Does God Command Me to Vote?

Do I Really Have To Choose Between Hillary And Trump?

Over the course of the past two years, and particularly in the first half of 2016, debate has reached an all-time high about whether or not Christians must cast a vote in the upcoming presidential election.

The primary driver behind these debates is the idea of “civic duty.” This is due, in part, to the belief by some that voting is the delegated responsibility of those living in a “we the people” form of government. Perhaps even more often cited is the ‘gratitudinal’ responsibility (a made up word/phrase that essentially means a responsibility based on an attitude of gratitude) that derives from all the soldiers who have fought, bled, sacrificed, and died in order that we might have the right to vote.

The argument of delegated responsibility, while less common, is a legitimate argument that requires some care in addressing, so let’s look at it last. First, let’s address the more prevalent driver behind the civic duty argument: ‘gratitudinal’ responsibility.

Sworn Oaths

When I joined the United States Military in 1989, I took an oath, the same oath that every service member in any branch of the United States Armed Forces must take:

“I, Eric Wilbanks, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

I never saw combat. But the American heroes who did (and still do) are fighting, bleeding, sacrificing, and sometimes dying for one and the same cause: to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to display allegiance and obedience to the U.S. authorities under which soldiers serve.

It’s all about the Constitution.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

In our form of government, this Constitutional drive toward a common justice, tranquility, defense, welfare, and liberty is sacred (or, at least, it used to be). And when it comes to the Constitution, U.S. citizens are guaranteed, among other things,
  • The right to free exercise of religion (Amendment I); 
  • The right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press (Amendment I); 
  • The right to peaceably assemble (Amendment I); 
  • The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances (Amendment I);
  • The right to keep and bear arms (Amendment II);
  • The right to vote (Amendment XIV).
So, yes: Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers have sacrificed so that I might have the right to vote. But they also sacrificed so that I might keep and bear arms and enjoy liberty. So whether as a soldier or a citizen, I do indeed “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

But what happens if a loyal and patriotic citizen—in the spirit of liberty—abstains from the right to keep or bear arms or to exercise religion? Has he or she failed in civic duty? Are they less American? It’s doubtful anyone would seriously make that argument. So why does the right to liberty (choosing whether or not to exercise your first or second amendment rights) not also apply to your 14th amendment rights? How is it unpatriotic or ungrateful to abstain from your right to vote if it isn’t unpatriotic or ungrateful to abstain from other rights?

It’s perfectly fine if you are of the opinion that everyone should vote, regardless of the candidates running or their values. But from both a Constitutional and legal point of view, it is a weightless argument … albeit one which you are at liberty to both have and freely proclaim! And the soldiers of the United States Armed Forces have all sworn by oath to protect your right to both exercise or abstain from exercising all those rights. God bless America!

The Republic for Which It Stands

Now for the less common (but weightier, in my opinion) argument based on delegated responsibility.

America is not a democracy, we are a republic. A pure democracy is little more than mob rule, and our founding fathers did everything in their power to prevent America from becoming a democracy, or as Thomas Jefferson called it, “an elective despotism.” So, technically speaking, your vote is not cast for president so much as it is cast for an elector. While it is unusual (it’s happened only four times in our history), a candidate can win the majority popular vote and still lose the electoral vote. Understanding the real power of a single vote seems to requires an advanced degree in math and/or statistics (neither of which I have). So to say with absolute certainty that my #NeverTrump inclinations could decide the outcome of the race seems like hyperbole at best. But I willingly concede: it’s debatable. Mathematics debates aside, I think there is a bigger issue for Christians to consider, and that is the issue of citizenship.

Show Me Your I.D., Please

Sometime around 2012-13, I was reading through Matthew 10, when Jesus sends out the Twelve, and one little verse struck me in a way that has set me on a true mind-shifting, paradigm-stretching trajectory. When he sends them out, he says, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’” Think about that. Jesus could have given them any number of important, contextually relevant messages to spread. He could have commanded them to speak out against the Roman Empire, the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, or the need for honest tax collectors. But He didn’t. He told them to preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. That struck me as so odd that it made me spend the next year studying every single passage in the New Testament that speaks about the Kingdom of God/Heaven. It was an amazing journey. The end result was a radical shift that I can only compare to taking the Red Pill in the Matrix:
MORPHEUS: The Matrix is everywhere, it's all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out your window, or on your television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church or pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
NEO: What truth?
MORPHEUS: That you are a slave, Neo. That you, like everyone else, was born into bondage ... kept inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch; a prison for your mind.
My earthly citizenship—American or otherwise—is a matrix, pulled over my eyes and blinding me from the Truth about my true citizenship: The Kingdom of God. Once you can wrap your brain around that tiny bit of information, everything suddenly changes. A year after starting that journey “down the rabbit hole,” here’s the raw conclusion I reached and jotted down hurriedly one day into Evernote.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is both now and not yet. We seek the now in order to prepare ourselves for the not yet.

Imagine a takeover of a country. Christianity does not have the resources or authority of a full and present Kingdom. Not yet. So we can't "take over" government and law and business, etc. What we can overtake, though, is the human heart. “Thy Kingdom come” is first a prayer for the rule of God in the hearts of individuals. That's what it means to seek first. Only a heart that has surrendered to the rule and reign of Christ cares about God’s righteousness ... not over society but over my own soul.

The rule of Christ over society is the not yet. The rule of Christ over my own heart is the now. That's a much taller order than we give credit for. In fact, it is a lifetime's worth of daily surrender to God's authority. Why does the Church have so much trouble with members living ungodly lifestyles? It is because they have not yet surrendered their hearts to the rule of Christ. They are—spiritually speaking—illegal aliens: seeking all the benefits of citizenship without the full and legal submission to the Divine law of the Kingdom Now. They want heaven, they want favor and blessings, they want care and guidance, love and forgiveness. But they want those things on their own terms. They do not want to surrender themselves to God's Kingdom rule over their lives. Besides, many of His requirements are "clearly" backwards, antiquated, and altogether unreasonable for modern man. Surely God is not that out of touch? Surely he has amended his laws and procedures concerning citizenship in his Kingdom, right?

Wrong. Deadly wrong. And when the role is called, many will be surprised to find that their names were never on the list. They never surrendered to the King. They refused His rule, and the consequences are dire. If you refuse to submit to the Kingdom Now, you will be denied entry to the Kingdom Not Yet.

“Thy Kingdom come” is actually a twofold prayer. It is first a prayer for His rule over the fiefdom of my heart and life today. Second, it is a prayer for the merciful coming of His rule over the whole earth … a prayer that we may never see answered in our own lifetime. So we exist in an odd space. We declare allegiance to one King while living under the tyranny of another. It is hard, but it is the life we have been destined to endure. Here we are all called to be Josephs. We are all called to be Daniels. The examples of those men is a clear path. Joseph never once tried to turn Egypt into Israel. Daniel never once tried to turn Babylon into Israel. But their hearts were fully Israel, fully surrendered to the God of Israel and His rule. Surrender your heart to God. It isn't your job to establish the coming Kingdom (of Not Yet). God will do that all by Himself. Your job is to serve God faithfully as a witness of His coming Kingdom all the while enslaved under petty kings, in full submission to their laws whenever they do not violate God's laws.

You are a country within a country. If the kings of the earth try to violate the borders of your heart, you have a duty to peacefully refuse. God rules there. It is sacred ground, claimed by the Kingdom Now. Otherwise, you must submit to the laws of the land and pray to Lord to expedite His Kingdom Not Yet.

As a believer, you must know your borders and guard them vigilantly. Guard your heart, Proverb 4:23 says. Do not allow the borders of your heart to be conformed to the shape and pattern that the petty kings and citizens of this world are trying to force upon you (Romans 12:2). Stand your ground (Ephesians 6:13). Your soul is the rightful property of the King of Kings (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). But even more dangerous than the petty kings and citizens of this world is the ruling spirit of this world. It is an evil, deceitful, corrupting spirit. You must not allow it entrance into God's Kingdom Now in your heart. The values and beliefs of this world are always contrary to the values and beliefs of God's Kingdom, sometimes subtly, other times aggressively. Unless you are daily “seeking” God's rule and reign, renewing your mind with His words and law, your borders will most assuredly be compromised. Secure your borders, and never forget that they begin and end with your own skin.

There are two dominant camps in Christianity today. The one is the activist Christian who feels a duty and calling to establish God's Kingdom Not Yet rule over society (instead of the Kingdom Now rule over the human heart), which we know is a misappropriation of spiritual authority and resources. The other is the "Relevant" crowd. They love to rail against the activist agenda of those who are trying to establish the Kingdom Not Yet via human means. There is a third group, but they are in the extreme minority. They are the Kingdom Now crowd, the ones who seek God's daily, increasing rule and reign over their own souls. They do seek to expand the Kingdom, but they do so soul-to-soul, one person at a time. Their "activist" agenda is purely spiritual—they seek to make disciples, thus fulfilling the Great Commission. They have no specific, vested interest in expanding the borders of God's Kingdom Now beyond the borders of human skin. That will happen, but it will happen by God's hand and timing, not our own. Someday all the individual fiefdoms will unite into a worldwide, societal Kingdom. But not yet. That cannot happen without the physical presence of the King. So for now, we "settle" for the conquest of the human heart and the establishment of new fiefdoms until our King reappears to establish the Kingdom to Come.

A Not-So-Clarion Call

It may seem, at first glance, like I am making a call to completely disengage from the affairs of this world. That’s not true. Others seem to have made that call. Wayne Jackson points out that David Lipscomb, in his book, Civil Government, “took the position that Christians ought not to vote” and that because God “puts into office those he chooses (Daniel 2:21; 4:17), Christian people ought to leave the matter to him, and remain aloof from the political process.” I’m not ready to go that far just yet. I am, however, calling you to take the Red Pill. Recognize—in all of its myriad implications—that you are first and most importantly a citizen of the Kingdom of God and your whole duty in life is to advance God’s Kingdom to new souls, committing your life to knowing Him, living for Him, loving others, and bearing spiritual fruit. So long as you are operating within those four boundaries, you have the freedom to do as you choose, and that includes any involvement in politics. (It should go without saying, but that freedom should typically include obeying the laws of the land you live in—provided they do not require that you violate any of God’s laws.) And I am calling you, as a citizen of the Kingdom Now, to familiarize yourself with what God’s Kingdom laws have to say about your responsibilities on earth.
  • Jesus himself confirmed that we should give to Caesar his due and pay taxes, but He also used the occasion to remind His listener’s that there is another Kingdom more powerful than Caeser’s (Mark 12:17). 
  • The apostle Paul used his earthly (Roman) citizenship to his advantage, working within earthly laws to gain a better platform from which to share the gospel (Acts 22-26).
  • We must respectfully submit ourselves to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7). However, when forced into a choice, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:27-29).
  • We must be careful not to “approve of those who practice [evil]” lest we, too, become subject to God’s wrath (Rom. 1:26-32).
  • We must diligently guard the sanctity of our own conscience in order to avoid sin (Romans 14:23).
  • As long as both we and the leaders we select follow the Lord, all will be well. Any other scenario will invite God’s wrath (1 Samuel 12:13-25). 
  • We are commanded to pray for, intercede for, and give thanks for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4). 

Finally, a Conclusion!

Let’s ask the opening question again: “Do I really have to choose between Hillary and Trump?”
  • From the perspective of ‘gratitudinal’ responsibility, the answer is a clear, “No.” Your gratitude for the sacrifice of our soldier heroes is not dependent on whether or not you exercise a certain right. Their sacrifice affords you the freedom to choose.
  • From the perspective of delegated responsibility, the answer is “Not really.” If you are a citizen of God’s Kingdom Now, then your primary responsibilities are to His Kingdom first. After that, it is completely your choice. Scripture gives you the freedom to choose so long as your choice does not violate any laws in God’s Kingdom.
Remember, allegiance to God’s kingdom must be first for believers, even if the context of our earthly situation seems dire—such as, for many, having to choose between Hillary or Trump. Jesus reminds us in Luke 12:22-34 that we should not worry about our needs. Instead, we should “seek first” the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. If we set God’s Kingdom Now as our priority, He will meet our needs—which is a promise that neither Hillary nor Trump will ever be able to make or keep.
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About Eric Wilbanks

Brand strategist. Wordsmith. Change architect. Training specialist. DiSC Certified. Family guy (hot wife and 4 cool kids). Love my Bible, guitars, baseball, and MMA.


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