Letter from Joseph Tkach — October 2012

Posted by colin on November 16, 2012 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

October 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,As the presidential election campaign reaches its final stages, both parties are trying to persuade you to give them your vote. Each candidate claims that he is the responsible choice to govern the country for the next four years, while a vote for his opponent is a vote for disaster. As Christians, what are we to make of this?

There is nothing like an election to highlight the enigmatic “now but not yet” nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus made it clear, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, that the kingdom of God has come. He, as King of that kingdom, invites us to join him in the work of announcing the good news of forgiveness from sin – making our salvation and eternal life possible, in him. However, he also made it clear that his kingdom had not yet arrived in its fullness. When Jesus stood on trial before Pontius Pilate, he admitted that he was indeed a King, but not in a way that Pilate thought. There was no immediate security risk. “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest” (John 18:36, NIV).

OK – but would they vote? And if so, how should they vote?

At that time, this was a non-issue. The first Christians lived under the iron rule of the Roman Empire, and most people had no say in how they were governed. It was safer to stay out of politics. However, most of us reading this letter are not in that situation. The United States is a democracy, with a constitution that allows its citizens a high level of freedom that, even today, is unusual. The freedom we enjoy does not mean our society is free of problems. I get a chuckle out of some of the websites that point out the ironies of living in America. For example:

  • Only in America… do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
  • Only in America… do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and Diet Coke.
  • Only in America… do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won’t miss calls from people we didn’t want to talk to in the first place.
  • Only in America… do we have drive-up teller machines with Braille lettering.
  • Only in America… do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
  • Only in America… can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

These are tongue-in-cheek examples. There are, of course, far more serious problems, and the candidates often focus on these. Since they often involve deep philosophical and ethical questions, Christians should take the casting of their vote seriously. While I will be voting and I encourage you to vote, it is not my job to advise you how to vote – that is for you to decide. God does not have a “favorite” political party. No political party or candidate can solve all the national, state or local problems, regardless of the promises made during the campaign. None of us can solve the problems by voting for the perfect candidate, because there is no perfect candidate running for office. This should cause us to long for the hope and change that the one and only perfect candidate, perfect ruler, and perfect government can bring.

Unfortunately, some religious leaders use this reasoning to advise their followers not to vote at all, asking “How would Jesus vote for President if he were here today?” Their answer is that Jesus would not vote, and therefore we shouldn’t. Frankly, I think this is a cop-out. If Jesus were to return in person today, he would be in charge of it all and there would be no voting for President.

As citizens of God’s kingdom, an election can help us look forward to our Redeemer, our King and elder brother, Jesus, who will get it all right and make it all better. However, until Jesus takes his place as King of kings and Lord of lords, we do have an obligation to use our votes responsibly. The Bible teaches us to be responsible citizens, and in our constitutional republic, part of being a responsible citizen is to exercise our right to vote. It is a privilege, but it has little value unless we exercise it.

Surveys indicate that in recent elections, about two of every five self-professed Christians did not vote. About one in five eligible Christians are not even registered to vote. In the United States, Christians have the right to choose their leaders without fearing for themselves or their families. We should vote as led through prayer and study of both God’s word and the realities of the choices on the ballots. Then, when the election is decided, let’s remember our responsibility to pray for those who hold office.

Our leaders have great influence on our freedoms. They can choose to protect our right to worship and spread the gospel or they can restrict those rights. So, “Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live” (1 Timothy 2:1-3, The Message).

Paul’s advice to Timothy holds good to this day: “Say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13, NIV).

Jesus also made promises. They are not rash promises made to get us to vote for him. He does not need our votes. On the contrary, he gives us his vote. We have been elected by him, chosen to receive his life-changing promises. Those promises are not just about fixing the economy or better housing or medical care. His concern for us goes deeper. Jesus knows the roots of these problems are spiritual, and spiritual problems don’t have physical solutions. So Jesus promises to change the core of our being.

Thank you for your ongoing financial support as we share the depth of Jesus’ love for all people and the hope that springs from his love.

With love in Christ’s service,

 

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

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