Strong opinions are shared. Since the country has become more and more polarized into red and blue and maybe another hue or two, Christians may wonder, “Isn’t it finally time for the church to tell our people exactly how to vote? The differences seem so obvious!”
A great heritage for us as Lutheran Christians is the principle of distinguishing between the responsibilities of the church and those responsibilities assigned to the state. Our synod would be overstepping its authority if it made a proclamation urging its members to align themselves either with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or an independent political organization. What party to join, if any, is a decision to be left strictly to each individual Christian. Christ called his followers “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), indicating how he expects us to spread our influence as Christians in every walk of life. But in the sphere of politics, each person has to use his or her God-given conscience to determine how best to sprinkle the “salt” within the established form of government.
In our Lutheran Confessions we find this remark: “Christ’s kingdom is spiritual; it is the knowledge of God in the heart. . . At the same time it lets us make outward use of the legitimate political ordinances of the nation in which we live, just as it lets us make use of medicine or architecture, food or drink or air” (Ap AC, XVI). In our country, joining or not joining a certain political party is part of the “legitimate political ordinances” of our nation’s form of government. The Christians of our land need to exercise their freedom in this respect.
The use of “freedom,” however, does not include speaking or acting against what God says in his Word on matters of morality. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). When choosing a political party or candidate, one will want to ask, “Is this party/person advocating policies contrary to my Christian beliefs? If in some cases this is so, can my ‘voice’ be better used by working for change within the party system or by getting out of the party altogether?” The question may not always be easily answered since convention platforms are prone to change and since qualifications of individual candidates for office can differ greatly. Martin Luther put it this way: “To be qualified to rule, it is not enough to be pious. . . One may find a pious person who can hardly count to five. He who is to rule dare not lack reason, prudence, wit, and wisdom if he does not want to work great harm in his government.”
What a God-given privilege we have in the USA to exercise influence in the political realm! May we use the opportunities to glorify our wonderful Creator—who is also the Redeemer of all—and may our efforts be for the good of the society in which we live.
After all, it is not about donkeys and elephants. It’s about what is upright and good!
Rev. J.A. Moldstad