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Traditionally, Labor Day is the start of the general election.
The two-and-a-half month period between Labor Day and Election Day is when most voters turn their attention the election, examine the issues, and decide on a candidate to support. Essentially, September is the beginning of the stretch run to Election Day.
Followers of Christ will face many decisions in the days and weeks to come. These decisions are the same that any American faces during an election year, such as who to vote for or what issues are important to me. The difference for a Christian is that these decisions must be answered in relationship with our faith in Christ. It is imperative that a Christian remembers that our calling to follow Christ includes how we engage the political process. Indeed, our electoral decisions must be formed from our faith in Christ and not based on worldly desires or expectations.
What does this mean for the average church member? In previous posts, I’ve discussed how pastors should avoid partisanship in the church and how to use social media in an election year. While these thoughts might be beneficial to a pastor, they are not necessarily helpful to the average church member who is trying to figure out how to follow Christ during an election year.
Considering this, here are five suggestions for how a Christian might engage the political process.
1. Do not hold undue allegiance to a political party. Our country is defined by our partisanship, which is formed out of our strict adherence to being a member of the Republican Party or Democratic Party. While it is certainly acceptable for a Christian to be a member of a political party and involved in politics, a Christian must be aware of how much value they place on being a member of a certain party. In other words, our political party must not become central to our identity. For many people, being a member of a certain political party defines who they are and how they see others. It becomes their god. Followers of Christ must not base their personal identity on their political affiliation or see their party as their god. Our identity must be formed by our relationship with Christ. Nothing is to come above this relationship and our identity as a child of God.
2. Watch your words. So far, this has been a nasty election. Both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney have used negative campaign tactics, which have also been used by their surrogates. Christians must rise above the rhetoric and negativity that is associated with most political elections. In everything we do, we are to be witnesses of Christ’s love, teaching, and holiness. Our participation in the electoral process is not exempt from this. Followers of Christ must be careful that their words and actions to someone are not based on hatred or animosity simply because that person holds a different political viewpoint. Our actions must be defined by Christ’s love and respect. To take any other action would hinder the body of Christ and weaken our witness.
3. Educate yourself on the issues. A voter should take the time to educate themselves on the issues and a candidate’s positions. This is an important electoral duty. Christians also have this responsibility. Education is an important part of our relationship with Christ, as Paul reminds us in Romans 12. We are called to continually transform our mind. Christians must be aware of the issues that face our communities and understand the positions of those who seek to lead in the coming years. We cannot depend on others to tell us who to vote for or what someone supports. We must do this hard investigative work ourselves.
4. Remember that the mission of the church is not dependent on an election. The mission of the church will go on regardless of who wins in November. This is important for Christians to remember. The mission of the church is not to make political disciples. We are called to make followers of Jesus Christ, through the preaching of the good news and sharing of Christ’s love with others. This is the work we are called to do. It is a work that will continue no matter if a Democrat or Republican occupies the White House.
5. Pray for our leaders. As followers of Christ, we must pray for our leaders and the election. This is not a prayer seeking God’s blessing for our preferred candidate. Instead, we pray that God’s will will be done in the election and in our country. We pray for the protection of our leaders. We also pray for their discernment and leadership.
Christians have an important role in the upcoming election. We have the job of being witnesses of Christ’s love to others in the political process. Hopefully, these tips will serve as a guidance for how followers of Christ might be witnesses of God’s love in the voting booth.