I believe that the Bible is the unadulterated Word of God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, it carries the power to instruct us in the way that we should go, rebuke us when we have fallen short of the glory of God, and teach us every other thing in between.
A book of such significance and power should not be revered lightly. We don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we will uphold, and which parts we will ignore. No, God calls us into absolute obedience and when we make selective choices like this, we are saying that we are choosing to ignore God and what He has to say.
As a people of faith, we do this all of the time. Throughout the trajectory of human history, we have made a record for ourselves in this particular area. We accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but we don’t do what He says. We give our tithes and offering, but we don’t forgive those who have wronged us. We go to church, but we don’t love our brothers and sisters.
I think the Pharisees modeled this perfectly. They were notorious for obeying commands regarding fasting, tithing, honoring the Sabbath and so many other things. And their religious activity looked good to others around them. But not to Jesus. He saw right through the guise of their religiousity and called them out on numerous occasions because of their failure to obey the whole Word of God. In Matthew 23, he says to them “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”
I wonder if Jesus was here in the flesh today if he would say the same thing to us. In the face of the election next week, many people of faith have taken a stance for some pretty clear commands of God regarding homosexuality and abortion. And this is fine because I do believe that God has a lot to say about these things. However, many are neglecting what the Word of God says about justice, oppression, exploitation not to mention a lot of other things. God tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, visit those in prison, relieve widespread suffering. But on a large scale, many of us don’t seem to be paying attention to this. Instead, we are so concerned with what people are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms that we give license for our nation’s decision makers to do what they see fit in their treatment of those who are seriously hurting.
One of the arguments, I believe, that many people of faith use in this regard is the judgment of God that fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah because of its sexual immorality. Some say that if we are not careful, the same judgment could be ours so we must ensure that our nation protects the sanctity of marriage as established by God between a man and a woman. There are many reasons that this argument is full of holes, but one is that it ignores the fact that God also dealt heavily with Israel and Judah, driving them into exile and destroyed a host of other nations for their failure to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. And you can look at Amos and Habakkuk for proof!
So what does all of this mean in light of the election next week? Although God calls us to honor His entire Word, clearly, we cannot vote that way because neither of our presidential candidates measure up! And unfortunately we cannot take what we see as the best components of both parties and leave the rest, and its probably too late to form another party that adheres to every single command of God in its public policy making (and I am not recommending that we EVER do that). But still, we can vote. In fact, we must! But not because of biblical principles, because once again, neither candidate does that perfectly. In addition, it is my firm belief that legislation and laws cannot make a society turn its heart toward God. That is the role of the Church! Not the government!
Here is something we cannot do: we as pastors, board members, deacons, elders, nursery workers, lay leaders or if we find ourselves in any other role where we are leading people, cannot continue to manipulate people into voting a particular way. We have to stop saying that the way we vote connotes some sort of spirituality that others are missing, and we have to stop using scare tactics to get what we want out of the election. In the last few weeks, I have seen pastors, bishops, and other prominent men and women of God in the public eye do this. Not only is it morally wrong, but it is deceptive, and I believe that God will hold us accountable for that.
All of this being said, I believe there is a great opportunity for people of faith after the results on November 6 have come in. Regardless of how the votes swing, we have a duty to live our lives in such a way that we are bringing people into the kingdom of God. You see, voting is a one time thing. Once you have done it, its over. Its easy to take a stance regarding homosexuality, abortion, justice, the environment, our military, or any other thing when voting is all that is required of you. But its not. God demands more. If you feel that passionate about abortion issues, might God be asking you to disciple young women so that they are never in a position where they have to choose? Or might he have you support a young family financially so that when they are faced with that decision, they know that they are taken care of? And if you are concerned about homosexuality, maybe God would have you take a moment to listen, truly listen, to the hurts, the fears, the grief, the confusion, that sometimes people in this lifestyle feel instead of beating them over the head. And if you are concerned about justice, the hungry, the poor, maybe God would have you sacrificially give to an advocacy organization who is doing work to end these injustices. Or better still, invite someone to sit at your dinner table with your family, and just love on them, the way that Jesus loved the marginalized in his midst.
I believe that as we do these things, we are truly living out our calling as people of faith. And this, my friends, God delights in!