Ron is the founding pastor of a church in Harrisburg, PA. He is a graduate of Denver Seminary in Colorado.
These days, every election campaign seems to provide further evidence of just how divided Americans are in their politics. Sadly, Christians have not been immune from that divisiveness.
Yet, the Bible teaches quite clearly that it should be just the opposite—elections provide a great opportunity for Christians to demonstrate how they love and respect one another in Christ, even when they think very differently about important issues.
Sadly, many believers seem to have no interest in taking advantage of that opportunity. They are more concerned about insuring that candidates who agree with their political views come out on top. I am convinced that not only is that a tragedy for our nation, but it is unbiblical and a grievous disservice to the cause of Christ.
Lessons From the Election of 2020
Because the distance between the candidates and what they stood for was so extreme on both political and moral issues, the U.S. presidential election of 2020 provides a good example of the dynamic that continues to divide the nation in general, and Christians in particular.
In that election, Christians had strong convictions about who to vote for—on both sides!
For example, according to a Pew Research Center post-election survey, more than 80% of White evangelical Christians voted for the Republican candidate, President Donald Trump. In contrast, upwards of 90% of Black Protestants voted the opposite way, for the Democrat challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.
What makes that divide so troubling for Christians is that many on each side were (and remain) convinced that their choice was not only the best one politically, but that it was the only one a real Christian could make. Some were so distraught at the electoral choices of others who also professed Christ that they sometimes spoke in extremely demeaning terms about other believers whom they thought voted "wrong."
Christians on Both Sides Thought Their Choice Was the Godly One
In the run-up to the 2020 election many Christians believed, and were often taught from the pulpit, that it was their duty to vote for a particular candidate.
For example, large numbers of evangelical believers were led to the conclusion that no genuine Christian could possibly vote for Joe Biden because of his stands on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and religious liberty. Trusted evangelical leaders preached that for Christians committed to voting their biblical values, these issues must absolutely determine their votes, even if it required voting for one whose personal character and behavior often appeared to be anything but Christian.
For example, Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of the 14,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, declared on national television that:
“The only evangelicals who are going to vote for Joe Biden are those who have sold their soul to the devil.”
And John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, also taught that Christians had a religious duty to vote Republican, telling President Trump in a telephone conversation:
“from a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic.”
On the other hand, many other committed Christians had a different perspective.
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While acknowledging that the Democratic candidate's positions on hot-button issues like abortion and homosexuality were absolutely unbiblical, they also believed that those were not the only biblical and moral issues Christian voters had to consider.
Noting that Scripture actually gives less attention to issues like abortion and homosexuality than it does to God's commands that we care for, advocate for, and defend the poor, the oppressed, and the immigrant, they came to believe they must give these latter issues greater weight in their voting decision.
The result of these differing perspectives was that Christians equally committed to voting biblical values ended up voting in opposite ways, some for President Trump, and some for former Vice President Biden. And according to Romans 14, that's OK!
The Lesson of Romans 14
Look at what this passage teaches us about how Christians can disagree and still love and respect one another:
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (Romans 14:1, NIV).
Who are you to judge someone else's servant? (Romans 14:4, NIV).
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5, NIV).
He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. (Romans 14:6, NIV).
You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. (Romans 14:10, NIV).
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. (Romans 14:13, NIV).
The teaching of this passage is that God does not expect or require all Christians to believe the same on important but disputable issues. (Of course, when Scripture definitively addresses an issue, that settles it—it is no longer "disputable").
God Doesn't Expect Christians to Agree on Everything
As Romans 14 makes clear, on issues where the Bible does not provide a definitive answer, God allows for differences of opinion among believers, requiring only that:
- Each must be fully (and sincerely) convinced in his or her own mind.
- Whatever a person's choice, it must be made "to the Lord."
There is no verse that tells us who to vote for when all the viable candidates fall short of God's standards in important ways.
In such cases, each believer must make up his or her own mind how to vote.
The key is that however we decide to vote, we do so with the intent to honor God by our choice.
To my mind, Romans 14 leaves no room for any believer to assert that their political convictions are the only "godly" ones. To declare that a brother or sister who votes differently is thereby ungodly is a violation of humility (putting ourselves in the place of the only rightful Judge) and unloving towards fellow believers we condemn because they reached a different conclusion than we did.
Don't Judge Your Brother, Even If You Think He's Wrong!
The Bible strongly warns us to be very wary of judging one another, a role that the true Judge reserves strictly for Himself:
"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" (James 4:11–12, NKJV).
In Most Elections, No Candidate Fully Meets God's Standards
From a biblical perspective, neither choice in the 2020 presidential election fully reflected the heart and mind of God. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden had serious flaws as "Christian" candidates. Since neither fully met God's standards, believers had to vote based on their own convictions about which of them was most closely aligned with God's priorities.
Unsurprisingly, in the 2020 election not every sincere believer came to the same conclusion about how their vote should be cast.
We Must Love and Respect One Another Even When We Strongly Disagree
Jesus said that it is our visible love for one another that assures non-believers that Christians indeed represent Him (John 13:34–35). When they see us saying harsh and condemning words about one another, and actually breaking fellowship because of a difference of opinion concerning politics, what a terrible testimony we present!
On the other hand, when the world sees that believers can be fully engaged on opposite sides of a hard-fought political campaign, yet still manifest nothing but love and respect for one another, they are brought face to face with the life-transforming power of the love of God.
We who bear the name of Christ before a watching world desperately need to demonstrate Christ's love, no matter how we vote.
Much more than seeing our candidate win, our goal must be to demonstrate by our words, actions, and attitudes toward one another that because Christ is indeed among us, believers can have strong and differing convictions, but still love one another.
That, not winning an election, is what will cause our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14–16).
© 2021 Ronald E Franklin