There’s a popular quote amongst millennial Christ followers that Christians should be more known for what they are for than what they’re against. It’s absolutely true. We’ve become a people known for being anti-gay, anti-compassion, xenophobic, and unwilling to embrace change. Whether any of that is true or not is beside the point- once a perspective has been shaped, it’s hard to shake.
One of the few effective ways of combatting such a detrimental view of Christianity is by emphatically and unequivocally making known what it is that we are for. The all-encompassing, all-forgiving love of a Savior whom none of us deserve, but we get to embrace anyway (for example). In this, we are making small strides inward in certain circles to break through the clutter and not only tell people these things but actually put them into action.
Unfortunately, where we seem to have entirely forgotten the way this works is during the current election cycle. In this, there is no “I support candidate A because of policy 1, 2, and 3”. It’s become quite the opposite. All that the entire country’s voters are becoming known for is that they are vociferously voting against candidate B. Our blog posts, our social media comments, and our lunchtime conversations are spent discussing the latest scandals and whether my candidate more evil or less evil than the other evil. So, let me provide you with a primer for voting this year. It might not answer the famous “What Would Jesus Do” question- that would be presumptuous. I also don’t intend to sway you for or against any one candidate. Again, that would presume that I know what Jesus would do (see above). But I hope it provides some scriptural support for the way in which we are to approach our voting.
1. Watch out for the Comparison Game
An awful lot of the mud-slinging is happening as a result of escalating scandals and comparing wrongs. Don’t get caught up in this. Know two things that are eternally true. Sin is sin, regardless the degree. And the forgiveness of the Father is able to cover any of these sins. But then, what is our role in handling the news and press releases about such matters?
Deal with them individually. We have to. Again, the emphasis here is to always be aware of what we are claiming to be for, even if our words merely decry what we are against. If we shove off any morally deplorable action as not worth considering because our candidate isn’t as bad on our own moral scale as the other candidate, we are telling the world that we are invalidating the sin itself as a non-issue. Galatians 6.4 says, “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”
No more of the “I’m more concerned with what the Clintons have done than what Trump has said.” And let’s also silence the “Hillary might be a dirty, lying politician, but at least she’s not a wholly deplorable human being.” The comparison does no one any good. And you look silly in the process.
2. Avoid Sliding Scales of Morality
When we are comparing accusations of infidelity, deleting emails, bigotry, political coverups, and other offensive behavior, we invariably approach them with a morality standard. After all, that’s what we’re comparing, right? We want to know if the candidates’ actions or words fall in line with what we believe is acceptable practice. But our problem is that we approach each situation with our own personal sliding scale of good and bad. Our moral judgment on their immoral behavior is predicated on our own flawed perspective of what good and bad even is.
Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s not to say that there are no moral absolutes. But we all are absolutely guilty of nursing and rationalizing our own personal pet sins while abhorring others. Here’s a quick test. Is it sin? Do I have a problem with it? If the answer is not Yes/Yes or No/No, there’s a heart issue within us that needs to be dealt with- and that issue will prevent us from approaching the election with an accurate moral scale. Because there is only one who is righteous and only one capable of being the Judge. Any other scale is flawed.
3. Act and Speak without Malice or Contempt
Regardless how truthful and accurate any of your statements or beliefs may be, if you are doing anything out of anger or self-inflated arrogance, you are bound to make a mistake and likely to do irreparable harm.
1 Peter 3.9- “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.”
Ephesians 4.29- “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Philippians 2.3- “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Paul reminds us why this is so very important and helps to recenter our focus earlier in Ephesians 4. “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (v.15) If we are ever going to strive to vote like Jesus, it’s a safe assumption that we cannot begin to do that if we aren’t first living like Jesus. Speak the truth, but do it in love and without any other motivation.
4. Know What You are Representing
If we shouldn’t be known for what we are against, it’s important then for us to have a firm grasp on what it is that we are for. Many of these statements might not appear on the “positive side” of either candidate. My intent here is to allow you to read between the voting bubbles and know that with your support for these candidates, you also understand that you are silently stating your assent to their words and actions. I will, to the best of my knowledge, provide only factual statements without added opinion or judgment.
Trump supporters: the man is a wealthy, white businessman without immediate ties to Washington. He is also known for making abrasive, racially charged statements about Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians. Wants to deport those within our borders without proper paperwork and build a wall to keep them out. He also has a habit of making derogatory statements about women, has admitted to past affairs, and has at least one open investigation regarding sexual assault on his record (and a number of other sexual assault complaints not being pursued). He is a fan of war and escalation- even to the point of utilizing our nuclear arsenal if necessary.
Clinton supporters: the woman is also wealthy and white, but is a career politician. Championed a failed healthcare bill while First Lady that largely was panned by both parties in Congress. Is plagued by numerous development/investment scandals from the past, dating back to the Whitewater controversy from her husband’s time as Governor of Arkansas and ranging all the way to the Clinton Fund for Haiti Recovery. Accused of deleting a large portion of emails from her time serving as Secretary of State as a cover-up for leaked classified information and using private emails to discuss additional classified information. Under investigation by the FBI for both this and her responsibility for the deaths of four Americans in a terrorist attack in Libya. Is a strong supporter of nearly all forms of abortion.
In this age of finger-pointing and name calling, one of the things we hear the most is “at least they didn’t ____”. Please, let’s not fall into this trap. Take a stand for something. We must be known as people who are firmly reliant on the democratic process because we believe that our candidate is valid and can do something to help our country. If we continue to merely cast our votes against issues and candidates, then perhaps we as a people deserve what we get.
If you don’t stand for something then you’ll fall for anything.
Don’t let the media sensationalism deflate your desire to make a difference in your world and in your community. There are hundreds of local, state, and federal issues on the ballot, even if nobody’s talking about them. _These_ will be much more of a deciding factor in how the country moves in the coming months. A federal executive branch who does not represent the majority of the country can do far less damage if the checks and balances around it are solid. Go. Vote.