It is easy to find excuses not to vote in American elections. Your vote may not matter very much in a deeply red or blue state. Even if it did, you may not trust most candidates to run the local PTA, let alone run for political office. But with election day on the horizon, I’d like to suggest four reasons why it’s important for you to vote:
1. It’s a faithful expression of your earthly citizenship.
We are citizens of two kingdoms. Yes, our primary citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), but we also belong to this world and to the country in which we reside. We owe a certain degree of loyalty to our earthly leaders (Rom. 13) and our citizenship entails other responsibilities as well—including voting.
Perhaps it’s helpful to think of voting as an investment—not in a particular party or cause, but in the country where God has placed you. You’re showing that you care about your homeland. It doesn’t matter whether your vote “matters” in terms of the result. In this sense, your action is more than the result.
2. It gives you an opportunity to wrestle with your conscience.
While politics often feel coercive, Christians can exercise their conscience free from coercion. Though countless outlets and figures will tell you how to vote, Christ does not. He shepherds your heart in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Ps. 23). He guides you by the Holy Spirit and grants you wisdom to make tough decisions and peace in the aftermath.
You don’t have to fall for the shallow rhetoric: “Vote for the lesser of two evils,” or “If you don’t vote for this candidate, it’s really a vote for the other candidate.” Aside from weighing candidates based on the issues, you also must weigh their character against their positions. You must decide whether to grant power to enforce your given principle if it means the same power will be granted to one who can undo your principle.
The conscience is precious to the Lord. An entire chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith is devoted to Christian liberty, including the freedom of the conscience. Voting gives you an opportunity to dig deep and wrestle with your most basic beliefs. The Lord will strengthen you for such a task—in part by revealing your weakness and granting you humility.
3. It allows you to exercise responsibility while resting in God’s sovereignty.
One of the fundamental tensions in the Christian life is found in how we take responsibility for our lives before the Lord and at the same time rest in the fact that our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3). Christ is the judge of all mankind who will come on the clouds (Dan. 7), and he is the king who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12).
Voting enables us to enter this tension with confidence. As Christians, we have a role to play in who governs our society. Although both the process and results can give us trepidation, we can also participate happily because God is still sovereign over all things. We engage in these temporary contests because the victory already belongs to God.
4. It reminds you that Jesus is our true king.
Jesus pledges to his disciples that he will be with them until the end of the age (Matt. 28). And when that end comes, all things will be put beneath the feet of Jesus our king (1 Cor. 15). It should take our breath away when we consider that the same lamb who was slain for sinners also occupies the throne of thrones on their behalf (Rev. 22).
It’s this reality that not only tempers our earthly hopes and fears in voting but restrains our political idolatry as well. Politics can take the place of religion and give us tribes of like-minded men in place of a church of blood-bought sinners. It presents civil servants as saviors and bids us to bow so that we might remake society into a heaven of our own imagination.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps. 20:7). When we vote for leaders who reward our trust with integrity and justice, we are given a dim but glorious reminder of the king of kings. When they fail, we are reminded why we need that king as much as we do. To vote in civil elections is to bow before the God who elected us in Christ and gives us the freedom to serve him in this world until our faith becomes sight.