How to vote as a Christian in ANY election

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When it comes to politics people often have particularly strong views. Some are passionate about one specific party or one specific policy and they have strong views. Others have been around and voted over many years and have become jaded by the whole carnival and hold their jadedness vehemently. Others haven’t voted that much and are already apathetic about the process and the part they play in it and, almost paradoxically, they are boisterous about their apathy.

This article isn’t so much about anything specific in terms of parties or policies. The point of this article is to outline some of the key Biblical texts and principles that inform the Christian’s thinking about government, the Christian’s interaction with government and how the Christian goes about their role in choosing a government. And then also to outline some implications that flow out of those biblical guideposts that will inform how a Christian should vote in this, and any other, election.

So, four Biblical Principles

1) The Gospel is political

And it’s political in the sense that in the first century as soon as you began proclaiming that Jesus is Lord you were proclaiming that Caesar wasn’t. It was inherently and immediately political.

Julius Caesar had been declared to be a divine being. His adopted son Octavian – who later became known as Augustus Caesar – was therefore divi filius (son of God). Tiberius was the nest Caesar, he was Emperor during Jesus’ manhood reigning from 14 AD to 37 AD, was therefore also Son of God.

The Priene Calendar Inscription, dated 9BC, says that the birth of Augustus was the “beginning of the gospel (good news) for the world”.

The first verse of Mark’s gospel goes like this:

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God

If Jesus is King it means that Caesar isn’t. And so it is inherently political. Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He rules us and he rules our rulers. His rule is therefore immediate and his rule is also mediated.  And His Word warns rulers that their authority is given to them by him and how they use their authority will be assessed by him also.

2) There are things that are not Caesar’s

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem the week before he’s murdered it’s a tense time. It’s coming up to Passover, the city is filling up with people, political unrest is frothing and the Romans know it. As Jesus rides in on a donkey the people wave palm branches and proclaim him the King of Israel. What we might not be aware of is that palm branches were a symbol of Jewish nationalism. When they would mint illegal coins of an opposing Kingdom to the hated Roman empire they would stamp palm branches on the coins. And there they were waving them. To Rome it was like waving a red rag at a bull.

Political tension is at a fever pitch.

And then they come to him and ask:

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

It’s a trap. If he says yes the people will hate him. If he says no that’s treason, and the Romans can always find a spare cross somewhere. But it says:

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

And so Jesus makes a most amazing political statement. Some have said it is THE most amazing political statement. Not only is Jesus saying that Caesar is not at the top of the org chart he is also setting up the categories for the separation of church and state.

Caesar’s sphere exists within a greater sphere. Ultimate allegiance does not belong to Caesar. Jesus would not worship Caesar. But neither would he hate him, ignore him or slander him. He would give to him whatever is owed to him.

3) The government exists by God, from God and for God

Paul speaks at some length on governments and what they do and why they exist and how Christian should relate to them in Romans 13 where he says:

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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

There’s a lot of things to say about this passage, but four will do for now. First, all authorities that exist, including governments, have been established by God. Second, The role of the government is to do you good and to punish wrong. Third, secular governments – secular in the loose sense of “governments that are not ‘Christian’, whatever that means – are God’s servants. It’s possible to be a good government and do a good job of governing without being ‘Christian’ or run by Christians. Lastly, Christians should give governments what they owe them: taxes, revenue, respect and honour.

Paul has a bit more to say about governments and how Christians should relate to them in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 where he says:

I urge you then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Prayer for the government is the main way the Christian is called to interact with them. And the point is so that we can live peaceful lives of godliness. And it seems like this scenario pleases God, because in some way when the government rules well and Christians can get on living a life of godliness where we seek to do good and love those around us then we can get about the core business of holding out the gospel of life to all people.

What Jesus had done is something so radical. There is a new way for his people to occupy whatever country they were in. They didn’t have to control Rome, or hate Rome, or withdraw from Rome. They could love Rome without assimilating into Rome.

4) Loving God and Loving your Neighbour

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

(Mark 12:28-31)

This is really the principle that governs the whole of the Christian life, and so of course it should govern voting as well.

Loving God with all your mind means voting carefully. And loving your neighbour as yourself means voting carefully, because you know that how you vote affects others as well.

The Bible has lots of more to say about governments and how Christians should interact with them, but these are four key threads in that garment.

Now let’s turn to the practical implications that flow out from these four principles that will shape the HOW of voting.

Eight Implications for HOW to Vote

1) Vote for the good of others above yourself

This one comes out of the great commandment from Mark 12, but it’s all over the Bible and is really nice and explicit in Philippians 2:3-5:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

People normally vote for issues that immediately affect them. Parents with kids vote thinking about welfare, education, the NBN etc. And in one sense that makes a lot of sense simply because we’re inherently selfish to begin with, but also because it’s a lot easier and straightforward to vote for issues that impact on myself.

But the Christian way is to do nothing, including voting, out of selfish ambition but in instead in humility to value others above yourself. It’s not about what will benefit me the most. It’s about seeking to do good for others.

2) Christianity transcends the political spectrum and is more interesting

The political spectrum of right-wing/conservative and left-wing/progressive doesn’t work for the Christian voter. On some issues Christians will be right-wing, holding to the current definition of marriage for example. And on others we will be more left-wing, seeking a more humane response to genuine refugees and asylum seekers perhaps. This means we’ll be slightly annoying to both sides but it also means your position will be more nuanced and interesting.

3) Vote for the poor and for those who can’t speak for themselves

We will have a particular heart to care for the underprivileged and the weak in our society. And so as we seek to vote for the good of others we will lean towards the others such as the poor, single mothers, the unemployed, refugees, Aboriginals, the elderly, the handicapped, children, babies, foetuses. Those who are the weak and downtrodden in out society and those who cannot speak for themselves, such as children.

4) The economy is not everything

In the current discussion it can often sound as though the economy is everything. And while it is an important issue, a government needs to know how to run a nation, the economy isn’t everything.

Jesus taught us that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. And a nation’s life does not consist in the abundance of it’s possessions either.

Different Christians will disagree on economic policy while at the same time agreeing on the priority of the poor. One may believe the best way to help the poor is to strengthen businesses and grow the economy and therefore create jobs and the wealth will trickle down the social strata. Others may believe the best way to help the poor is to directly financially and systematically direct resources to the poor themselves. But both believe in helping the poor. The difference is in the fiscal strategy for doing so. The whole thing is a complex process.

5) Voting AS a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean voting FOR a Christian

Romans 13 shows us that a secular or non-Christian government is a completely legitimate government. Which means making sure we vote for a Christian candidate or a Christian party isn’t necessary.

It still might be a good idea, and being a Christian with a Biblical worldview might help, but it doesn’t guarantee that the candidate will be good at governing and being a politician.

We should vote for the best person for the job, and she may be a Christian but she equally may not be. And being a Christian isn’t necessary. We might vote for a Christian as the best option, but we equally might not.

6) Loving your neighbour means considering morality

It’s true that you cannot legislate righteousness, but it is equally true that God has designed the world to work a certain way and when we rebel against that created order it is painful and self-destructive. If everyone lied and murdered society just wouldn’t be as good. And so while it is complicated and disputed as to which issues of morality should be legislated and which should be left to individual freedom, this doesn’t mean that morality shouldn’t play any role.

And so as we consider what is best for others we will be considering issues like stem cells, abortion, the environment, refugees, same-sex marriage, care for the elderly and the like.

The difficulty comes because no party will perfectly represent all the issues exactly as I see them. Let alone that I myself am imperfect and it’s very likely that I don’t perfectly represent what is right on every issue either. And so it becomes a complex process of choosing between one party’s cluster of issues, some I agree with and some I don’t, and another parties cluster of issues, with different ones I agree with and others I don’t. And as we take into consideration the clusters we choose the one that we believe is, overall, the best. And this takes wisdom and a certain degree of risk.

7) Consider the Gospel

There may come a time where a political party will seek to minimise Gospel freedoms, like legislating against Christian religious assemblies for example. That would be an important factor for Christians to consider as they vote. And it would be naïve to think that such a day will never come.

8) In the end our hope doesn’t lie in political parties

Voting is a extremely important responsibility and is an expression of loving God with our mind and loving our neighbour as ourselves. But even though it’s very important it’s not THAT important. It’s not the be all and end all.

Our hope lies in the sovereign God and is expressed through prayer. In the end it is God who institutes governments and it is God who removes them. And while yes he sovereignly does it through millions of people really choosing and really voting it is still he who sovereignly does it.

Our hope does not lie in the political process expressed through the vote. And our hope doesn’t lie in our local representative but in our heavenly representative.

And so the main way a Christian influences the political process is by praying. That’s not the only way, but it is the main way.

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Websites you should check out

(c) thecreativshark

(c) thecreativshark

There hasn’t been many posts here for the last little while.

Here’s how it’s all going to work from now on.

A Better Possession blog is going to continue as the place for all my biblical and theological reflections. If you like that stuff this is will be a good place to get it.

All leadership stuff, articles plus a whole bunch of videos and content from the famous guys, will be on this new website: The Ministry Matrix

If you wanna stay up to date on all that leadership stuff feel free to sign up at the new website or head over and “Like” us on Facebook or do both!

https://www.facebook.com/TheMinistryMatrix

And then all the other stuff I like and find interesting that doesn’t really fit under those two categories will be over at RevCraigHamilton.

Hope that makes sense. I’ll post something like this a few times over the coming week or so just to make sure everyone knows the score! Thanks for following along, hope to see you over at these other sites!

Craig

Quote: Calvin on God’s Foreknowledge

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(c) Dustin Nguyen

(c) Dustin Nguyen

“When we attribute foreknowledge to God, we mean that all things always were, and perpetually remain, under his eyes, so that to his knowledge there is nothing future or past, but all things are present. And they are present in such a way that he not only conceives them through ideas […] but he truly looks upon them and discerns them as things placed before him.”

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.21.5

“Immanuel” Isn’t Good News

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Trustworthiness of Beards InforgraphicBecause of “Immanuel” being tied so closely together with Christmas and the birth of Jesus, the one who would save his people from their sins, the word has been read as an unequivocally good thing. Immanuel, in the person of Jesus, “God with us” was a great thing that brought salvation into the world. And so we read that ending back into the original.

“Immanuel” was a prophecy. It was a prophecy spoken almost 800 years before Jesus. And it was a prophecy that had a very specific 800 year old reference. Isaiah 7 is the place. Here’s the prophecy:

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virginwill be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knowsenough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

The prophecy is that there will be a child born and before the boy is old enough to know right from wrong the King of Assyria will come and destroy the two nations opposed to Judah, the nations of Israel and Aram, and that Assyria will decimate the land of Judah also. “God with us – Immanuel” will mean judgement. Judgement on the enemies of Judah who seek to destroy her, but also judgement for Judah.

“God with us” might sound at first like a good thing, but if I’ve made myself an enemy of God and if I’m against him and he’s against me, then I’d probably prefer him to stay away actually.

Immanuel is judgement mixed with salvation. Judah will be saved from her enemies. But Judah will also be disciplined for her own rebellion. Salvation in the midst of judgement.

And when Jesus came as the fulfilment of and the greater Immanuel, it was the same. Salvation yes, but salvation in the midst of judgement. It was a salvation where Jesus himself absorbed the punishment as the judge judged in our place. But it was also salvation in the midst of judgement for those who rejected, and still, reject the salvation. The salvation of Jesus becomes a clear and present and final word that people ignore at their own peril.

So Immanuel isn’t just a good thing. It never was. It’s a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. Depending on how you respond to it.

One of the Most Important Elements in My Year

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(c) Javier Burgos

(c) Javier Burgos

Every year, usually in early January, I put aside a week to read. Not to read fiction books. And not to read for fun. But to read for work.

Years ago I heard – or read, I can’t remember – a quote from John Stott, and the gist of it was that for anyone in a full-time bible teaching role, where you are constantly giving out, putting in was vitally important. If it’s all going out then eventually, maybe not immediately but eventually, you’ll become boring. There’ll be nothing left. His advice was that for a full time bible teacher they need to read, at minimum, for an hour a day, a day a month and a week a year.

Minimum.

So I saw the wisdom in that and so have aimed to do that every year since. This will be the fifth year in a row that I have entered into reading week. It’s one of my top priorities each year.

These are the books I’m planning to read this week:

Retrieving Doctrine – Oliver D. Crisp
Radical – David Platt
Sydney Anglicanism – Michael P. Jensen
Deep & Wide – Andy Stanley
Note to Self – Joe Thorn
Joy in Your Life – Charles H. Spurgeon
T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution – Steve Smith w/ Ying Kai
Hearing Her Voice – John Dickson

I find these reading weeks exhausting. It’s fun and fine for the first hour or so. But after that I get restless and a bit bored. Reading 9 till 5 for 6 days straight is harder than it sounds.

But it’s one of the most important elements in my yearly rhythm.

I’ll let you know how it goes and how many of my planned books I actually get through!

Quote: Barth on humility

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(c) Beloved Creature

(c) Beloved Creature

What marks out God above all false gods is that they are not capable and ready for this [humility]. In their otherworldliness and supernaturalness and otherness, etc., the gods are a reflection of the human pride which will not unbend, which will not stoop to that which is beneath it. God is not proud. In His high majesty He is humble.

– Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, 159.

Plundering the Egyptians: Old People Are Fools Too

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(c) Skottie Young

(c) Skottie Young

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Old People Are Fools Too

Wisdom is a valuable commodity. I’d much prefer to be wise than to be a fool. It’s much better when I act and respond wisely than when I act and respond foolishly. Wisdom is so valuable, and yet it seems often so rare and hard to acquire.

Not only that but it’s often hard to define. What even is wisdom? Now I’m sure there are better definitions floating around, but mine would be something like: wisdom is being able to diagnose what the situation is and then apply the appropriate knowledge to achieve the desired outcome. That at least gets us in the ballpark.

But along with that I often hear 3 misconceptions about wisdom. They are 1) That age makes you wise; 2) that knowledge makes you wise; and 3) that experience makes you wise. And you may have heard one or all of those before as well.

None of them are true.

1) Age does not make you wise

Just simply being around on the planet does not have any inherent ability to make you wise. It is a truism that the longer you are around the more types of situations you are likely to encounter with differing types of people. That would be generally true. But that doesn’t by necessity make you wiser.

The simple fact is I know a lot of foolish old people. People who don’t live wisely but instead live small, bitter, destructive, cyclical lives. Age doesn’t make you wise.

2) Knowledge does not make you wise

We all know that person who is brilliantly smart, freakishly clever, but is cringingly awkward in social situations. Or who makes hopelessly stupid life decisions, despite being amazingly knowledgeable. Knowledge is certainly a component of wisdom, but it is not the same thing as wisdom. A person is able to be very knowledgeable and yet blindingly foolish. It’s easy to get confused and think that because a person has knowledge that that person must also be wise. But they’re not the same thing. There are few things more foolish than a knowing fool.

3) Experience does not make you wise

This misconception seems the most likely to be correct as it takes parts from “knowledge” and “age” and combines them. It’s not age that makes you wise, it’s the experiences you accrue that makes you wise, surely. And it’s not knowledge in isolation but knowledge over time that makes you wise, surely.

But again the answer is no. Experience doesn’t make you wise. Have you ever seen people make the same mistake over and over again? Have you ever made the same mistake twice? Experience by itself doesn’t make anyone wise. You can experience all kinds of people and circumstances, make all kinds of mistakes, and then continue to make those same mistakes over and over again.

Here’s how I think it works.

Age allows you to collect a wide variety of experiences. But what then needs to happen is we need to reflect on those experiences, why we failed or why we succeeded or what other factors contributed to the outcome. And then once we’ve harvested that knowledge from our experiences then we need to apply it to our future experiences, to our thought processes and sometimes to our conceptual frameworks of “how the world works”. Then we will be wise.

But you don’t need to be old, knowledgeable and experienced to be wise. You can be young and wise. Being smart and being wise are different. And you can learn from the experiences of others, you don’t need to be hit by a bus to know that being hit by a bus is a bad idea and you should avoid it.

You can be old and wise, but it’s not a guarantee. You can be knowledgeable and wise, but it’s not a guarantee. You can be experienced and wise, but it’s not a guarantee.

Plundering the Egyptians: Time Management Won’t Help You

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Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Time Management Won’t Help You 

For a long time I worked hard to manage my time well. To plan my schedule, to allocate time to various tasks, to minimise distractions, that kind of thing. I read books on time management, heard successful people speak about it and it’s importance and value. But something always seemed off. There was something that never quite sat right.

And it was only a few weeks ago that I figured it out. And it has absolutely revolutionised the way I think about and approach my week. And it will do the same for you.

Time Management is a mirage.

Now a lot of the ideas and skills I learnt in pursuing time management were good and helpful skills. Planning my schedule is a good thing to do. Minimising distractions is a good thing, I’m glad I do it. They’ve certainly been helpful and I can see why people write books and speak about these disciplines. They’re good disciplines. They’re just not time management.

They’re self-management.

Here’s the two realisations I’ve come to that have revolutionised the way I conceptualise and plan my work:

1) You can’t manage time.

You can’t make time go faster. You can’t make it go slower. You can’t make it more efficient. You can’t help it to increase the amount of time it outputs per minute. Time doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t listen to you. And it will not be managed by you. Time will just continue to do what it does whether you want it to or not and whether you manage it or not.

What’s normally referred to as time management is just self-management. You’re not doing anything to time or making any changes or improvements to it. What you’re doing is managing yourself and what you do within time and how focussed you are with the time you have.

But even that realisation wasn’t enough. Because thinking purely in terms of time and minutes and planning and distractions is still misleading. So if time management is actually self-management, the question is still, what specifically about myself am I managing? What should I be thinking about and utilising? Which leads to my second realisation:

2) You manage energy.

You know how sometimes you block out 2 hours to work on a project and at the end of those two hours you’ve hardly achieved anything and your mind was just wandering all over the place or just felt like mush, thoughts just weren’t coming? And then at other times you’ll have a block of half and hour where you are just ultra-productive, thoughts are flowing, decisions are easy and obvious and you’re laser-focussed? It’s because time has very little to do with it.

Sometimes you’ll achieve twice as much in a quarter of the time. Why? If it was purely about time spent then it wouldn’t work that way. But it does work that way. That’s because it’s about energy.

You need to think about your day in terms of packets of energy. It will take a bit of trial and error to work it out, but you need to work out how many packets of energy you possess each day. Maybe it’s 5. Maybe it’s 7. People are different. But once you work it out then you need to think carefully about how you’ll assign that energy on a given day. Do you want to assign all your energy to work, so that you have nothing left for yourself or for your spouse and family? You know how sometimes you finished work and you come home and you just have nothing left to give to you family? You’re with them but you’re not present because you used up all your energy for work? That’s probably not a good way to manage your energy, and certainly not long term.

There are some activities I do that don’t take up much time but take up heaps of energy. Leading a funeral is one of them. They don’t go for very long, but they take up a big chunk of my energy. And so I need to manage my energy use carefully the rest of that day.

This has revolutionised the way I think and plan my weeks.

Time management won’t help you. Manage your energy.

Quote: Gunton on Immortality

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(c) Jerod Gibson

“The doctrine of creation asserts strongly that nothing is eternal or infinite but God. The distinction between God and the world is, as I have argued, an absolute qualitative distinction. There is no natural or automatic immortality, as has sometimes been taught. But it does not follow that God cannot freely bestow a share in his eternity on the creatures of his love.”

Colin Gunton, The Triune Creator