On Election Day, Every Christian Should Be an Independent
Election day is fast approaching. What does that mean for followers of Jesus? It means another opportunity to “bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (I Peter 3:9) Did you know your vote can be a blessing? As spiritual exiles (cf. I Peter 2:11), we should be encouraged by God's guidance to his people in Babylon millenia ago: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
As you know, voting is not only an opportunity to “bless” and “seek the welfare” of our communities and country, but it is also a civic privilege for which countless have fought, and many have even died. We are thankful to be in a nation where each voice and vote matters!
But since I have your attention, I'd like to do more than just encourage you to vote. If you are a Christian, I'd like to encourage you to vote as an independent. No, I'm not talking about your party affiliation. But I am thinking about the idea of party affiliation. Whether you are registered as a Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Independent, or something else, God is calling you to be independent when it comes to “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2); independent from “a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15), from those who “trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psalm 146:3)
Of course, many Christ-followers understand this, and vote for candidates and issues that (as they see it) line up with God's word. Additionally, and understandably, many also affiliate themselves with political parties and other groups they feel share similar convictions on key issues. Where things can become problematic is not the issue of party affiliation, but the issue of party loyalty (and yes, even registered “Independents” often align themselves with specific political figures, groups, or movements). Though they would deny it, the priorities, practices, and passions of some Christians reveal the troubling influence of such loyalties. Does that mean, in general, party loyalty is wrong? No. But if loyalty to a political party or group interferes with our loyalty to King Jesus, we are in dangerous waters.
Our American citizenship is a wonderful thing. But our “citizenship..in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) is far, far more valuable. And that means we, as God's people, have been called, by God's word, to strike a healthy balance in terms of our relationship to politics and politicians. But sadly, it appears many followers of Jesus today are losing the ability to both "honor the Emperor" (I Peter 2:17) AND speak out against Ahab (I Kings 18:17, 18); to both recognize a political leader as "God's servant for your good" (Romans 13:4) AND speak out against Herod's immorality (Matthew 14:3, 4); to both pray boldly for those who are "in high positions" (I Timothy 2:1, 2) AND be boldly honest about “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” (Revelation 17:5). Our struggle with balancing these aspects is driving us to discouraging extremes: on one hand we are either silent about or try to rationalize worldy behavior, but on the other hand, we seem unable to praise and support what is good, or be gracious even when we strongly disagree with others.
When Christians seem more committed to political camps or 'tribes', than to representing God's perspective regarding both policy concerns and personal character, we should be deeply concerned. The church of Jesus must be different. We should be a people of both discerning support and gracious opposition, always making it clear that our highest allegiance is to the King of Kings (and Presidents, and Prime Ministers, and 'Supreme Leaders', etc,). What does this mean practically? It means that after carefully considering the options, we should be able to stand with leaders and groups from any party, if in fact they are standing for what is right. Similarly, we should praise legislation, positions, movements, etc. that are just and good, even if the party with whom we are affiliated disagrees. Why? Because we've been called to a goodness-to-glory mission, that is, allowing God's goodness in and through us to point others to his glory above us (Matthew 5:16). If our God “loves righteousness and justice” (Psalm 33:5), shouldn't we as well, regardless of its political trappings?
Professor and writer, Michael Horton, sums this up well when he writes, “...all of the kingdoms of this age, including the United States, are passing away. Their glory fades, their flags fall to pieces, and their armies are eventually conquered. In the meantime, we fulfill our callings and our responsibilities as citizens. We take it all seriously, but not too seriously. For the news has reached us of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Indeed, we can witness to the world of a better country, singing with the psalmist, even during this season, 'The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!' (Psalm 146:10)”.
Whatever your party affiliation, this Election Day go to the polls fully dependent on the One who reigns over all things, and therefore, independent when it comes to our society's political idols.