by Kevin Short
Greg’s Note: The following letter is an email my pastor, Kevin Short, sent to our congregation at Christ Community Church in Springfield, Mo., a church that I’m thankful and blessed to be part of. It is published here with his kind permission.
I have met many folks who have been in a quandary over the 2016 presidential election. Not all are wondering. Many have made up their minds and are approaching the election with great certainty regarding their favorite candidate. I am not one of them. What I am about to share is not to try to get you to agree with me politically. My hope is that we as a church can agree more fundamentally.
I have a confession to make. I have been a political cynic for several years. I wasn’t always this way. I do not like that I am this way. I love my country. I believe Christians have a responsibility to be good citizens. I admire Christians who can engage the political culture with vigor and wisdom. Somewhere along the line I lost the vigor. I have no one to blame but myself. I have come to acknowledge that, for me, my cynicism was sin. I was excusing my lack of engagement by blaming the system and quality of leaders. What stares back at me are freedoms that have been secured for me by many others who have given their lives so I can indulge my cynicism. I have the freedom to engage and the power to vote. I have a responsibility to approach my freedom and power with a sense of duty to God first and then to others around me. (Romans 13:1-7) I am moving away from my cynicism, though I admit it has been a challenge this year.
Part of the issue for me has not only been the political landscape, but the evangelical arena that appeared to me to uncritically merge with one political party. At some point it is hard to tell whether someone is more loyal to the party or to Christ. This bothers me greatly as a pastor. There is something healthy about a church having diversity among its members, including politically. Even as I write this, I am sure some are thinking, “How can a Christian be a part of THAT political party!” Well, be careful who you condemn because that person may be sitting next to you on Sunday morning.
My one goal is that we as a church filter our political thoughts through a biblical worldview. I am sure most Christians think about abortion and gay marriage in this regard. I would agree the Bible speaks to these issues; however, did you also know the Bible has over 300 verses on the poor and social justice? The volume of verses on the poor far outweighs the number of verses on homosexuality and abortion combined. I think the Bible is clear about the immorality of gay marriage and abortion. It is also abundantly clear about how we are to treat the poor. We can argue about which party best addresses these issues, but what is not up for grabs are the biblical standards.
Proportion matters. There are many issues to consider in every election and we would do well to be informed. Some issues deserve greater attention than others. I think killing hundreds of thousands of babies a year carries heavy weight. Abortion is an especially egregious offense knowing that its architects positioned abortion clinics decades ago in urban areas to diminish the black population. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood said, “The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than among whites, is from the portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly.” Many people are simply unaware of the results. To this day, the number one killer in black communities is abortion. There are issues tangential to abortion, but they must be addressed in the context of reducing humans slaughtering other humans.
Both major political parties, in my opinion, have fallen woefully short of their platforms. There is a platform I am far more drawn to, but I am frustrated with decades of promises with little progress.
I have heard folks present several choices: 1) Vote either Republican or Democrat based on the platform, disregarding the character of either candidate. 2) Vote either Republican or Democrat based on the perceived/hoped for consequences of either candidate winning. (Supreme Court nominations, economic policies, foreign policies, border/immigration policies). 3) Vote for a third candidate. 4) Not vote at all.
Option 4 does not seem viable for a sober-minded believer who takes his/her citizenship seriously. Over 20 million evangelicals did not bother to vote or register in the last presidential election even though they were eligible. Option 3 (Libertarian Party, Constitution Party) is appealing for some who are not attracted to the two major parties or who feel the third party more aligns with their conscience. Their fear of throwing away a vote is overcome by their feeling of protest or their conscience that more aligns with the third party. Option 1 feels like compromise to many because they feel they have to hold their nose while they vote. That leaves Option 2 that takes a more pragmatic view, although many people are not too sure of their prognosticating abilities. Others vote for their candidate not so much for the love for their own, but their despising the other.
How can people gain clarity? Is it possible to have a godly confidence as we approach our citizenship and vote on Tuesday?
Enter the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was written during the 7th century BC. Habakkuk, the prophet, wrote in a time of international crisis and national corruption. Babylonia had just emerged as a world power.
When the Babylonians (also referred to as the Chaldeans) rebelled against Assyria, Judah was briefly spared of God's judgment because their king, Josiah, had instituted righteous reforms. (II Kings 22:18-20)
The Babylonians finally crushed the Assyrian Empire and quickly proceeded to defeat the once-powerful Egyptians. A new world empire was stretching across the world. Soon the Babylonians would overtake Judah and carry its inhabitants away into captivity. Since the death of Josiah, their righteous king, Judah experienced great moral decline and national corruption. Under the rule of Jehoiakim, decay, violence, greed, fighting and perverted justice was the norm.
On the eve of pending destruction, in a period of uncertainty and fear, Habakkuk wrote his message. Habakkuk is upset with what he perceives as God's indifference to the sin of Judah. The book is a record of Habakkuk's conversations with God.
Central to Habakkuk’s complaint are the words in 1:2-4. 2O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2–4)
How have things gotten so bad? Where are you God? How come you have allowed things to so deteriorate in our country? I understand that God’s people then operated under a theocracy and we operate under a constitutional republic. Our forms of government are different, but God’s people in both ages see His rule as sovereign over human affairs. Can we not agree that God has a right to speak to us as citizens and hold our leaders accountable? If you were to read chapter 2 of Habakkuk you would find many “woes” given by God that more than infer this accountability.
My hope rises as I read Habakkuk 3. Here we see God declaring that His deeds are worth remembering. “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)
His justice will be executed. “He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways.” (Habakkuk 3:6)
Is this a promise only for an Old Testament economy? Has God quit being just? God still measures. He still looks. He still shakes and scatters.
Habakkuk ends with a glorious praise to God who is deserving of our devotion and praise even when his country is not what it could or should be. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” (Habakkuk 3:17–19)
Cynicism reveals my eyes are focused on the circumstances instead of a sovereign God who is just and we can rest in. Instead of moaning about the present state of affairs, I can rejoice in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who was faithful then, and He continues to be faithful to His promises. I can choose cynicism, fear, or confidence in the God of the universe who holds the nations like a drop in a bucket (Isaiah 40:15).
We can all cast a vote for trust in a sovereign God. Such trust is not to escape our citizenship and responsibilities, but rather to approach it as a stewardship from God.
Joel Butler kindly allowed me to print the following points from a recent Sunday School class he taught at CCC. These are biblical points about the ideal political leader. My hope is that such a list will assist us as we vote. The best we can do is seek to align our vote with a worldview that reflects biblical standards. We are voting for flawed human beings.
The ideal political leader should possess good judgment. (Prov 16:12)
The ideal political leader practices righteousness. (Prov 16:13. 17:7)
The ideal political leader is honest. (Prov 20:26)
The ideal political leader punishes evil. (Prov 19:12, 20:8
The ideal political leader befriends the righteous. (Prov 25:2)
The ideal political leader researches the facts. (Prov 28:15)
The ideal political leader is never oppressive and hates unjust gain. (Prov 29:4)
The ideal political leader gives stability through justice. (Prov 29:12)
The ideal political leader sets an example. (Prov 16:13, 22:11, 25:4)
The ideal political leader does not tolerate evil men within his government. (Prov 20:28)
The ideal political leader is loyal to moral absolutes. (Deut 17:18-20)
Until Christ reigns in the Kingdom to come, let us do our best to filter our votes through the lens of scripture and put our confidence in a powerful, sovereign God. Imagine that one day we will have no more political ads to bombard us, but only praise to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Instead of cynicism or fear, our hearts can be confident that our ultimate destiny is not in the hands of a human leader.
God bless you as you vote next Tuesday.