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Ed: A lot of people are feeling discouraged by that toxic political culture. Why do you think believers should be engaged in the democratic process? Why shouldn’t we disengage right now?
David: I think the main reason is because we have been given grace from God that can be used for other people’s good. That’s one of the things I walk through in the Before You Vote book. We don’t have a clear command from God and scripture about voting, partly because God doesn’t address democratic elections in the first century or before that. But we do have a clear picture that when we have been given grace from God, we are to steward this for the good of others and the glory of God’s name. It’s a privilege we have to speak into who lead us and how we’re led, how laws are made, and how people are cared for according to those laws. This is a grace God’s given us. If we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we’re inevitably going to think through political issues that affect people around us. I think that picture of stewardship alone compels us to say, how can I use this grace God’s given me as as a citizen in a representative democratic government of the people, by the people, for the people? How can I use this? He’s entrusted to me to glorify him and lead to the good of others. I think that’s a really good thing for Christians to think through. How do we wisely steward this grace?
Ed: The New Testament was obviously written in the time of the Pax Romana, when the Roman empire ruled. There are obviously some differences between where we are now. You mentioned specifically that the Bible does not address democratic structures and processes. Why do those differences matter?
David: They matter because people’s lives are affected by the decisions that governments make. And as part of a representative democracy, we are a part of making those decisions and choosing leaders. This is not just an opportunity from God; we have a level of accountability before God. I thought about this a lot as I was writing this book. Throughout scripture we see leaders held accountable to God for how they govern, how they lead. And so as citizens in a representative democracy who have a voice in how that looks and our society around us, we have a responsibility before God, obviously not in a way that supersedes our responsibility to proclaim the gospel, to make disciples of the nations. The gospel is primary, but if we want to love our neighbors as ourselves, and do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), we’re going to think through this as citizens.
Ed: Pastors ask me about how to speak to their church on voting and related matters. You created this resource Before You Vote, which is available now. It features seven questions every Christian should ask. How should people be discipled about voting right now?
David: I sincerely hope that this short book will be a resource that can be helpful for pastors along those lines and ministry leaders. As we think through how do we vote in our own lives, then we ask how do we shepherd our people? Everything in the book is for a pastor or church leader. What I’m trying to do is speak clearly where God has spoken, but not go beyond what God has said. I think that’s where we get into danger. I’ll readily confess, I’m not a perfect pastor. I don’t do everything as I ought; I’m continually growing. But what I want to do is to show them what God’s Word says.
What are the political issues around us that are biblical far before they are political issues? When we think about abortion or marriage, for example, these are clearly biblical issues that honestly, as a pastor for a long time, I totally ignored. I just kind of put them on the shelf as political issues. Then one week I was studying Psalm 139, and I was so convicted. What have I been doing? God creates every person in their mother’s womb. I realized I need to preach this and make sure this is clear. And so that’s just one example. But that’s also where we have to be really careful, because if we’re not careful, we can start to pick and choose different issues, according to a particular party or leaning or preference. But to really be faithful, you have to preach through all of God’s Word. You can’t do that in the month of October before the election, but that’s the long game.
In October, what I’m trying to do in the church I pastor is to say, let’s cling tightly to Jesus and his Word, but let’s realize that his Word doesn’t tell us exactly who to vote for in a particular election. Let’s make sure that we have good, healthy conversations with one another, as followers of Christ about these issues, but we don’t make them a test of orthodoxy. We want to make sure we don’t divide where God has not called us to divide. And that’s what we’re tempted to do all over the place right now.