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 (Manna 57: Christians in the Community)
Participating in the Election Process: An Opportunity to Be Salt and Light
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Participating in the Election Process: an Opportunity to Be Salt and Light

Susan Estrada—Pacifica, California, USA

SHARING GOD’S GOODNESS

Christians are sojourners on earth. We are simply passing through, here only for a time. Some day, we shall leave this tent of a body behind (2 Cor 5:4; 2 Pet 1:13) and go to the place that Jesus has prepared for us (Jn 14:2-4). This is because our true citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20; Jn 17:14). However, for the time that we are here, our Lord has said that we are to be the salt and light of the world (Mt 5:13, 14; Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34, 35).

            Just as salt seasons and preserves, we are to bring God’s goodness to the world and preserve against moral decay in our environment. And [a]s the lamp gives light to everyone around it, we are to manifest God’s truth and goodness to the people around us and thus be a witness for God.1

How can you and I live up to such a calling in our corner of the world today?

If you are a citizen of a nation with a democratic form of government, you have many opportunities available to you. One of the most important rights granted to us is the right to vote.2

We have the chance to share God’s goodness by the choices we make when we vote. Our government encourages our participation. For example, according to the website of the chief legislative official in the U.S. House of Representatives, it is clearly stated, “U.S. citizens have the right to influence public policy…The right to vote allows citizens to help choose the officials who will determine public policy.3

If we have the right to participate in the affairs of government, then we should view this as a wonderful opportunity to be a witness for God.

JOSEPH AS A PUBLIC OFFICIAL

Government and public policy go all the way back to the Book of Genesis. One example is Joseph. Sold into Egypt as a slave by his brothers, he found himself thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. However, through extraordinary circumstances, Joseph found himself in the service of Pharaoh.

Joseph was thirty years old when Pharaoh appointed him to the position of prime minister, the highest-ranking public office in all of Egypt. Through this position, Joseph brought God’s goodness to the people of his time. Pharaoh believed the Lord was with Joseph so he trusted Joseph to implement public policy that would save his people from starvation and his country from economic ruin.

Pharaoh said to Joseph,

            “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” (Gen 41:39)

Events unfolded in Egypt just as Joseph had said they would. During the seven years of bountiful harvest, Joseph worked with a team of commissioners around the country to prepare for the seven years of famine that were to follow. They collected and set aside 20% of the harvest (Gen 41:46-49).

The famine brought pain and suffering. When the people of Egypt brought their troubles to Pharaoh, he simply told them to go to Joseph. People from other countries came to buy grain from Joseph, including his biological family (Gen 42:1-3).

In those dark days of the famine, Joseph was like a lamp that gave light to everyone around it. He provided immediate relief, and he also helped the country plan for the long term. Joseph manifested God’s truth and goodness to the people around him. Joseph was a faithful witness for the Lord.

NEHEMIAH AS A PUBLIC OFFICIAL

Government and public policy can also be traced to the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king of Persia. It was a palace job that came with special privileges most people could only dream about.

Through this position, Nehemiah had the opportunity to help rebuild Jerusalem. One day, the king observed that Nehemiah was not his usual self. The cupbearer confessed the burden of his heart, saying,

            “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?” (Neh 2:3)

The king granted Nehemiah everything he needed for a safe trip. He also provided the materials Nehemiah would need for his reconstruction efforts once he arrived in Jerusalem (Neh. 1:1-2:9).

Appointed governor, Nehemiah created and implemented policies that stopped Jerusalem from falling apart physically, morally, and spiritually. In spite of many obstacles, the reconstruction works were completed in record time.

Nehemiah’s policies brought peace and security back to Jerusalem as well as improved living conditions for the Israelites. Because taxes were high, many Israelites were in debt and those with money were taking advantage of the less fortunate. Nehemiah rebuked the latter and reminded them to fear the Lord. He turned the Israelites back to the Lord so they would know how to love their God and their neighbors.

Nehemiah loved Jerusalem, and he loved the Israelites. Through his leadership and by the example he set, Nehemiah showed God’s people how to live a life that was pleasing to the Lord. He was like salt that seasons and preserves. He brought God’s goodness to that part of the world and preserved it from moral decay (Neh 5:1-18). Nehemiah, too, was a faithful witness for the Lord.

CHOOSING TODAY’S PUBLIC OFFICIALS

Joseph and Nehemiah were appointed to public office: Joseph was appointed by the pharaoh of Egypt, and Nehemiah was appointed by the king of Persia. However, in many places around the world today, men and women in public office are there because the nation’s citizens have voted for them. These public officials become the government in authority.

Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that the government in authority was God’s “minister” (NKJV) or “servant” (NIV). Paul let it be known that the government in authority did not come about by chance. Rather, it is the Lord our God who determines what government is in authority at any place in any given time during the course of human history (Rom 13:1-7; Dan 2:21, 4:17; Jn 19:11).

From our study of the Bible, we also know that it makes no difference to the Lord whether a ruler is a Jew or a Gentile (cf. King Cyrus, Isa 44:28). God, who created the earth and all things in it, is sovereign. He has a plan, and His will always prevails. It was true in Bible times, and it is true today.

In a democratic form of government, citizens have a role—to participate in the election process. They are granted the right to vote for the candidates of their choice to serve in public office. This is not something to ignore or take lightly because public officials create and implement policies that impact our lives. Often, these policies impact our children’s lives as well, and sometimes, the lives of future generations. This applies to any level of government, be it city, county, state, or federal, including your local school board.

So how do we “help choose the officials who will determine public policy”? How do we make wise choices? During campaign season, there is always too much information and misinformation swirling around us.

If you are a registered voter, you may already be familiar with the voter’s guide published by the elections department of your county government. There will also be other guides published by various groups. Campaign materials put together by the candidates and their supporters will come in the mail. You may find their messages staring at you from small yard signs in your neighborhood or from large billboards along the freeway.

There will be radio and television advertisements. Information may appear as articles in the morning newspapers or as blogs online. Talk shows will fill the air waves. Once in a while, you may even catch sight of a candidate who has come to speak in your town or city to ask for your vote. Last but not least, poll figures, as well as public opinion pieces, will attempt to sway you one way or the other. The wise voter will study all these with interest and objectivity.

CONCLUSION

As followers of Jesus Christ, we make our choices rooted in the teachings of the word of God. We need to remember this because we are engaged in spiritual warfare every day. When we forget, we no longer keep our eyes on Jesus, and we become side-tracked on our walk with the Lord. When we forget, our priorities shift, and we will fail to stand firm on the principles laid out for us in the Bible. When we forget, we are no longer the salt and light of the earth.

The test for us during each election season comes by way of our decision-making process. Are we going to vote for a candidate because this person has promised to deliver on a campaign issue? Are we casting our vote for a certain candidate because everyone we know is voting this way? Are we being persuaded because the pundits seem to be making such a very good argument for the candidate of their choice?

Or do we find ourselves in a dilemma over how to spend our vote? Do we feel our vote would be better spent on another candidate? Are we afraid to look foolish in front of our family and friends? Do we fear that we might be singled out and be laughed at or picked on because we have made our choice based on biblical teachings? Are we conflicted over if or how to explain why we are not voting like everyone in the group?

The outcome of an election is in God’s control. Events unfold in this world as they do according to the will of the Lord. As such, we do not need to take the defeat or victory of the candidates for whom we voted for personally. What is important is that we took hold of an opportunity to do our part to shine a light and preserve God’s truth through the choices we made.

Finally, according to the word of the Lord, we submit to the people in authority (Rom 13:1; Tit 3:1; 1 Pet 2:13: Mt 22:15-22) and we pray for them (1 Tim 2:1, 2). In this way, we can do our duty to our country as well as be a faithful witness for the Lord.4

 

1.        TJC Bible Study Guide, Matthew, p. 196

2.        The U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal, http://usgovinfo.about.com/blinstst.htm

3.        Kids in the House – Learn About Congress, http://clerkkids.house.gov/congress/index.html

4.        TJC Bible Study Guide, Thessalonians, Timothy & Titus, pp. 170-171

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