It has been suggested by the Christian public that I hold a responsibility as an American citizen to vote in a manner befitting of my faith. I have yet to distinguish how either of these mainstream options serve this purpose more than the other… of course, I share this tongue-in-cheek, because I know what the lobbyists believe I should do with my vote. Honestly, I feel like my vote is no one’s business but my own and that society might establish unity if others felt the same way.
The strongest arguments surrounding my “Christian vote” revolve around the selection of Supreme Court justices; perhaps we can soften the blow to our Christian conscience if we see the greater good that can be accomplished through the judicial branch. I’ve offered this suggestion my due diligence. In my lifetime, I have experienced 20 years of Republican presidency and 16 years (and Jimmy Carter change) of the Democratic sort. If we are honest with ourselves, most voting citizens are ignorant to the daily workings of the American courts. We occasionally hear a disruption when a major court decision modifies the interpretation of our 227 year old document vs. our interpretation of its original intent. In contrast, there are hundreds of rulings that uphold or establish previously defined interpretations that will never make our evening news.
Because the silent work of the Supreme Court far outweighs the life-altering sort, I’m led to believe that even if they’re not doing a good job of maintaining my personal liberties, they are doing a great job of mirroring society’s interests. Herein lies the nucleus of my political philosophy: whatever liberties I have lost are not to blame on the presidency or the courts, but on society itself. In the end, it doesn’t matter a lick what the president or justices believe if society will bring a position to an inevitable direction of corruption. Attempting to save a liberty in opposition to the majority is foolishness, particularly in an age where the majority can rally or lambast at will through social media.
Can nothing be done? What is my responsibility as an American citizen? Shouldn’t I be concerned with losing what we as Christians once held dear? One timeless lesson remains, and it translates amid time, culture, or circumstance:
Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense:
“In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
“So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
“While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’
“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.” Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”
The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, and when they had gone aside, they began talking to one another, saying, “This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26, NASB)
Given the opportunity to converse with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or any candidate for any public office, what would you say? Consider this a moment, and be honest with your heart…
Would you ask what they could do for you? Would you inquire about their policies, positions, and personal life choices to determine their worthiness of your reverence? Would you implore the candidate to uphold the life and liberties you consider of greatest value? In that precious moment, would you discern whether they know Christ?
As a Christian, Paul chose to utilize his citizenship. As a prisoner, he risked his freedom for one conversation. In “defense” of himself, Paul didn’t plead with Agrippa for freedom, liberty, or spiritual rights. He didn’t sacrifice himself to solicit the benefit of his fellow Jew and Gentile believers. Paul gave his testimony and shared the gospel with King Agrippa. Aside from his faithful trust in the sovereignty of God, it cost Paul his physical life.
This exchange is believed to have occurred within a couple years of Nero’s reign. Given the volatility of the 1st century Roman government (of which Paul held his citizenship) and Agrippa’s documented sympathies towards the Jewish people, Paul was offered a prime opportunity to make Rome better for those that he loved. Rather, Paul reflected his love towards the earthly king, just as he would have evangelized to any other man thrust into divine appointment.
The writing is on the wall: our America will continue to remove your “Christian liberties,” and there’s not a damn thing any of these candidates can do about it. Our society is sick and lacking an earthly cure. If you’re passionate about voting responsibly, I’m not asking you to shirk that purpose, and I’ll see you at the voting booth. However, my prayer is that we might recognize our greater opportunity and begin preaching Christ, whether legally in this age or within listening reach of our chains.