10 Commandments for Voting

These are the 10 Commandments from the message this weekend. They result from my study of the passage and make the most sense in the context of the message. You can listen to when it is posted on iTunes or our website. I've also included the N.T. Wright quote. (I did not use this on Saturday night, so it's not something you missed when you were sleeping, Debbie.)

  1. Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind in the voting booth. So you will seek to vote in a way that reflects the stamp of God’s image on your life.
  2. Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself. You will not simply vote for what’s good for you. You will vote for what is good for your neighbor.
  3. Thou shalt seek God's glory by promoting his values. Incidentally, everyone goes to the voting booth voting their values. It would be a shame for our country if Christians left their values at home. It is quite obvious from this passage that God is Lord of your life always, even while you're in the voting booth.
  4. Thou shalt not idolize a party or candidate.
  5. Thou shalt be informed about the issues and candidates. Love demands it. Policies have consequences. And sometimes those consequences are unintended, so don't leave your mind at home.
  6. Thou shalt be humble in the voting booth. God has not revealed what to vote for. Only God knows all the consequences of our votes. He is chosen not to give us a particular political philosophy to pursue. Therefore Christians will go into the voting book voting with the same motivations and informed by Scripture, but they will inevitably come out having voted for different candidates and policies.
  7. Thou shalt treat those with whom you disagree with honor. Even if you don't respect their positions or their logic, you will treat them with respect.
  8. Thou shalt be hopeful. You will pin your hope on a Kingdom that transcends all others. 
  9. Thou shalt be joyful. The Spirit’s joy is not dependent on our immediate circumstances.
  10. Thou shalt not be cynical. Cynicism is rooted in arrogance or hopelessness.

N.T. Wright from Luke for Everyone:

"Underneath the debate stands a darker theme. The accusers have failed this time; but Jesus knows, and Luke’s readers know, that they will soon succeed…. The leading Jews are going to hand over to Caesar not only the coin that bears his image, and his false title son of God, but the human being who truly bears God’s image, and who truly bears that title. But, in that act, they are unwittingly offering to God the one stamped with the mark of self-giving love. The cross itself is taken up into both Caesar’s purposes and God’s: Caesar’s favorite weapon, the cross, becomes God’s chosen instrument of salvation."

I explain why our church does not promote particular candidates or policy solutions here. We speak to the issues behind the policy solutions. And we would comment on policy if a policy coerces or tries to force people or sin.

Weekend Message Q&A

Here are the questions I received based from the weekend message.

Q – You certainly guided us through the biblical guidelines of marriage and sexuality in the last few weeks.  However, how about divorce?  Outside of unfaithfulness and desertion by an unbeliever, is there any grounds for a biblically guided divorce? If so, what/where is it?  I ask mainly for a close family member who is strongly considering divorce, but both are believers and there has not been unfaithfulness.  Thanks.

A – Here’s our Elder’s policy on Divorce and Remarriage Download DivRemarPolAug07. It's a good place to start.

Q – The I Corinthians 6 verse confused me a little bit. I thought by grace we are saved, does this verse mean homosexuals and the others in the verse are not? 

A – Here’s the passage.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

I think you are assuming that Paul is saying Christians don’t do any of those things once they have been washed, sanctified and justified, but he is not. These verses have to be read in the context of the whole letter, of Paul’s writings and even in the context of the entire Bible.

In this letter Paul clearly assumes that Christians still sin—including the sins listed in this passage. In this letter he goes into detail about how Christians will at times live “according to the flesh.” Some translations translate “flesh” (when used in this sense) as “sinful nature.” 

Even in this passage Paul refers to the fact that we are made righteous only through Christ and by the Spirit’s work. So, it’s not about not doing certain things that we are saved.

But if a person’s life is marked by these sins, a person’s heart lacks repentance and change/growth isn’t evident in a person’s life, Paul is saying they can expect the same results as non-Christians at the judgment because that’s what they are, in spite of their association with the church and their verbal profession of Christ. Jesus spoke to this as well in the Gospels (Matthew 13:24-30; also John 10:25-30). Paul’s words are first a warning/exhortation that keeps the good "fear" of God on the forefront of the believer’s mind. It’s one of the ways God helps all his children persevere all the way to the end. It reminds us to stay vigilant. We are at war with sin and evil. Failure to be at war in our lives is a possible sign that we never enlisted! But his words also function as a reminder that there are always wolves among the sheep.

Q – You said we need to examine the policies we are voting on. Can you recommend a good non-biased place to read about the policies and the pros and cons of proposed policies? 

A – I don’t think this (or most topics) can be approached in an unbiased way. So you're going to need to go to your usual trusted sources. I recommend building a good stable of trusted sources for political and worldview issues—people and organizations that deal with a wide variety of issues in a biblical way. Here are some of my favorite organizations for this sort of thing:

  • BreakPoint and The Colson Center.
  • Christianity Today: Note that Christianity Today has a variety of different publications and blogs to which you can subscribe. Check out their "Media/Culture" and "Politics/Current Affairs" sections.
  • Although I haven't used it much recently, World Magazine seeks to consistently bring a biblically informed worldview to today's news and issues.

Starting with these resources will introduce you to a variety of Christianity’s greatest thinkers.

Then, just to keep everyone honest, I recommend exposing yourself to thoughtful sources that don’t claim to be biblical in their orientation. One or two will do, but if you've been around Five Oaks for a while you know I listen a lot to the news on Minnesota Public Radio (including NPR news shows) and programs they carry like "Planet Money," "Marketplace," "Radiolab," and "This American Life." I also read the Pioneer Press, watch both CNN and Fox News and even get a dose of talk radio. None of these sources come from a particularly Christian perspective and you don't have to be an input nut like me to get a variety of perspectives.

Bring the Bible's teaching to bear on what you know learn from these resources and from trusted friends, then I'm pretty sure you'll be an well-informed voter.

Q – (1) For those of us who have decided to vote “yes” on the marriage amendment how do we respond to people who say that in the United States we have a separation of church and state and (2) something so biblical has no place in politics? (3) In my experience that question is always followed up with “how would you like it if non-Christian doctrine was forced onto you”? (4) In your opinion what are the secular reasons for voting “yes”?

A – I’ve taken the liberty to number the questions.

(1) I try to bring up a couple of ideas:

It’s debatable whether what the constitution says about church and state should be interpreted as a "separation of church and state." It’s good to remind folks that the terms “separation of church and state” are not in the constitution and that the phrase is a debatable interpretation of what is the constitution.

But whether or not it's a good interpretation, we know for certain that the framers did not want individual citizens to participate in the public square without their consciences (formed by their faith or lack thereof) engaged. In other words, I like to remind people that no one else leaves their convictions at home when they vote, so why should Christians?

(2) I guess I would point out that until recently every culture from every religion (including atheistic governments) for all recorded history have only sanctioned marriage between men and women. It’s not just a biblical position.

(3) As politely and respectfully as possible, I would ask, “Are you serious?” Tens of thousands of Christians have had their relatives (grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.) aborted—children that would not otherwise have died except that our government sanctions abortion on demand. Again, this doesn’t settle the issue as to whether or not the gay marriage amendment is a good law. It simply is a reminder that all laws arise out of the biases, ethics, convictions and worldview of those who frame them. There are very few if any unbiased, neutral laws that don't force something on anyone.

(4) This is a very important question. It assumes, quite correctly, that while we vote our consciences and convictions based on Scripture, it’s not profitable to try to convince people who don’t share our convictions about Scripture by appealing to Scripture. While we believe God’s precepts (his commands) are based on the principles he established in his creation, and those principles arise from the person of God (his character), this argument doesn’t fly with the general public. But if what we believe is true, doesn’t it follow that there should be arguments we can make based on reason and common grace? Here’s a BreakPoint commentary the late Chuck Colson wrote a few years ago that can serve as a starting point for making those arguments (link here).

Even so, I think it’s also important to point out the burden of proof actually lies with anyone who is advocating for changing something that has been universally accepted throughout history. What evidence do they have for suggesting “gay marriage” won’t negatively impact society or the institution of marriage? I think their argument would need to be compelling.

Everything I’m saying here assumes that gay marriage is not a good thing because God says it's not a good thing, but it makes no judgment on whether or not the amendment itself is good governmental policy.