As we approach November 3rd and the general election, Christians often wonder which candidates to select. “Which candidate best matches my values?” is a question we ask ourselves. Sometimes the answer is clear and other times the answer is difficult to determine. Looking to Scripture for guidance on voting does not give us much help. St. Paul, in Romans 13, encourages the readers to be subject to governing authorities for God has established such authority. Paying taxes is part of our support of government authorities, but he says nothing about choosing a candidate. Can St. Paul’s words help us as we ponder our candidates whether in this election or ones in the future?
Democracy has its origins in ancient Greece with the word originating from “demos” (the people) and “kratia” (power or authority). (Aristocracy, on the other hand, originates from “aristos” (excellent) or rule by those who considered themselves to be the best of society.) The ancient Greeks practiced direct democracy, where voters made decisions by majority rule. As the ideals of democracy moved into Roman society, the concept of the representational democracy or republic arose in which voters elected representatives to make decisions for them. By the time of Jesus, the Roman republic had weakened and the Roman Empire, led by the emperor or Caesar, had taken hold. When Jesus was asked about paying taxes, he replied with a denarius and its image of the emperor on it. When Paul wrote to the citizens in Rome, the form of government in Greece and Rome had changed significantly with a limited amount of voting, yet Paul encourages his readers to be subject to the government as a gift God has given people for order in society, even though sin has its corrosive effects on it. Given the world in which Martin Luther lived, you will search unsuccessfully for advice on how to vote although he did echo Paul’s words about the purpose of government.
I heard a short phrase from a priest worth considering, “vote twice.” He did not mean like we used to joke about Chicago where the common phrase was, “vote early and vote often.” Choosing candidates on a ballot, whether at home or at the polling place, is likely the highest duty we have as citizens. With love for our neighbor, we choose candidates we believe will work for the common good. People tend to share common goals but the differences arise with how to achieve those goals.
But what is the second vote after Election Day? The answer lies with what we do with our time before the next election. We vote a second time for our leaders, whether our candidates won or lost, by praying for them. That might be a bigger challenge for us than voting for a particular candidate when our candidate did not win, but in the broader picture, the government we have is a gift from God as Paul wrote to the Romans. So we pray for our leaders recognizing that through them, God gives our country stability and leadership. A prayer for those in civil authority in the Lutheran Book of Worship is here for your consideration.
“O Lord our governor, your glory shines throughout the world. We commend our nation to your merciful care that we may live securely in peace and may be guided by your providence. Give all in authority the wisdom and strength to know your will and to do it. Help them remember that they are called to serve the people as lovers of truth and justice; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
After Election Day, keep voting with your prayers for our country, our state and our city.
Pastor Michael Dorner