I am very aware of my sway as a pastor. I serve an amazing church who knows me well enough to know that my heart’s desire is to lead people to the truth found only in salvation through Jesus Christ. So they trust me greatly. This trust is a double edged sword that I constantly monitor and balance (unbeknownst to them until now.) Knowing that what I say has a great impact on what people believe, I am cautious to only preach the Word of God and not to add or subtract from it. And the same goes for my posts on social media or elsewhere.
However, as a pastor, I also have this truth looming over my head: I will be held accountable before God for what I teach or fail to teach regarding the truth of the Word of God. James 3:1 warns, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.” Wow! Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account….” Gulp. In other words, pastors and teachers of the Word of God, be careful how you are leading people because God is going to want to hear what you taught and what you didn’t teach to those listening.
And so I cannot remain silent when I see Christians ignoring sin for the sake of politics. The gospel is at stake. When we gloss over sin, we belittle the grace of God. Non-Christians hear a very conflicted message – your sin of greed or anger or apathy or fill-in-the-blank is worthy of hell but Donald Trump’s sin of assaulting women is just locker room talk. Before you think this is merely hyperbole, I have personally witnessed to people who already feel that Christians have a double standard when it comes to sin. This election is only feeding fire to this notion.
We have to stop defending sin. Just stop. You can vote for a sinful candidate with a clear conscience. (Every candidate in the history of the American presidential election is a sinful candidate.) What we can’t do is pretend like sin doesn’t exist.
For the Gospel’s sake, here are five things we must stop doing as Christian voters.
- Stop claiming that the things that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump have done were “not that bad.” We mock televangelists (and rightly so) and even question their salvation for refusing to call sin, “sin” – there’s even a popular meme with a megachurch pastor using the phrase “oopsie daisies” instead of “sin” – but then we sugarcoat a candidate’s actions because we want to give them more credibility. Acknowledgement of mistakes is not enough. The Bible calls for genuine, fruit-bearing repentance. Why is it we’re so quick to call out sin in everyone else except the presidential nominee of our liking?
- Stop calling sinful actions “just words.” Besides the fact that James 3 warns us that our tongues are an overflow of our heart, the particular words in both campaigns are reflective of action. Stop pretending that what is said is meaningless. Even if this were true, what has been said is often an admission of ACTION.
- Stop holding politicians to such low standards. Why do you defend Hillary Clinton? “She’s better than Donald Trump!” And why do you defend Donald Trump? “He’s better than Hillary Clinton!” When did Trump and Clinton become the barometer for a good presidency?!? That’s like saying, “Hey, try this liver and cabbage stew. It’s better than garbage!” (No offense to those who like liver. Or cabbage.) Our standard as Christians certainly has to be higher than the current candidates of the two major parties.
- Stop badgering other Christians. Not everyone thinks like you think. Believe it or not, there are many people who are undecided on who they will vote for. And they are even contemplating not going to the polls at all on November 8. This is not sinful. It is irresponsible to lazily avoid your voting duty and not study the candidates at hand. It is not irresponsible (let alone sinful) to carefully and painstakingly study the issues at hand and make a decision not to vote. And it’s not sinful (gasp) to choose a candidate different from the one you have chosen. When Christians attack other Christians, the lost world sees. If you feel the need to rebuke a fellow Christian for a sinful stance, do so in private and follow the principles lined out in Matthew 18.
- Stop posting on social media! I don’t mean don’t use Facebook and Twitter at all. But if you aren’t going to be concerned about your witness, don’t ruin my witness by your social media onslaught. Post who you’re voting for. Post the issues of why you’re voting for them. But please READ before you retweet. I can’t count how many of my friends (many of who I went to Bible College with and are in ministry) have posted something with foul language or inappropriate content. Ask yourself, does this post adequately reflect my Christian character? And ask this before you retweet or hit “share.”
I believe that if Christians will honestly stop defending the sinful actions of each candidate, they’ll probably reach the same conclusion I have. I will look for a third party or abstain from voting altogether. Hillary’s platform and her character both disqualify her from office. Trump’s platform looks decent on (not all but) many things, but he doesn’t have a history of supporting the very issues he is running on and his character is, well, deplorable. Save your, “a no vote for Candidate A is a yes vote for Candidate B.” I’m flattered that you think my inaction has twice as much effect as your action, but it doesn’t.
However, if you can honestly and openly acknowledge the deficiencies in each candidate and choose to vote on platform stances of their respective parties, please do. We are all entitled to make our own choices. Just please, please stop making these two candidates out to be saints by brushing by their sin. The gospel, yes the gospel is at stake.