Monday, November 3, 2014

Vote Genuine Biblical Values

Tomorrow is Election Day. Many people have already voted, and many will vote tomorrow. Many more, it is safe to say, are so disgusted by the political system that there is little or no desire to vote. I am pretty disgusted myself—disgusted by the poor choices we have in some races, disgusted by the candidates that are more concerned about degrading their opponents than in giving me a reason to vote for them, and particularly disgusted in the belief that fidelity to God and Country must be defined in strict partisan loyalty.
I write today as a Christian, a pastor, a voter, and an American who is concerned for the future of our nation. I vote according to my prayerfully and faithful understanding of Biblical values and I encourage you to prayerfully vote according to yours as well.  More importantly, I encourage all of us to hold everyone who will be elected to office tomorrow to be accountable to Biblical values, even when many of them have chosen not to manifest those values in their campaign.
            In Micah 3:5-12, the prophet denounces corrupt leaders who base their moral, ethical, and religious decisions in terms of how those decisions will best support their own individualistic gains. These leaders, the prophet boldly warns, will become clouded in their misapprehension of God’s truth that their effectiveness to lead and capacity to further corrupt the people will be destroyed by God.  Their God-given gifts of leadership, vision, and power will be mired in the rubbish of their self-centered and power-hungry motivations.
            As a result of the failed leadership and reckless abandonment of God’s values in exchange for selfish gain, the whole community—not simply the leadership—will succumb to the destruction of its shared moral failure and religious apostasy.
            It does not require much imagination to understand how this ancient prophetic vision can vividly play itself out in the United States. In fact, in its own way, the vast majority of the political messages we have been hearing is intended to remind us that if we, as faithful Christians and loyal citizens, do not vote the right way, our whole way of life is threatened.
            Given a message of such stark warning, combined with the barrage of negative rhetoric that has permeated this election cycle, it is easy to pinpoint all the moral degradation, evil inclination, and outright demonic values that threaten to destroy our nation. As Christians, we generally have no problem railing against those forces that run contrary to our faith. There is, however, another side to Micah’s prophetic message that we may be a little more reluctant to address. It is the side that faces a mirror!
            That other political party may be all wrong, but ours is not necessarily all right! The fact that that church understands biblical values differently from your church does not mean that either has all the answers or that either is going to hell for their misguided beliefs. Micah’s stark prophetic warning calls all of us—you and me—to take a hard look in the mirror and allow ourselves to stand honestly before God and challenge our own motives, morals, and values.
            The church has not always been right—even when it fervently believed it was living in accordance to God’s holy word.  Wars, poverty, starvation, inequality, injustice, slavery, hatred, and murder are all a part of the Church’s presumed “righteous” history. In virtually every such failure, the Church stumbled when personal gain, power, or profit was placed ahead of God’s ministry of justice, equality, and righteousness.
            I recall Joshua in his farewell address to the Hebrew People in Joshua 24:15 when he challenged with the bold words, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I remember Moses in his farewell address in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 with the call to choose life by deliberately choosing to live out of God’s love. As Christians, when we go to the polls, ours is to make a choice of faith that will either reflect genuine Biblical values of God’s love, grace, and peace or secular idols that advance personal wealth, power, prestige, and control. What will you be choosing in the polls?
            What do you hope to gain by casting your vote this election? What do those seeking the loyalty of your vote hope to gain should they win this election? Who stands to truly benefit from any given outcome at the polls? What forces, institutions, and entities have the most to gain by investing their time, energy, and money into the election process? How will those values affect the common good of all?
            Yet our obligation to live a Biblical choice transcend voting. We then have a sacred responsibility to uphold that choice in the way we live in the world and in the way we uphold the political process from this point forward.
            In 1 Timothy the Bible calls on the faithful to hold true to the divine training and live according to the life they learned in Christ Jesus. It is faith lived out in “love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” We must question our own motives, as well as those of the men and women running for office, as well as those already serving and those who will be serving following tomorrow’s election.
            None of these are easy questions to ask and undoubtedly, many reading this post will vehemently disagree on how they should be answered. Yet the sacred responsibility remains for all Christians. Do we support God and all of God’s love, or do we support the preservation of our own distinctive institutional, religious, or partisan values?
            As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord by choosing life in ways that enhances all life, and hold fast to the sacred teachings rooted in God’s love.

(Author’s Note: A version of this originally appeared in the Carlsbad Current Argus, Saturday, November 1, 2014)