith. They live in countries such as