Did you know that in 1839, Marcus “Landslide” Morton was elected governor of Massachusetts by a margin of one vote? He garnered 51,034 votes, which was just one more than half of all votes cast. Had one vote shifted, the election would have gone to the legislature, and historians believe Morton would have lost in that contest. Later, in 1842, Morton won the governor’s office again by a single vote. That’s how he got the nickname “Landslide” Morton.
There is a lesson here. History teaches us that one vote—yours—can make a difference in the upcoming elections.
More important, the Bible teaches us we have an obligation to vote. That’s right; Biblically, we ought to vote. While there is no specific verse containing the word elections or voting, it is still very clear. It begins with basic Scriptural principles that are laid out concerning how Christians ought to relate to the government.
When the Apostle Peter wrote, “Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17), it meant that first century Christians were to be subject to the Roman rulers of their day. Most of us know this means we should respect government leaders. Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Because government leaders were what “God has appointed” (Romans 13:2), early Christians felt an obligation to obey the law, and so should we.
These Biblical principles take on a new dimension for American Christians and their obligation to vote. How so? Unlike first century Rome, the United States is a democratic republic. The people have to govern it, take care of it, and they should feel obligated to participate in it. The fundamental responsibility for governing the country rests with the people. This is why the U.S. Constitution begins with these three words: “We the people …” This is also why Abraham Lincoln described the American system as a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
So, on the one hand, you have the Biblical theology of the state, of governmental authority. On the other hand, you have the American system of constitutional self-government: a democratic republic, a representative democracy. When the two are combined, you reach an amazing conclusion: Along with all other citizens in our democratic republic, Christian citizens are “Caesar” and they are “in authority” as they cast their ballots and speak through their elected representatives.
It is one thing to know that you ought to vote. It is another thing to know how you should vote. In general, most Christians know they should make a difference in the culture. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world,” (Matthew 5:13-14). Our culture is rotting in the dark. Salt adds flavor and prevents decay. Light dispels the darkness and reveals the truth. A Christian should spread the salt and shine the light in the voting booth. Christians should think of advancing the cause of life and truth as they cast their ballots.
Two of the most important political issues of our day are the sanctity of human life and religious freedom. As Christians, we know from the first chapter of the Bible that human life is special because we are created in God’s image. The founders proclaimed a similar “self-evident” truth in the Declaration of Independence. They wrote “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They went on to say that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted.” Their argument is clear: Human beings have a right to life and to freedom. The purpose of government is to protect these God-given rights.
The Bible teaches in Romans 13:1-7 that government is there to protect human beings from the “bad,” the “wrongdoer” who may try to take your life. Government is God’s institution to protect your life from those who may want to take it.
This is why the pro-life cause should be pre-eminent when deciding how to vote. From the womb to the tomb, Christians should stand up for human life made in God’s image and vote for government leaders who will protect the right to life. This means opposing laws and candidates who support abortion and euthanasia. This means supporting candidates who affirm the value of the unborn, the infant, the elderly, the sick and the disabled. When looking at the Bible (Thou shalt not kill) or the Declaration of Independence (the right to life), it is hard to see a more important principle than protecting all human life. Christians should vote, and they should vote pro-life.
The other great cause being challenged right now is religious liberty, the freedom to believe and to live out your faith. We have seen the government try to force employers to violate their faith, coercing companies to provide abortion benefits to their workers. We have seen the state try to force Christian photographers, florists and bakers to create art that celebrates same-sex “weddings.”
Coercing citizens to violate their faith is un-American, even anti-American. It violates both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Christians should vote, and they should vote for religious freedom.
No doubt, there are other issues that will inform the Christian vote. But the sanctity of human life and the freedom to believe and live your faith should be our top priorities. If people cannot have life and liberty, hardly anything else matters.
So, vote, because one vote can make a difference. And vote because you are obligated to do it. Vote pro-life. Vote pro-freedom. Make plans now to vote on Nov. 6. ©2018 Jerry A. Johnson
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
Jerry A. Johnson, Ph.D., is president of the National Religious Broadcasters. He previously served as president of Criswell College in Dallas.