Election Day looms in the United States and I write the verb “looms” with intention. No matter the political stripe, I’ve heard no one deny that this has been one of the ugliest political campaigns in our country’s history.
People from suburbs and cities, from farms and factories, will walk into voting booths Tuesday, November 8. Many of us, however, choose to mark our ballots for candidates and issues in the privacy of our homes, insert the ballot in a pre-addressed envelope, affix the proper postage and drop our final decision in the mailbox.
In other years, I’ve sat at the dining room table where I could spread out the ballot and reams of information about the various choices, but this year I extensively reviewed everyone and everything a few days ago so this morning I went to my Prayer Chair with ballot in hand. I read and meditated on words like these from the psalms: Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Only then, with a quiet heart, did I fill in the small ovals beside names and issues with black ink.
Did I make the right choices? Choices that will lead to justice and righteousness in our community and country? My selections very likely differ from those made by other Christ followers. I’m not at all sure that matters! We are called to choose and live out our belief in a sovereign God. We here in the United States have the privilege of voting our conscience and then—as believers—obeying those who govern us. I was stunned into thoughtful silence by the Easy-to-Read New Testament version of Romans 13:1-7:
All of you must obey the government rulers. Everyone who rules was given the power to rule by God. And all those who rule now were given that power by God. So anyone who is against the government is really against something God has commanded. Those who are against the government bring punishment on themselves. People who do right don’t have to fear the rulers. But those who do wrong must fear them. Do you want to be free from fearing them? Then do only what is right, and they will praise you. Rulers are God’s servants to help you. But if you do wrong, you have reason to be afraid. They have the power to punish, and they will use it. They are God’s servants to punish those who do wrong. So you must obey the government, not just because you might be punished, but because you know it is the right thing to do. And this is why you pay taxes too. Those rulers are working for God, and they give all their time to the work of ruling. Give everyone what you owe them. If you owe them any kind of tax, then pay it. Show respect to those you should respect. And show honor to those you should honor.
I readily admit that reading this raised more questions than answers but that’s a topic for another time and for those with greater theological expertise. For now it’s enough to know I’ve done my part in Election 2016 with an honest and humble heart and mind.