As the nation prepares for an election during one of the worst recessions of recent history, and after years of legislation often unfriendly to Christian values, how should we prepare ourselves to vote?
‘You Christians really do have it tough. I never realised how serious it was. Maybe it’s you Christians who should come out of the closet’.
These words were spoken, surprisingly, by a homosexual who visited the Christian Institute web site and was genuinely shocked to see how far the political pendulum had swung against Christians.
Standing out in this arena is not natural to Christians. We have put up with an ever-increasing tide of legislation washing over and against us. Sticking one’s head above the parapet hasn’t seemed inviting. Often, ‘waiting patiently for the Lord’ really meant ‘keeping your head down’!
But we should realise that there are a number of professed Christians who have not taken this route; they have been willing to come out of the ‘religious closet’. In fact, every day some of them follow Christ in a very public forum – the Houses of Parliament.
This is not to spark a debate about whether church and State should be completely separate or inextricably entwined (that is a different issue). And, as ET affirmed in its February lead article, the primary calling of Christians is to promote the gospel – let nothing detract from that!
But Jesus Christ told his hearers to ‘render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). And Romans 13 teaches ‘render therefore to all their due’ and that the State is an important servant of God.
These two standpoints are in fact complementary, not contradictory. Why should Christians vote? In the light of the Scriptures just cited, using one’s vote is surely a biblical duty. Without it, there’s little legitimate political engagement to really benefit society. Besides, Christians are already in a minority and if we are not prayerfully using our votes, our country will inevitably be shaped by those who do not know God.
We might also argue with justification that voting is an important human right. In the UK we are blessed with a democracy that allows fair and violence-free elections, a private ballot box and open debate.
As the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, told Premier Radio: ‘Giving into cynicism gets us nowhere. Men and women have fought hard to give us the opportunity to vote … It is right that Christians should engage with politics. It is right that they have a say in who creates the laws that govern us’.
One parliamentarian told ET: ‘There are reminders of God’s sovereignty everywhere in parliament. If you stand in central lobby, look down and see Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it”.’
The Westminster chimes render music from Handel’s Messiah. Big Ben’s bell bears the inscription ‘All through this hour, Lord be my guide’.
There are Christian MPs in the various political parties. Who knows – many more may be elected very soon? Look at Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah. All these were God’s people serving politically under ungodly and hostile regimes. These all bore amazing witness to God and were able to do great things for his glory.
As Mordecai told Esther: ‘Who knows, but that you have been called to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ (4:14). This should be a consolation to us and stimulate our prayers for them and the nation.