Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree: voting is our essential duty as Americans. As we discuss the best way to participate in this election season—debates or silence, socially distanced rallies or none, in person voting or potentially fraudulent mail-in ballots—let’s remind ourselves why we must vote in the first place and how we ought to vote.
Why must we vote? It is a sin not to do so.
First, let's define sin. The Bible has five different usages of the word "sin." Most
common among them is "missing the mark." Consider this. When we vote, we mark the candidates we support. We mark our ballots with our signatures. Not to vote is literally to miss the mark.
Less literally, “missing the mark” means to fail to meet the biblical standard. Believers are eternally forgiven and justified before God the Father only through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross. But believers also sin daily by giving in to temptations and not living up to biblical standards. That's why daily confession and repentance is something believers must do.
We must confess and repent when we fail to testify to our Savior when the opportunities present themselves; when we sin by becoming more self-focused than God focused; when we sin by nursing anger, bitterness, unforgivingness and resentment; when we don’t fulfill our duty to be good stewards of our community, country or world that God created.
If these sins require daily repentance—and the daily seeking of forgiveness from our Savior—then surely the sin of not voting, of not being good stewards of our country, does as well.
God in His mercy has placed us in a land where we have the privilege of deciding how we ought to be governed and who should do the governing. Believe me, I lived under a brutal dictatorship where you can only vote one way. There, your vote mattered just as much as your dignity as an individual—that is, they did not matter at all to the dictatorship.
How blessed are we to live in a nation where your vote not only matters, but is essential to the maintenance of the nation? Thus, voting in America is a stewardship. And despising that stewardship is a sin like all other sins. If you have not voted before, you need to repent and vote this time.
What about how to vote?
The only advice I have on how to vote is to follow carefully the instructions on the ballot. I have never offered advice on who to vote for, but there are questions that I ask of every candidate before making my mark on the ballot.
An old preacher friend of mine put it this way: “I would rather buy good meat from an unbelieving butcher than bad meat from someone who claims to be morally upright!!!”
So, the question is: “Does the candidate espouse good moral policies that I am very comfortable with or does the candidate pander to others?” What are his or her moral convictions? This question is imperative, for we know that when the heart of a person is right, even when they fail, they will always go back to their core convictions. On what convictions should your elected official fall back? Does the candidate have moral policy convictions or does he/she follow the prevailing winds?
We should also examine the candidate’s motives. Is the candidate seeking office for himself or to serve God and the people of his or her area? America’s greatest leaders have always been humble servants of the Lord and the nation. Consider George Washington. He did not want or need the highest office in the land. He did not want power, or fame, or money. Washington humbly, dutifully accepted the call when called upon to serve.
Ask yourself: does the candidate vote along party lines? Or does he vote according to what is true, good and right? Political parties—despised and feared by Washington—are human inventions, which means they are flawed, naturally corrupt things. Does the candidate obey the rules of a flawed human invention, or does the candidate obey the rules of our Almighty Creator? To whom does the candidate answer?
These are just a few criteria by which I examine a candidate before I vote, and I encourage you to ask the same questions. God requires us to be good stewards of our community and country, and that means, in part, to vote and to vote wisely.
Vote. Friends, it is essential that you do. It is a sin if you do not.
Michael Youssef, PhD., is the founder and president of Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef and senior pastor of Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Youssef was born in Egypt and lived in Lebanon and Australia before moving to the United States, becoming a citizen in 1984. He has a keen understanding of the Middle East, sociological trends in the Western world and Christian worldview issues. He has authored more than 40 books, including The Leadership Style of Jesus, Saving Christianity?, and his latest book, Treasure That Lasts is available wherever books are sold.