We do our best at In His Image not to involve ourselves too heavily in the political realm. Politics is generally a dirty business inhabited by the most dishonest, amoral, basest of people. Christians are understandably uncomfortable with voting for “lesser of two evils” when the choices look ugly, like they frequently do in American politics. This leads many Christians to question whether they should vote at all. It is important for Christians to think Biblically about this issue, particularly with a national election ending tomorrow. Should Christians participate in a political system as corrupt as America?
To answer this question, we need to go back in time to the first century Roman Empire. It was very corrupt. Nero was the Emperor. Pedophilia was the norm among the aristocracy. Slavery was acceptable and sexual abuse of slaves was commonplace. Corruption was rampant. Society was divided between Roman citizens, with rights and privileges’, and non-citizens with fewer rights. It was also divided between the Greeks and Romans who regarded themselves as civilized, and the rest of the world that the elites referred to as barbarians. This is the world and legal system the Apostle Paul lived in.
Obviously the Roman Empire was more corrupt, more wicked, and more evil than what we deal with in America (though we are closing in on Rome slowly but surely). Paul was born a Roman citizen. As such, he had privileges beyond what most in the empire had. Consistently, throughout the book of Acts, we see Paul using his rights as a Roman to advance the Gospel and to get better conditions for himself. Let’s look at a few examples.
In Acts 22, Paul speaks to the Sanhedrin and they do not like what he has to say. This results in a riot in Jerusalem. Roman soldiers have to come in and rescue Paul. Of course, they have no idea who he is, and they tie him up to scourge him. Scourging was a common torture technique of the time, designed to cause the prisoner to divulge any information the questioners wanted. Paul, however, had an ace up his sleeve. As a Roman citizen, Paul could not be scourged, or even bound without a judgment against him. Read through the exchange Paul has with his captors in Acts 22:25-29.
“And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.”
Notice, Paul used the rights he had as a Roman citizen simply to avoid a whipping. Paul uses this status again when he stands before Festus. Festus wanted to make the Jews happy so he tried to convince Paul to go to Jerusalem for judgment. Knowing what would happen there Paul refuses and appeals to a right he had as a Roman citizen: the right of a trial before Caesar: Look at Acts 25:10-11 “Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.” Festus recognizes Paul has that right and reserves him to be sent to Caesar. Later, at the end of the book of Acts, Paul is in Rome and he spends two years in a hired house. Given he is a prisoner, this makes no sense, unless you understand Paul is a Roman citizen. He could choose to rent a house and live in house arrest awaiting trial.
How do these actions of Paul inform our actions as Christians? Consider our American rights as citizens of the United States. Provided you have not committed a felony or otherwise had your voting rights removed by process of law, every American citizen is entitled to vote. Clearly, Paul had no problem invoking his rights as a Roman citizen, even in a much more corrupt society than we live in. As Christians, we should not feel bad invoking our rights as citizens of America.
Of course, having the right to vote and agreeing to exercise it does not tell you who you should vote for. I’ve been vocal previously in saying that a Christian cannot vote for national candidates of the Democratic party, simply because of wicked stands they take on abortion, gay marriage, transgenderism, and so on. That means if a Christian votes, they must investigate other parties. The Republican platform is infinitely better than the Democratic one, but each candidate must be evaluated individually, as many, like the senator from my home state, are wishy-washy at best on the key Biblical issues. The Libertarian party, which is popular among many younger conservatives, also must be ruled out as it takes poor positions on things like abortion. Whether you choose to vote or not, understand these three things:
- Voting is not wrong for a Christian in the American context.
- Who you vote for is ultimately a moral choice.
- The Bible should be the ultimate decider of who a Christian votes for
While there is no requirement for a Christian to vote, it is not wrong to do so, nor should Christians feel guilty for engaging in politics.
Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.