The presidential election in the United States is inevitably a time of tension within our country as we select a leader to serve in the most powerful elected office in the world. Every four years, we are told that this will be the most important election in our lifetime and that if the wrong candidate is elected, the consequences of their decisions could be irreversible. Nevertheless, the current election feels different.
The level of angst and indecision, even among loyal voters of both major political parties, has seemed unusually high. But this uncertainty pales in comparison to the hesitancy expressed by many Christians who feel compelled to choose between two deeply-flawed and objectively unpopular candidates. It would appear that in previous races Christians had a much easier time settling on “the right candidate” and then defending that choice when discussing the election with their peers.
Maybe the problem isn’t the unease so many feel this election but the comfort we’ve become accustomed to expect when voting. Think for a moment about how you plan to vote this year and the thought process you’ve used to reach that decision — if you’ve even reached one yet. Consider how you weighed the consequences of your vote in light of the undeniable weaknesses and scandals of your preferred candidate, especially as the field of candidates narrowed during the primaries. With all of that in mind, I’d like to offer the following observation:
We should experience this same tension every time we step into a voting booth — not just during the 2016 presidential election.
Just to acknowledge the obvious, unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot, you’re voting for an imperfect candidate. Even if a candidate professes all of your same beliefs and political philosophy, they’ve made more than a few mistakes to get where they are, and you should be objective enough to acknowledge these faults when discussing your candidate with others.
Voting is just another reminder that we live in a fallen world because every vote is a compromise that asks you to determine what is the greater good. For Christians, though, this is an inherently difficult proposition because we’re much more comfortable with the security of the absolutes we find in God’s Word and the conviction that something is either true or false, right or wrong.
As a result, we’re tempted to make a holistic determination that a candidate is either good or bad. What too often follows is a steadfast determination to overlook the flaws of your chosen candidate, while gladly taking every opportunity to focus on the flaws of their opponent, which you of course believe to be worse than those of your candidate. Though such single-minded partisanship is to be expected from campaign surrogates, Christians have much more at stake than who wins the next election, and we must demonstrate that we are credible and fair-minded.
Our primary concern should be the spread of the gospel to the glory of God, and any compromise of your integrity or ability to objectively discern and discuss truth — including the good, the bad, and the ugly — risks undermining your effectiveness as an ambassador for Christ. So as you pray for wisdom in this election and seek to cast a vote that most honors God, I want to encourage you to willingly admit that you’re voting for a fallen sinner in need of grace and remind folks of your ultimate hope for your own forgiveness — the Risen Jesus.