Provocative question, huh? This is the first election in which this has occurred to me. I’ve always assumed in the past that there is one candidate God preferred,and therefore, everyone who follows Him should vote for that person.
Maybe this is not a new thought for you. Maybe I’m late to the party, but at least I got here.
If you expect this post to persuade you who to vote for, this is not that kind of post. I won’t even talk about who I plan to vote for or mention any candidates or their policies. If I do this well, you will no idea who I think I’m voting for, because it would nullify my point in writing this.
My post is for believers who live their lives by trying to please God and get His input on how to live their lives. I pose the question and suggestion that it might really be possible for one praying person to hear the God telling him/her to vote for a candidate, and another praying person to hear God say to vote for a different one. If this seems implausible, hang with me a bit.
This election has been the most divisive I’ve ever seen among the people in my life. I’ve never seen more strident opinions and quick judgement and name-calling, “If you don’t vote for ____, you’re ______.”
Of course, it’s kind of a given, sadly, for a group of people who believe they are voting “on God’s side,” the confidence that they are right can often make them assume all others are wrong. And here is where I halted recently, breath stopped. And not just because the thinly-veiled disdain and judgement and poor conduct sickened me and made me want to weep for the way I witnessed people treating each other. And not just because I think, first and foremost, we are called to be humble even when we really believe we’re hearing God; we are called to honor and love each other above ourselves (Rom. 12:10), called ot encourage (I Thess. 5:11), so on and so forth.
I’m questioning the narrative I’ve just assumed my entire life. Because God is so big. His concerns are much larger than just what happens in this election and to this country and for the person who wins. It somehow escaped my thoughts that God’s hand is not in only to processes of the winners of elections, but also perhaps just as much in a host of other surrounding events and candidates, etc. What happens with candidates who do not win an election? By how much they win or lose has great effects on future developments, and I daresay it stands to reason God has an interest in them just as much. They are all threads of the much bigger story which we believe God is fashioning all the time. If God uses believers who follow him to get a candidate to win, I don’t see why some believers might be truly led by God to reach other ends too that are just as much God’s plan. We might see the race in completely human terms, fixated on the one person who will be deemed the winner. I suspect God sees much more than just this race and His goals may not be ours. What we see as the Big Race might not be to Him. We might all want to back the best horse to win the race, but what He’s orchestrating might be (must be!) so much bigger!
Let me clarify that I’m talking not just about the race between the 2 major contenders, but also the smaller parties on the ballots this year. Some people have speculated this was the year maybe a 3rd party could potentially to make an impact as big as when the Republican party edged out the Whig party in the 1800s. Right now, the Libertarian party and the Green party both have candidates on most state ballots, and Evan McMillan, a rogue Republican running, has garnered some attention with a strategy.
While it truly seems unlikely any 3rd party candidate could ever win, their presence is changing, and has potential to further change, the future of politics. I submit that who wins is not the only occurrence of importance; by how much matters, and how much the 3rd parties garner matters. These factors influence what will happen in the future; they have the potential to influence the will of the people and the direction of even the winner as well as all future campaigns.
I dare say there is a lot more going on than simply which person wins. And I don’t see God as partisan. His only party is His kingdom, his only plans are His own and for His glory. If a candidate is meant to win, for whatever non-obvious, mysterious reason we may never know at the moment or during our lifetimes, it’s obvious from the fact that the parties have been taking turns in the White House that God is working His hands and will through more than one party.
This just all came to bear on me recently in realizing that if I pray and seek God’s guidance on my vote, I should not be surprised or doubt that I heard right simply because what I believe God tells me doesn’t match what another praying Christian says.
For those of us who live by the Spirit, seeking God on voting decisions should be our resource. This election has challenged so many of my assumptions, so many of by political thoughts.
I do not feel represented; no one was really who I wanted. So, should I vote at all? Should I vote for one moral issue or prioritize even when the candidate’s plans violate many other moral issues? Should I vote my conscience even if that means knowing my vote will not back anybody with momentum? Or as some say, ignore character (because it’s perhaps negligible considering the two main choices) and vote solely for platform? (In the mail, I got a post card from one party that would not even invoke the candidate’s name. It simply said to vote for “the party” in order to defeat the other party.) Should I vote to defeat what I dislike most, no matter who that leaves as the winner? Or is this the time to vote 3rd party? Should I vote toward a strategy? Or for the lesser evil? How on earth can I choose wisely when everything seems either ineffectual or morally gray?
My intellect has no answer for that. There is so much more going on than I can ever possibly know. Even if I were the most brilliant political analyst and did an amazing level of research on each candidate, and had eye-witnessed all the allegations put forth and therefore know the truth, there would still be so much I’d not be aware of. I feel the only answer I can get is from the Spirit.
And here is really my point: if you’re a believer, don’t vote in this most infamous, most extreme election to date WITHOUT seeking God’s guidance. What you hear Him tell YOU matters more than a national church leader’s assessment or prophesy. (And we know there are multiple, conflicting ones of those, too.) Do what God tells YOU, if you want a take-away from this article. I do believe we can get it wrong. Even if God orchestrates the leaders of government as the early Church was told by Apostles, we are each still morally culpable for what we help or hinder. I can get my vote wrong. If it’s not what God wants me to do, then I don’t want to do it.
Voting who your community and neighbors are favoring doesn’t count. Voting how your family does doesn’t count. Even voting how your pastor does, or your church, doesn’t count. Following what other people say they’ve heard from God IS NOT the same as seeking God’s guidance for you.
When my church’s pastors shared who they planned to vote for, the point in the message that day wasn’t that each of us would vote as they were, but that we would do what they did: ask God.
May I confess how hard this really was for me? Pride. I have a lot of ideas. I have strong convictions, preferences and changes I want to see. What if God wants me to vote for someone who doesn’t represent the changes I want to see? (Which honestly isn’t hard to imagine, since I don’t think I agree with more than half of anyone’s platform.)
And for any voting choice I could make, there is at least one group of people I respect saying why that is a terrible, harmful idea that will surely destroy the country.
With all these voices, it has not been easy to get to the place where I could lay down my own conclusions, worries, preferences and ideas for how America can get itself out of its mess, and say, “God, tell me where to place my vote.”
I had such a revulsion about a particular candidate. What does it take to get to the mental place to say, “No, really, God, I will vote whoever you say to–even if it’s ____.” Ugh. Can I tell you how many times I prayed and didn’t hear anything? I left the prayer feeling no guidance, no peace. Because I wasn’t able yet to hear God at all.
I could ask the question, but inside, I couldn’t silence the little voice inside me that was like Harry Potter under the sorting hat saying, “anything but Slytherin.” It was like my heart was a fist, so thoroughly against what a certain candidate stood for that I could not hear God’s voice over my own; I could not open my heart to honestly hear anything.
It took many prayers before I could get the panic rhythm of my heart to slow. Many days lapsed before I could start to believe the truth; that whatever God has to tell me, I need not be afraid of it. Why would I not want to be moving with God’s kingdom? I had to walk myself through what I feared as the worst case scenario, and remind myself that if God asked me to do even that, why would I not? It felt like a real Jonah moment. He wasn’t just afraid to go to Nineveh. He didn’t think the people deserved the forgiveness God wanted them to get. I felt a bit like that. I didn’t want to help a candidate win if I don’t think he/she is worthy of it–so what if God has a plan to work through them.
Once I finally could trust God on this, and my heartbeat wasn’t the loudest thing in the room, I could actually begin to hear His guidance. In some ways, what He revealed to me was shocking, in other ways, not at all. And freeing.
In the end, the person who gets my vote will be roundly denounced by many Christians. Honestly, no matter where I cast my vote, that could truly be said. There is no one unified “Christian vote.” But for the first time, I’m wondering if that too is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps not an indication that one group was following God’s lead all along and the rest all missed it.
So I urge each believer reading this: Pray. Seek. Listen to God with trust so you can hear him. Don’t let others around you say sway you. Just because what you believe God is telling you doesn’t match others around you, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve misheard. If you question it, reconvene with God. And likewise, if you are planning to vote what the majority of believers around you are saying, don’t let that sway you, either. Go check for yourself.
I cannot answer the question I posed in my title. But the idea that it’s logically possible is freeing. And considering the possibility encourages the most Biblical advice: seek God for your decisions as though it’s the most important thing you can do. It also frees me to not worry about others’s opinions more than God’s direction. It frees me to keep this between me and God alone.
It also frees me from something else: arrogance and the temptation to judge what I cannot know. Now I look at others around me planning to vote differently who say they are choosing that vote because of their faith. In the past, I would have doubted that because that’s not what God was telling me. But who am I to know what God tells someone else? I cannot be the judge of their hearts. Now that I realize their vote not matching mine is not an indicator of the strength of their relationship with God, I am free of the tendency to doubt and judge. I am free to not get offended at them, free to not blame them from holding our country back from the progress I think they are hindering by not voting my way. Free from considering them less well-educated or less spiritual. Free. That’s what happens when you seek God, listen and obey His voice and stop assuming that what God tells you has to be what He’s telling every other believer in the country. And for that, I am thankful.
Other things I write about:
Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season)
Creating an Encouraging Classroom
Recognizing the Good Days (and My Son’s Fascination with Medieval Korean Pottery)