Vote As Though Not Voting

Vote As Though Not Voting

It is easy to misinterpret the place of voting in the Christian life. For example, a recent StarTribune headline announced that Pastor John was "opting out of the marriage fight" in Minnesota.

That is not the case (and today's counterpoint attempts to set the record straight).

So why the misinterpretation?

The misinterpretation may originate in a misunderstanding of the Christian’s priorities. The Christian’s ultimate hope does not rest on political candidates or political power or political initiatives. Our ultimate hope changes how we view voting, and it changes our expectations of what the political process can achieve in the end.

In the weeks leading up to the fall 2008 election, Pastor John wrote an article to explain this dynamic, titled, "Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting." He opened the article by explaining, “Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as if we were not doing it. That’s because ‘the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, ‘the time has grown very short.’”

In applying 1 Corinthians 7:29–31 to voting, Piper made these five sober points about how Christians should vote as though not voting:

  • “We should do it [voting]. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.”
  • “There are losses [in politics]. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (Revelation 21:4)."
  • “There are joys [in politics]. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived — and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.”
  • “We do not withdraw [from politics]. We are involved — but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.”
  • “We deal with the [political] system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.”

Political involvement is important for Christians. In fact, the more far-reaching the issue for good or ill (like marriage) the more earnestly engaged we will be. But we do not engage those important matters as ultimate matters. We do act, we do vote, and we do get involved in social issues, but our expectations of what can be accomplished through politics are sobered. Which is to say we vote like those who don’t vote. Perhaps it is not such a bad sign when the local papers have a hard time making sense of that.

You can read the entire article here: Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting (2008).

Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is a content strategist and staff writer for Desiring God and the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) and John Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015). He hosts the Ask Pastor John and Authors on the Line podcasts, and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and their three children.