There are many things to consider during an election. But realistically, what we consider to be the most important will carry great weight as we decide our vote. For example, I think many evangelicals will put “pro-life” at the top of their list as the most important issue this year. I think of two recent, well-written articles written by evangelicals on that subject. One, We Are Pro-life Evangelicals for Biden, argues that being pro-life includes abortion, but involves more than abortion, since poor responses to climate change, health care, poverty, racism and other matters also cost a huge number of lives, some on a global scale. The other, The Case Against Pro-lifers Voting for Joe Biden, thoughtfully responds that abortion itself should be the issue carrying the most weight.
I can easily imagine other issues which could, all things being equal, sway my own vote one way or another. But my deepest desire goes in a different direction.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.1 Timothy 2:1-4
As I developed in my book, Like the Stars, this is what the Apostle Paul thought most important when it comes to Christians and secular government. What God desires and what would please him would be a nation in which Christians reach everyone in their society with the gospel, facilitated by a witness that is peaceful (not agitated), quiet (tranquil), godly (demonstrating holiness) and dignified (decent and orderly before God). While this is something only Christians can choose to do, Paul raises these matters in the context of how to pray for civil leaders.
Since Paul says “first of all” with no following “second,” scholars conclude that this command is not first in a list, but first in importance with regard to Paul’s practical exhortations to Timothy. If we focused on this above all in our prayers concerning government, God would give us the most effective context in which to call people to saving faith, and all manner of righteous change that rises from it. In answer to our prayers, more people would be saved, producing morally transformed lives.
Apparently, civil authorities can have a significant influence over Christian witness. While our witness can flourish even during persecution (1 Peter 3:13-17), it can also disintegrate when Christians are incited toward agitated, boisterous, ungodly and undignified behavior. I care a great deal about abortion, the environment, poverty, health care, government overreach, national security, law and order, civil rights for all, responsible world leadership, institutional racism, tech monopolies and other things. But I care much more that Christians address these matters in the context of the gospel, while representing Jesus’ character the way he wants it represented.
To my mind, the most important factor in voting is the kind of nation I want to see, and what I want to see most is more spiritual than political. Of course, I would like to see a gain in the trench warfare of abortion, and a green energy policy that delays global catastrophe for a generation. But what I want most is a vibrant gospel faith permeating our society that is not undermined by Christian fear, anger, belligerence and disorderly behavior. Links between these things and civil leadership will influence my prayers and my vote … first of all.