THE WISDOM OF THE SECRET BALLOT

ballot-boxIt saddens me when I read or hear the words, “a wasted vote”. There is no such a thing. For example, some say that a vote for a political party that has no realistic hope of winning the election is a wasted vote. Not true. One’s vote is first and foremost an intimate personal expression of one’s identity as a uniquely created human being. It is an expression of one’s voice. The “secret ballot,” a practice dating back to the ancient Greek and Roman empires, protects the voter from manipulation and bullying. It is a safeguard to our freedom of expression.

Political parties and platforms exist because citizens have expressed their unique voice. Every voice has a right to be heard at the table of political discourse. Sometimes it is the minority voice that needs to be heeded in a given season. The majority is not always right.

The separation of religion and state in our civil society is a good thing. Scriptures were birthed under various, non-democratic political systems. We can see how the people of faith under those systems lived out their faith. I am sure that those people could not imagine a civil democratic system as we enjoy in the USA. As a result, the Scriptures do not have specific instruction on how people of faith today are to live out their faith in such a system. It is up to us to figure out how to relate to a democratic system. The framers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights engaged in such a process.

I do not think that the “Church” in its various institutional forms should endorse specific candidates, or political parties and policies. The “Church” should not be pursuing political power. Political power is real. It is effective and can be wielded for good or evil. However, political power is an inferior power to the transformational power wielded by the Body of Christ. If individuals within the church seek political office as an expression of their saltiness in society, great! If individuals within the “Church” exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens, that is as it should be!

A democratic system recognizes, accepts, even applauds the diversity of people within its system. Each individual is unique and brings her/his uniqueness (perspective, beliefs, priorities, etc.) to the table of civil communication. How I determine to cast my vote may be very different from how others determine to cast their vote because I am different. My perspective may be different. My beliefs may be different. My priorities in politics may be different. Even though I may identify myself with certain people groups within society I may vote differently from others within those people groups. Those who seek to guilt, shame, manipulate, bully, or scare others into casting their votes in a given manner are out of line, especially if they are leaders over those people groups. As a leader, my passion is to inspire others to express their own unique humanity. It is not to make them in my image.

The prophetic gift perverted?

Individuals claiming to be prophets who are declaring who is to be elected to a given political office are out of line. They misunderstand the role of New Covenant prophecy and the purpose of leadership in the church. They also misunderstand the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a civil society.

Sometimes individuals seeking counsel from me as their pastor would begin the conversation by announcing, “God told me . . . “ That pretty much ended any meaningful conversation or attempt at counseling. Prophets announcing God’s chosen for a given political office are basically seeking to usurp the rights and responsibilities of others to think for themselves and to voice their own unique voice in our democratic political process. Frankly, I think Jesus is more concerned with how we conduct ourselves in the political process than in who will eventually occupy an office. Ultimately, Jesus is sovereign regardless of who wins an election.

Jesus is the Prophet. He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17, NKJV) Corporately the Body of Christ walks in the Prophetic office of Jesus. The Body of Christ expresses its prophetic office as it fulfills its dual commissions to preach the gospel of the kingdom and to make disciples of all people groups:
“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15, NKJV)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Matthew 28:19–20, NKJV)

Within the Body of Christ, there are individuals graced with the gift of prophecy. Their responsibility is outlined: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NKJV) The boundaries of New Covenant prophecy are also outlined:
“But he who prophesies speaks edification and encouragement and comfort to men.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)

This is New Covenant Christianity. The prophetic gift is exercised for the purpose of equipping the saints to be prophetic. Prophecy is exercised within the boundaries of edification, exhortation, and comfort. What if everyone graced with prophecy simply equipped the members of the Body of Christ in the New Covenant gift of prophecy? What if everyone in the USA who claims to be a Christian (survey results range from 70% to about 80%) only spoke edification, encouragement, and comfort every time they opened their mouth? Might that be transformational to our culture?

The Old Covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and the means to exercise the rituals of the Old Covenant were destroyed in 70 AD, one generation after Jesus’ ascension. The Old Covenant nation of Israel no longer exists. It was destroyed in 70 AD, one generation after Jesus’ ascension. The modern nation of Israel was birthed in 1948 during this New Covenant era. Old Covenant Israel no longer exists and the modern state of Israel and the USA are not reincarnations of Old Covenant Israel. Old Covenant Israel was a theocracy. One of the ways God ruled was through the prophets. Modern Isreal and the USA are not theocracies, they are democracies.

The leadership role perverted?

Insecure leaders tell others how to vote. Secure leaders equip others to be responsible citizens. Secure leaders may encourage dialog on political issues and may even comment directly on those issues as a means to stimulate thinking and dialog.

Leadership is about inspiration and influence. Leadership is not about manipulating and cajoling others to come into agreement with the thinking of the leader. Our modern society is saturated with the spirit of manipulation and bullying. I am sometimes concerned that we as a society may be losing our ability to discern between being manipulated and bullied and being inspired and influenced.

I’ve been privileged to preach and teach the word of God for many years. Of course, it’s flattering to the ego if people agree with what I am saying and compliment my message with the traditional, “Good sermon this morning Pastor!” However, leadership within the church is about equipping and encouraging people to think for themselves, study scripture for themselves and to discover their own voice. Discovering one’s voice involves knowing oneself as a unique creation and discovering one’s core values and unique passions. The risk to the leader’s ego is that people so equipped may end up disagreeing with the leader and voicing thoughts and ideas with which the leader disagrees or to which the leader is opposed! Welcome to democracy!

In the political arena, there is a myriad of very important issues. As a unique individual, one may have a greater passion for some issues over other issues. To have a greater passion for a particular issue does not mean that other issues are regarded as unimportant. Some may have a passion for the immigration issue, others for issues of war and peace. Some may be avid environmentalists and others may be zealous constitutionalists. In his merry band of men, Jesus recruited both zealots who wanted to overthrow the government and a tax collector who was feeding the system they detested. The extreme diversity of passions did not seem to be unsettling to Jesus.

For example, in this season I have been thinking a lot about the immigration issue. I myself am an immigrant (legal!). I have worked intimately with immigrants (both legal and illegal!) for the past 25 years. The US Congress has been unable to come to an agreement on how to deal with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the USA. Because I am passionate about this issue does not mean I regard other issues as unimportant. It does mean that I might cast my vote differently than others who have different passions. What we are accomplishing with our votes, even if we cast them differently, is ensuring that the important issues remain the important issues!! Suppose leaders are successful in abusing their role as leaders by manipulating and bullying those who have passions for other issues to vote as they vote. Potentially, those other issues may cease to be regarded as important issues in our political system. The ability to keep all the important issues on the table of political debate is an important strength of a democratic system. Together we ensure that important issues stay on the table of civil discussion until they are addressed and resolved.

In my years of ministry, quite a number of folks have come into the “confessional” of my pastoral office. These visitors trusted me to be a confidant. Sometimes the conversation would turn to politics as these individuals shared their passions with me. I’m happy to report that they represented a diversity of political passions and party allegiances.

Intelligent and responsible voting begin with knowing who you are, knowing your core values and knowing what issues stir your passions. Your vote is first and foremost an intimate personal expression of your identity as a uniquely created human being. How you cast your vote is your secret. It is no one else’s business to know how you voted unless you choose to disclose your secret to them. A society of citizens who know their unique identity and passions, and vote accordingly, is an enduring society.

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