October 19, 2017
SHOULD I VOTE?
WHY do we vote? To choose our leaders. We do so (at least) once every five years.
Why? Because we need to be kept safe. Order is better than disorder. Without it people feel insecure. They feel safe where order exists.
Does that mean mankind invented government? Let us distinguish between the idea of government and types of government.
The people may choose their leaders or those who lead may impose their rule upon them. We talk of democracy when we have a choice. And we call those who demand that we do what they want dictators.
Democracy and tyranny are two types of government. There are more. What they all have in common is that they are designed by people. But the idea that we are to have a form of government is not a human invention. It is God-given. That is why the apostle Paul wrote that we are to be “subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God” (Romans 13.1). The emphasis is on the need for government.
Usually we see three levels or spheres of government described. There is the need for order in the family, in the church, and in the state. We can look at what God has revealed about the family and church on another occasion. Now we focus on the state or country in which we live.
The opening chapters of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, point to important facts. They tell us that God is a God of order rather than disorder. And they teach that order, like all that God created, is to be prized as “very good.” More specifically, we should note that mankind was created in God’s image. Hence, as God is a God of order so it is that mankind is created by him to enjoy order. We are to do so both in private as well as public. That being so we can therefore see a reason why those eligible to vote should seek to vote if they can. Those who live in a democracy should play their part to ensure that good order prevails around them.
We recognise that a state may not be Christian. But it should recognise that God exists. It should do so not just because he does exist. It should do so because without a recognition of him there is no solid ground upon which to build. Without God there is no authoritative and objective basis for its healthy existence.
There are three vital functions of government.
Its first concern is the safety of its members. We sometimes sum that up as defending people from external or internal attack. Hence the need for both an army and a police force. The former exists to protect us when the country is attacked by an aggressor. The latter exists to preserve law and order in the social order.
A second duty follows on from the first. Political leaders are to ensure that the order that exists is both fair and just. That means they are to ensure that wickedness is restrained and that virtue is free to flourish. When vice has free rein people feel insecure or threatened. They lack peace. And they grow wary or suspicious of others.
This duty begs an important question: How do we distinguish vice from virtue? Who decides what is good and what is bad? The reality is that politicians can get things wrong. They may call something that is wrong good and something that is good bad.
An obvious example of this today relates to sexual activity with another person outside the marriage of a man and a woman. Those who argue that such behaviour is always wrong may find themselves denounced as bigots. Conversely those who adopt a liberal approach, and argue that people should be free to do what they choose, are often called enlightened.
So, how are we to decide what is good and what is bad? Are we to go by what we think, individually and / or corporately? Or are we to be guided and ruled by what God has made known to mankind? Much as some may dislike it, the reality is that God alone can give to us a definitive distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. The need then is for leaders who submit to God’s will.
The third duty of our political leaders is to do all that they can to promote the welfare and well-being of the people. A prime concern of them, therefore, is to seek to ensure that the economy functions to create wealth so that all may prosper in this life. Without the creation of wealth it is difficult to provide educational and health facilities from which all may benefit.
The need for government is not a human invention. It is a good gift given by God. That being so we are to respect it. How are we to do that? First, we are to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2.1ff). Secondly, we are to do what we can to ensure that we have a government that takes its God-given duties seriously. Surely that means that if we have a vote we should seek to use it carefully and wisely.
What thoughts should be in our minds when we vote?
We are to remember whose world it is. It is not ours. It is God’s. We are stewards who shall answer to him for the way we use it.
We are to remember who rules the world. Jesus Christ does. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. On the last day we shall appear before his judgment seat.
We are to remember what God is doing. He is building his church and establishing his kingdom. His lordship is to be seen in every aspect of our lives.
We are to remember what God has given. He has given us his law. He has revealed to us how we are to live.
We are to remember what God desires. All people are to acknowledge that this world is the sphere in which we are to seek to see God’s will for mankind prevail. The manifesto of a political party ultimately matters little.
And we are to remember the balance that God would have us maintain. We are to fulfil our duties as well as enjoy our privileges. Each of us has both personal and public interests. The latter are not to be neglected. And the former are not to squeeze out the latter. We are to love God and, out of love for him, we love our neighbours.
Those who keep these thoughts in mind make a positive contribution to the well-being of society. Why? Because they are the essential ingredients for social cohesion. Without them it cannot exist.
A happy and united nation is one in which its members remember that it is righteousness that exalts a nation. Sin is always a disgrace to any people (Proverbs 14.34).
George Curry 4 June 2017