The 2016 Presidential Election is coming up fast. Some have already voted early, such as myself. Some are convinced that these elections are the most significant to date, certainly among the most recent Presidential elections that come to mind. There is truth to this; every American Presidential election, and minor election, has the more significance the closer we come to the Second Coming of Christ, especially with what we know about the role of America in Bible prophecy.
Thankfully, as a Church, we aren’t dictated which candidate we are to vote for, so each individual member is free to vote according to their conscience. Whether it be here in America or any other part of the world, there is and should be no control over a member’s freedom to choose their worldly leader. We must, of course, give our allegiance to the King of the Universe, but since temporal leaders serve a temporal cause, we must be free to make our decisions according to conscience, and this includes the decision not to be involved in free elections.
In a previous set of articles, I outlined what I believed about why Ellen White asked believers to vote on the issue of temperance. It wasn’t to establish Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, but to keep civil order intact. We should oppose by pen and vote any trends that will lead to the imposition of Sunday Law, and that starts at opposing Church and State union. However in doing this, it isn’t necessary to be partisan.
I am amazed at how much time is devoted by professed members during election season to denigrate and degrade a candidate of a political party. Thanks to social media, people’s opinions become quite evident. Yes, there are moral concerns that are legitimate, but no leading candidate in this election, or at any time in the past, has had a spotless character, nor should we expect them to. Different people have different political outlooks and viewpoints. Their preferences become clear once their public criticism of a candidate is given. There are those that are more concerned about one candidate’s private email servers than another’s adulterous lifestyle that resulted in multiple marriages and vice versa.
This is why partisan politics is so damaging to the work of God. I’ve seen Present Truth believers who would otherwise be united on the Truth be torn apart because of political partisanship. We forget that this country we live in is only a temporary arrangement, and our priorities should be placed more on the life to come. However, it is unavoidable that men would remain completely apolitical, as we do still live in this world and temporal policies do affect us.
Here are some guidelines for God’s people when entering into the election of the leader of a nation we believe specifically revealed in the Bible as a major eschatological player:
1. Learn when to withhold a political opinion
This is difficult, especially for me. I know I’ve violated this principle many times. Unless one is an avowed independent, it is likely individual minds are already made up thanks to the political view one prefers. There is a likelihood one molds their mind according to the views of the news outlet one exposes themselves to frequently. But we have to always consider that there are at least two sides to a story, and cynicism is not a requirement for a Christian. Politics has a way of bringing out some of the worst in our characters, and we should not be burning bridges for witnessing to others over political squabbles. It is better that we would have no political opinion than to have an opinion we cannot control, to the loss of an opportunity to share Jesus or to the loss of friendship with a brother in Christ.
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” – Philippians 2:2, 3 KJV
2. Keep your preferred candidate to yourself
Even if you believe your candidate’s position reflects that of God Himself (which I hope no one reading this would believe) there is good reason to keep quiet on whom you voted for. Some may now swell with pride on their ballot choice, but you may end up regretting your choice later. Also, bragging on one’s presidential choice could become a stumbling block for others, especially for those that disagree with your decision. You might have a good spiritual reason to vote for someone, but it may be taken by others as a wholesale endorsement. There never will be a perfect candidate for a political position in this fallen world, and we shouldn’t expect there to be one. Inspiration does not prohibit us from voting, (In the Review of August 12, 1862, James White wrote “Those of our people who voted at all in the last Presidential election, to a man voted for Abraham Lincoln.”) but it does warn us:
“Keep your voting to yourself. Do not feel it your duty to urge everyone to do as you do.” —Letter 4, 1898
3. Learn to respect an opposing political opinion
One thing that I’ve learned from studying inspiration is that it is the Adventist Christian’s duty to prepare people for Christ’s soon return. Nothing should distract us from this primary duty. We want to win people to Christ, not create unnecessary rifts with the people we are trying to reach…and with each other. We cannot afford to indulge in this kind of worldly practice. Whether one votes Left or Right, Red or Blue, or all the hues in between, or withholds their vote, we aren’t given a Biblical imperative to criticize each other regarding this. God has a use, even for both extremes, to keep each other in check, for we know once His people are sealed, God will allow winds to blow that will cause unimaginable chaos and destruction.
4. Avoiding demonizing the candidates
It is the work of politicians to throw their best accusations of corruption and immoral behavior at each other. The politician who can uncover the most dirt on the opposition usually wins. As I hinted at earlier, there is more than one side to a story. There is the likelihood that many such attacks and accusations are untrue, or at least grossly exaggerated for the benefit of the one side. I do not mean to suggest that all current candidates are free from malice, I mean that we tend find evil in candidates that we disagree with politically and the best in the candidates we agree with, whether justified or not. Vote your conscience, but don’t think it a necessity to assume the worst of the political opposition.
“The very act of looking for evil in others develops evil in those who look. By dwelling upon the faults of others, we are changed into the same image.” – Gospel Workers, pg. 479
5. Accept the outcome, regardless of who won
We generally don’t have a big issue with this in our country, but that can change in a hurry. So-called Patriot movements are ready at any moment to wage armed rebellion, but hopefully it’s all just talk. Remember, it would actually be very difficult for a dictator to rule this country. With our checks and balances, even the Chief Executive cannot do whatever he or she wants. Either way, we are commanded to respect our earthly leaders and to obey them as long as they do not command us to disobey God, in which case we ought to obey God rather than men.
“It is not wise to find fault continually with what is done by the rulers of government. It is not our work to attack individuals or institutions. We should exercise great care lest we be understood as putting ourselves in opposition to the civil authorities. It is true that our warfare is aggressive, but our weapons are to be those found in a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Our work is to prepare a people to stand in the great day of God. We should not be turned aside to lines that will encourage controversy, or arouse antagonism in those not of our faith.” - CW 68
6. Focus on what is important
We must remember that we are privileged to have a say in who will rule over us in this temporal arrangement, so we must use that privilege wisely. Many may even choose to not utilize this privilege because their conscience will not allow them to, and that’s respectable as well. When in doubt, have nothing to do with it. Do not do anything that your conscience does not allow you to freely do. God needs His people focusing on preparing themselves and others for His soon return. If we can raise a ruckus about the rising cost of health insurance but are unable to win a soul for Jesus we are pretty much useless, to put it frankly. You may even need to allow yourself to lose a political argument to win someone to Jesus, and that’s the best win of all.
We will never find a perfect candidate this side of Heaven. Situations change, economic and social conditions call for different political solutions. Much of the time, political compromise is necessary. But we mustn’t equate political compromise with spiritual compromise. That would be mixing Church and State. Everyone should be free to vote (or abstain) as their conscience dictates and let God take it from there.
The greatness of America isn’t measured by how many immigrants we can keep out of our borders, nor is her progress tallied by how many transgenders we can get into the bathrooms of the opposite gender than the one they were born with. America is simply blessed to have Liberty, one which we anticipate to dissipate in the near future. In the meantime, count your blessings and work fervently to prepare yourself and others for Christ’s soon return. When He comes He will be bringing His people to a Kingdom that always been and forever will be the greatest.