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Whenever an election approaches, as the 2012 presidential race now quickly is, some (though not nearly enough) Christians begin to consider prayerfully for whom they should vote. And many begin by asking questions like, “Whose side is God on?” or “Is God a Republican or a Democrat?”
However, let me suggest that, for the Christian, these are the wrong questions.
Consider a couple of examples from history that I believe are instructive on this point. The first comes from an event in the life of a man named Joshua around 1450 BC. In the fifth chapter of the book that bears his name, the Bible gives the account – which has since been immortalized in song – of Joshua and the battle of Jericho.
As Joshua was approaching the city, an angel of God (or, as some believe, Jesus) appeared to him. Eager to find out if he would find success in the coming battle and knowing that success was only possible with God’s help, Joshua asked what seemed like an obvious question:
“Are you for us or for our enemies?”
The answer was not exactly what Joshua had expected.
“Neither,” God’s spokesman replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.”
When presented with this reality, the Bible says that “Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’”
Joshua realized that, rather than asking God to bless his plans, the most important thing was to hear what God had to say.
The second example is a bit more recent.
During the Civil War in 1863, it was reported that Abraham Lincoln overheard someone say that he hoped “the Lord was on the Union’s side.” Lincoln responded, “I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”
You see, both Joshua and Lincoln understood this important truth: The question is not if God is on our side, but are we on God’s side?
Both men realized that Jesus isn’t on anybody’s side, but as Joshua learned first-hand, he is the commander of the right side.
In retrospect, it seems obvious that both Joshua and Abraham Lincoln were “on the side of the right,” but neither presumed that God sided with them. Instead, both were concerned about siding with God.
This is a concern that Christians today should have as well – at all times – but especially as we consider how we should vote.
Whose side is God on? The reality is that, despite what you may hear, God is not a Republican or a Democrat. Further (and this may come as a surprise to some), He’s not even American!
God stands above any of our political and national boundaries as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
However, that is not to say that God is ambivalent about how those that call him Lord vote. On the contrary, I believe that how a Christian votes is a spiritual issue with which God is extremely interested. So, if asking whose side God is on is the wrong question, perhaps this one is better: How does a Christian determine for whom he should vote?
Granting up front that there are never any perfect candidates, how does a Christian decide which choice would most honor God?
As I have argued before, I believe the answer is clear: a Christian must determine – as best he is able – what God has said about the various issues (as revealed in the Bible) and then vote for the candidate whose positions most closely align with God’s.
The reality is that there are great differences in the platforms of the major parties and the positions of the candidates. From a spiritual perspective, these differences should matter to you if you are a Christ-follower because God has addressed them.
With regard to key issues such as life, marriage and religious freedom, the platforms of the two leading political parties stand in stark contrast. For example, the Republican platform (RP) supports traditional marriage and ending abortion, and the Democrat Platform (DP) is radically pro-abortion and advocates same-sex marriage.
In a column titled “Is the Republican Party the ‘Party of God’?” on townhall.com, Michael Brown further demonstrates the huge differences in the two major party’s platforms. Noting that the DP contains just one reference to God (and the inclusion of that single reference was famously booed by many delegates at the Democratic convention), and the RP contains 12 references to God, he asks “Is this more semantics than substance?”
His conclusion: “Apparently not.” He then lists a wide range of issues (and the parties’ respective stances) to bolster his claim.
However, Brown then goes on to ask, “Does this make the GOP the party of God?”
For my left-leaning friends who are brave enough to still be reading, the answer may come as a surprise.
“Both parties have more than their share of cronyism, compromise (if not outright corruption), ungodly alliances, hypocrisy, blind spots, and poor role models,” he writes. “It would be a terrible mistake to invoke some kind of divine sanctity on the Republicans. (For the record, it would also be a terrible mistake to think that there are no godly Democrats out there.)”
This is why I strongly believe that followers of Christ must put their identity as a Christian far above any affiliation with a political party or ideology. As Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”
Any time we place our trust in men we will always be disappointed.
Still, as I have observed in past columns, Brown notes the strong correlation of a person’s view of God and their politics. He writes, “I find it interesting that individuals, religious organizations and political parties, which invoke God and the Bible as authorities, tend to be pro-life, pro-traditional family, and pro-Israel (which does not necessarily mean anti-Palestinian). In contrast, individuals, religious organizations, and political parties which either marginalize God and the Bible or reject the plain sense of the Scriptures tend to be pro-abortion, in favor of same-sex marriage, and anti-Israel (or, at least, not strongly pro-Israel).”
Brown concludes his column this way: “Without a doubt, the Republican Platform is far closer to conservative Judeo-Christian values than is the Democratic Platform, but let’s not get carried away. The only true, political ‘party of God’ is sitting in heaven right now.”
As Joshua discovered and President Lincoln recognized, God’s side is always the right side. So I leave you again with this question:
“With regard to your life – including your politics – are you on God’s side?”