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How You can Vote Like a Christian and Then Go to Sleep: A plea for confidence and clarity

I voted today.  With a clear conscience I voted for the candidate that I thought would protect freedom, protect life, and uphold the ideals of our nation.  However, there was not one candidate that had as his platform to uphold the Gospel. In fact, one candidate denies the Gospel by his religion; the other rejects the implications of the Gospel by his actions.  So, the question is, how can I sleep tonight knowing I cast my vote for one of these Gospel rejectors?

The answer is found in the Gospel of Matthew.  In fact, the best Christian perspective on the presidential election is tucked away in a few verses in Matthew 13, where Jesus tells a simple farming story.  Here it is.

Scene One: Wheat

A farmer seeds his field.

Scene Two: Weeds

His farm hands go out to harvest the crop and find that in every row where the wheat was planted, there are weeds among the wheat—and not just any weeds, these are darnel, tares, the kind of weed that looks just like a weed. Among the hard-worked, pristine rows of carefully placed seed, an enemy has sown weeds.

What is the farmer going to do? The farm hands report the weeds and suggest that they pull the weeds, but the farmer quickly realizes that’s a bad plan. They have forgotten that there is a subterranean root system. Every time you pull a weed you will root up a wheat. Good idea but bad timing.

Scene Three: Wait

The farmer enacts his plan: Wait. Appear to do nothing; wait until the harvest so that the weight of the grain can be distinguished from the light weeds. Wheat harvested, weeds burned.

Jesus then explains His parable: The world is His field, the wheat are His followers, and the weeds are the interlopers planted by the devil.

It should not be surprising that every time you find wheat in this world you will find weeds. Of course there are weeds among the wheat. Jesus said it would be so. The most surprising thing about Christians today is that they are so surprised! Jesus’ point is clear: the presence of evil in the kingdom is not a threat to the king. He knows the evil; he will do something about the evil, but not yet. It’s not harvest time.

When I walked out of the courthouse today, I was reminded of so much about what I love about America. The democracy, the free exchange of ideas, even the debates—which have been surprisingly substantial this year—have made me glad I was born here.

However, these same things also bring out the worst in people. On the one hand, one candidate believes that killing unborn children is a right, while the other denies that the Son of God is the Son of God. How is a Christian supposed to vote like a Christian when he can’t believe he is voting for a candidate with Christian values? Why are there not better choices? Why can’t God do something about all of these weeds among the wheat? Why doesn’t He come down, and take all the evil out?

He will, but not yet. It’s not harvest time. And that’s a good thing. You see, when the harvest comes, then He ends the age, and there will be no missionary enterprise. In other words, the beginning of justice is the end of mercy. Right now he is still turning weeds into wheat.

So how do I vote like a Christian?

I am not voting for which candidate can “turn back the country;” only God can do that. I am not voting for the one that I like the most. What is motivating my vote is simple. I am voting for the candidate that will preserve the sanctity of life and provide a means for getting the Gospel to the most people. That is the Gospel issue at hand. I certainly will not change my understanding of theology for the sake of an election.

If my candidate looses, I will be disappointed. If my candidate wins, he will disappoint me. That is in the Grand Design. He will not bring God’s kingdom.

I’m voting like a man who is waiting. Waiting for the harvest.

But no worry, the presence of evil in the kingdom is not a threat to the King. And the King is the one to whom the president answers. There is nothing that makes us sleep at night so soundly as the quiet hand of Providence. God’s rule over all the earth makes me rest like a farmer who plants seed and waits for the harvest (Mark 4).

Whatever happens, we are confident. However, I fear that those of us who are so confident in the sovereignty of God are at risk of not being clear. My fear is that our deep and abiding sense of God’s Providence will make us passive, especially with college students.

I fear that those of us who are so confident in the sovereignty of God are at risk of not being clear.

Having the privilege of hanging out with college students is much more grace than I deserve. They are great because they are generally moldable. And when I listen to us talk of the sovereignty of God so loudly in election season, or throw up our hands in disgust, please understand, they don’t hear the nuances. What they hear is: “it really does not matter how/if you vote. Yet, elections mean something. The lives of unborn children hang in the balance as well as the future of our freedom to practice our faith.

The truth is that many of my pastor friends have deeply inhaled the second hand smoke of the threat of the IRS to their church’s nonprofit status. Personally, I do not believe that churches should be the stump of political candidates. It misrepresents the call of the church and can confuse people about just Whose kingdom we are fighting for. That being said, to have the opportunity to vote in a free election, and not take advantage of it is poor stewardship. Passivity is not Christian.

So yes, be confident. But be clear. Remember, one-liners get amens, but they do not help people think clearly. Every time you say, “It’s not about the White House, but the Lord’s House,” there is a high school or college student that simply hears, “I don’t need to vote.” Be clear about your trust in the confidence of God but be equally clear about their need to be a part of this process. Be confident in God, be clear about our obligation to Him to influence culture for Him.

Yes, a clear call to action without a deep sense of God’s sovereignty reveals a misplaced hope in a human king. However, an abiding sense of God’s sovereignty without a sense of duty to engage reveals a poor stewardship of what is entrusted to us by our King.

Clarity without confidence misunderstands our true hope. Confidence without clarity misunderstands our call.

To suggest that I must demonize one candidate and believe another one to be some messiah is ridiculous. Yet, to suggest that passivity equals piety is equally ridiculous.

So please vote, and when asked, try to make the issues clear to others so that they can be responsible citizens of the eternal Kingdom living in this temporal kingdom. Don’t pretend there is nothing at stake in this election. If you do this, some will say you should be more emotional, others will say that if you were truly Christian, you would be passive to the point of being glib.

However, our allegiance is to a greater King. And if He is our King, why would we not be confident? Why would we not be clear? Those with the greatest confidence should offer the greatest clarity. The presence of evil in the kingdom is not a threat to the King! So, while we are confidently waiting for the harvest, we must wait aggressively by calling out evil clearly.  Then, go to sleep.

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Steven Smith

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