How Should I Vote This Year?
Seven Guidelines for Jesus Followers
Recently, a committed Christian friend on Facebook opened up about her concerns over the coming presidential election, posting:
I have a heaviness in my soul today. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt it. A weight. The heaviness is because my heart is breaking. Plus, my disillusionment. It seems like so many Christians are willing to toss all morals aside when it comes to supporting any candidate that reflects their political agenda. Why are so many choosing to turn a blind eye to behaviors that are completely, blatantly in opposition to the heart and character of Christ?
Frankly, I’m hearing that same level of anguish among other Christian friends as they wrestle with how to decide on the leadership options before us, both locally and nationally, come November 3rd.
Of course, all Jesus followers claim that our primary leader is God’s Son, who is Lord of all, both in this world and the world to come. As we’re told in Revelation 11: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ.”
Even so, one pressing question remains for us in terms of any kingdom of this world:
Of all the candidates vying for our votes this year, which ones come closest, not only in policy but in lifestyle and values, to exhibiting what Jesus’ kingship is all about?
Jesus 2020, anyone?
Have you seen the yard signs springing up all over the country that announce: “JESUS 2020”? Initiated by a small rural church in Texas this spring, the campaign has quickly spread beyond expectations.
The message it’s meant to send is that in the end, the only leader our nation should be looking to this fall is the “Ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1). After all, Jesus is not waiting to be crowned king; he already is king. He’s simply waiting to be recognized and welcomed as king, to exercise the blessings of his reign—in 2020 and beyond.
When you get right down to it, the candidate our nation needs right now is “none of the above”—not a Donkey or an Elephant. What we need to do is surrender to the Lamb on the throne (Revelation 5).
That’s why, here at ChristNow.com, we labor daily to foster and fuel a “nationwide Christ Awakening movement” wherein God’s people begin to give God’s Son his rightful place among us—which in turn will extend the gospel of his saving grace and power into the wider American community.
There’s no question about it: At this critical hour, the ultimate hope for our nation’s deliverance—both socially, morally, and spiritually—is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet, on the other hand, as faithful citizens in a vibrant democracy, we remain responsible for voting in November. So, how do we vote in a way that most faithfully represents and reflects the active lordship of Jesus today?
The guidelines I outline below will help you sort out your options—and lift some of the heaviness of soul like that which my Facebook friend is experiencing this fall.
Dr. Kenneth Gangel, one of the most influential Christians in the past half-century, taught on biblical leadership in forty academic institutions and published 57 books on the subject. In 2007, he wrote in Christianity Today:
We should paraphrase John’s words at the end of his gospel and say: If every leadership principle available in the Gospels or Acts were written down, the whole world might not have room for all the books that would be published!
In the article, some of the most important characteristics of godly leadership that Dr. Gangel suggests include servanthood, stewardship, shared power, caring, and modeling. Before concluding his insights, he quotes John Stott, a British Anglican and the world-renowned father of the modern global evangelical movement, who wrote:
Christian leaders serve not their own interests but rather the interests of others. This simple principle should deliver the leader from excessive individualism, extreme isolation, and self-centered empire building.
Here’s why I share this primer: For me, a good place to start when trying to determine the person I will vote into a political office is to weigh each candidate against biblical standards—even if the person is not a believer.
That’s where these seven principles come from—the Bible. They are godly clues to help Christians make serious choices on November 3rd.
Seven Essential Guidelines
for Every Jesus Follower
To make them easy to remember, I use keywords that begin with “C.” In each case, I suggest synonyms that represent a few facets of each that are most important to me.
- CHARACTER: As I look at a candidate’s life, do I observe uprightness, truthfulness, nobleness, teachability, dignity, empathy, humility, principled moral standards—to name a few qualities to look for. What else would you add?
- COMPETENT: Is the person capable, proficient, gifted, skillful, intelligent, experienced, proven, productive, energetic. In other words, are they up to the job?
- CONSISTENT: Have they shown themselves to be solid, firm, dependable, stable, steadfast, resolute in their convictions? Do their private and public lives match up? Do they keep their promises?
- CONCILIATORY: Are they predisposed toward building bridges, peacemaking, and mediating for conflicting parties whenever possible? Does their leadership style bring healthiness to a group or situation as they calm, disarm, diffuse, affirm? Do they show respect toward the opposition—even as they lobby for the agenda they believe in?
- COLLABORATIVE: Similarly, do they put a high premium on working with others toward the common good? Are they active listeners, open-minded, transparent, reasonably flexible, conducive to seeking compromise, and willing to share credit for successes? Are they convinced that to achieve the best results we need one another? Do they entertain creative alternatives that might result in win-win outcomes?
- COURAGEOUS: When faced with challenges or opposition—or temporary setbacks—does the candidate continue to display boldness, bravery, fearlessness, even audacity, as they pursue what they feel is right? In “struggles” that arise in any political arena, have they shown themselves to be resilient and persistent? Do they instill similar courage in those around them? But, even as they stand their ground, do they regularly show kindness and respect toward those who disagree with them?
The most important “C” of all: CHRIST
- CHRIST: I hinted at this seventh guideline above. Obviously, for Jesus followers, the overriding touchstone in any decision—and certainly in our decision about who to vote into office—must be the person of Christ himself.
To start with, consider this: In his earthly ministry, Jesus confronted people in leadership more often than any other segment of the population in his nation.
Recall that the Sadducees and Pharisees were similar to our national leaders because, under the watchful eye of Rome, they took responsibility for both government and religion, which were melded under one authority. So, the insights we gain from Jesus’ words to them hold useful relevancy for our leaders in local, state, or national government today.
That means the people we choose to lead us retain equal priority today in Jesus’ eyes since he remains Lord of them all.
Therefore, just listen to this sample of his evaluation of those in charge in Matthew 23 (from The Message), and ask yourself: Would Jesus say anything similar to any of the candidates on the ballot this fall—especially at the federal level—if he confronted them personally, face-to-face here and now?
“You [leaders] are hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.” (vs. 23-24)
“You [leaders] are hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ . . . A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.” (vs. 16, 22)
“You [leaders] are hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.” (vs. 27-28)
That’s very sobering language from the One before whom all nations will one day stand at the judgment! And note, it is all about revealing who they are as people—at their heart level.
Then, look at how Matthew 23 ends: Jesus weeps over these leaders and their fellow Israelites. Why? Because so often, he wanted to draw them to himself as their Master and Savior, but they refused his offer. Instead, they stuck to their wayward patterns. Consequently, as Jesus knew, in forty years (in 70 A.D.), God would send the entire nation into a millennia-long exile.
That outcome is worth pondering for America in 2020 as we select our leaders at the polls in a few weeks, wouldn’t you agree?
Many are claiming this will be the most critical presidential election in US history. Without a doubt, therefore, having the proper leadership in America right now also must be a defining issue for King Jesus.
With that background, let me suggest four applications of the seventh guideline—the “Christ” principle:
- Does the candidate ever openly indicate in some fashion that they have been “Christ-conquered”? In our secularized culture, most are not. But some have. There are candidates on the ballot this fall who have given their whole lives over to God’s Son as their sovereign Redeemer. Potentially, those who have will bring so much more kingdom ways into their approach to leadership. “Those who confess me publicly I will confess before my Father,” Jesus promised. What if we had people like that in office?
- At a less demanding level, do they at least seem to be somewhat “Christ-aware”? In the prophetic words of Psalm 2, pagan rulers are called upon to exhibit such sober reverence toward Christ himself and take him seriously. So, ask: Have any current candidates shown a measure of what Scripture terms “the fear of the Lord”? That means they have some concern that their leadership, their policies, and the ultimate outcomes will be “pleasing to the Lord”—at least as best as they know who Jesus is and can determine what God wants, even if they are not conquered (and saved) by him.
- Even if not aware, at least do they exhibit a way of life that is “Christlike” in how they act, how they treat people, with the values they promote, and in the influence they hold? They may not yet have put their faith in Christ; still, they may manifest Christlike qualities. And if so, those qualities hold out promise for godlier, more effective service to the community or nation.
- Finally—and this applies to every single candidate whether Christian or not: Is their approach to leadership—both in terms of style and substance, and certainly in terms of policies—at least “Christ-compatible”? To say it another way: How many of their policy initiatives are moving in directions supportive of, and not in opposition to, the goals of the kingdom of God? How many of their priorities, knowingly or unknowingly, line up with the righteous values and standards of the reign of Christ? Of highest importance, will their leadership be conducive to allowing and even encouraging the free spread of the gospel in our land?
Of course, it goes without saying: When it comes to applying any of these guidelines, there are NO perfect candidates on the ballot this year—or ANY year.
For sure, not one candidate in November fully measures up. Each politician is equally frail, finite, and fallen. None of those at any level asking for your vote matches all seven marks flawlessly.
After all, need I remind us, we have not yet arrived at “the new heavens and earth” (Revelation 21)! Even the most appealing candidates we may choose will give us, at best, only a glimmer of the leadership the whole creation is yearning for but won’t experience until Christ returns. Philippians 3:20-21 states it like this:
We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ . . . He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him. (The Message)
So how will YOU vote during Election Year 2020?
Until that glorious day, however, we do have to vote! If we choose not to vote, that very act itself actually is a “vote.”
In just a few weeks, you will be stepping into a voting booth or filling out your mail-in ballot. How will you respond at that critical moment?
Of course, before marking your choices, you want to be sure you know something of the platform and policies your candidates already embrace and what their track record is regarding pursuing those issues. So, be sure you do your homework.
But this blog post argues that there is something even more important than party platforms and policies—something prior, something more fundamental.
In addition, we need to ask: What kind of character does this candidate exhibit? Does she or he lead with a measure of competency and consistency? Do they tend to be fairly conciliatory and collaborative in their approaches? Are they courageous, holding firmly to certain convictions?
But above all: Which candidate comes closest to being either Christ-conquered, or Christ-aware, or Christ-like, or at least Christ-compatible?
In the end, from a kingdom perspective, any election is far more about the quality of the persons than about the precision of their politics.
As Scripture warns all of us in Proverbs 4:23 (emphasis added):
“Above all else, guard your HEART,
for EVERYTHING you do flows from IT”.
VOTE, even though you know whomever you choose won’t be perfect or in perfect alignment with every one of your top priorities and values. Still, try to vote for the leaders you believe have a heart that will help secure kingdom-type outcomes for your communities and our nation.
VOTE. Soberly. Boldly. Prayerfully.
VOTE as an act of worship. Do it as unto the living, reigning Lord Jesus Christ, King of the ages, whose will, ways, works, and worth will prevail throughout the earth long after every other authority has passed away.
After all, apart from our passionate and unceasing intercession for a spiritual and moral revolution in our nation, what more strategic option than our vote do we possess this fall for securing a better future for America?
As a follow-up to this blog post: Listen to David Bryant’s 30-minute CHRIST TODAY Podcast, episode 3: “The Lion Speaks. Every Word Matters. Listen.”
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.
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