The primary season is over, and it’s pretty clear who the major party candidates are going to be: Donald Trump for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats (even though Bernie Sanders is currently making her claim difficult).
So then, who should you vote for as a Christian?
Statistics show that most — though certainly not all — believers vote Republican. But can you vote for Trump (and some would even insert “how” between “But” and “can”)? After all, the qualms that many people have about his ethics are well-known.
Additionally, those who know me know where I stand.
That said, I want to be very clear about something: I am not telling others how to vote, and I am not speaking on behalf of my denomination, presbytery, or any local church. I believe that is an area left to each Christian and their conscience.
Here’s why I say that: this is an area where Christian liberty comes into play. What is Christian liberty? For the uninitiated, it’s summed up in the Westminster Confession of Faith (my denomination’s statement of faith and perhaps the greatest man-made summary of what the Bible teaches), chapter 20, paragraph 2:
“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.”
For our purposes, here is the key aspect of Christian liberty that we’re going to focus on: the freedom that you have as a Christian from man-made rules that are contrary to God’s Word.
So for instance, suppose your city passes an ordinance that forbids evangelizing, and telling others about Christ. What does the Bible say about that? We know that believers are called to be “ready for an answer” for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).
And when Peter and the other Apostles were told to stop evangelizing, he said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if a civil government were to tell you to stop evangelizing, you would be duty-bound to disobey!
But let’s return to our current conundrum: if someone tells you that you must vote for Candidate X, what should you do? You should look to the Bible and see if there is anything that would say you have to go along with that. If there is nothing that says you should vote a certain way (and I don’t see a single Bible verse telling us to vote for any specific person), then you don’t have to listen.
Someone might then say, “But if you don’t vote for Candidate X, then Candidate Y will get elected and cause terrible things to happen! Besides, Candidate X said he’ll do good things if we vote for him.”
To the first part, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring; only God does. And Christ told us specifically not to worry about tomorrow (Mt. 6:25-34) — and that’s not to say we shouldn’t be concerned about current events; rather, for the sake of this discussion that we shouldn’t let fear be the deciding factor.
As to the second part, that’s certainly a factor. If you believe a candidate will do what he says, and if you conclude that his record is consistent with what he is promising, then by all means vote for him.
But one thing we should not do as Christians — and one thing the local church should not do — is tell us how to vote. This would be legalism, a man-made rule in an area where God is silent.
So then, how should you vote this November? I’m not going to tell you that, but I will say this: as you and I sit under the Word as it is read and taught, this will inform how we make our decisions in life, including who to vote for.
It’s true that Christians can — and will –come to different conclusions on it, and that’s all right. And I would certainly encourage you to discuss it with your fellow believers, your elders, and your pastor. See what biblical insights they have on the situation, and let that play a part in how you will (or won’t) cast your ballot.
But at the end of the day, the question you have to ask yourself is, can you stand before your maker with a clear conscience after making your decision?
A Final Warning
Lastly, a lament: it has been saddening to see the extent to which friendships have ended because of this election.
At the end of the day, and no matter what we conclude about voting for Donald Trump, we need to remember that this is not an issue that pertains to salvation. Of course, we should pray for our country (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We should also vote according to our consciences as they are informed by God’s Word, and recognize that this is an area of Christian liberty, where our brothers and sisters may indeed come to different conclusions on this issue.
But above all, we need to remember the words of the classic hymn: “Blessed be the ties that bind our hearts in Christian love.”
The bonds we share as Christians are far greater than the results of any particular election cycle.