How Should You Vote?
Who should you vote for in the federal election this Saturday?
If your experience has been anything like mine, suggested answers to this question have filled your letterbox, social media feed, and television screen for the last few weeks. People have towed trailers, sat by the side of the road, and set up signs to tell you how to answer this question. And campaign volunteers will seek to answer it for you as you run the gauntlet of pamphlets and outreached hands to make it to the polling booth tomorrow.
And for good reason, it is an incredibly important question. Good government matters. It matters to God (Rom. 13:1-7), and it should matter to us. But let me be clear right up front, I have zero intention of telling you who you should vote for this Saturday. Your vote is exactly that; your vote.
Instead, I want to answer a slightly different question: How should you vote? What issues should you consider as you vote? And I want to suggest that your Christian faith should inform how you vote, whichever way you end up going. So, borrowing from John Dickson and his helpful article, ‘How to Vote Christianly’, let me offer five principles that should guide how to vote as a Christian:
Vote for others
According to the teaching of the New Testament (Rom. 12:10; Php. 2:3-4) and the example of Jesus (Mk. 10:45; Jn. 13:1-20), any position or possession of power and influence should be used for the good of others. After washing the dirty feet of his disciples in the ultimate act of other-centred service, Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). Christians should use whatever influence they have, including their vote, to contribute to the well-being of others. As Dickson says: “…in thinking through the policies of the Government, the Opposition and the minor parties, don’t think only of yourself—your family, your industry, your way of life. Think instead of the wider public good. In your vote ‘consider others better than yourselves’ (Rom. 12:10).”
Vote for the moral health of our community
When the people of God found themselves exiled to the powerful and pagan nation of Babylon, God instructed his people to: “…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). Christians should use their vote to enhance the welfare and moral health of our community, which, according to Dickson, means: “…as citizens who believe that a society’s health depends (in part) on living as the Creator designed, Christians will want to ponder: which party and/or policies will promote the values applauded by the Creator, the values of justice, harmony (nationally and internationally), sexual restraint, honesty, family and mercy.” This means we will want to think through and factor into our vote such important issues as abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research, educational issues including the Safe Schools program, the treatment of asylum seekers, and so forth.
Vote for the poor and weak
To stand up for and defend the rights of the poor and the weak is an obvious and repeated teaching of Scripture. For example: “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4). “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God” (Proverbs 14:31). “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). There is no debate; the plight of the poor is an issue close to the heart of God, and should inform our vote. This will mean considering which parties will provide the resources and means to see the disadvantaged cared for and supported, both locally and abroad.
Vote for the gospel
Dickson says, “Almost by definition, Christians are to live for the salvation of others (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1). Concern for the advancement of the gospel throughout Australia, therefore, will play a part in a Christian’s voting patterns.” This election, and events surrounding it, have brought the question of religious freedom into the national spotlight. Of course, the gospel cannot be hindered—it is the power of God, after all (Rom. 1:16)—but to protect the ongoing freedom to proclaim Christ in Australia should be an important factor in the vote of a Christian.
Recently I have been reflecting on Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:1-3, where he writes: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” These are poignant words that should regularly move us to step off our soapbox and onto our knees. As Dickson concludes: “The Scriptures urge us to pray for leaders and for governments. And, ultimately, this has to be seen as even more important than our vote.”
Grace and peace,