I would like to know more about our part in society as Christians. Should we vote for some candidate or not? I know that to take a stand for one is too far from our heavenly call and could be a stumbling block to our walk or even cause some injury to our souls. But should we not even vote? And would it be wrong if we get guns to defend our lives and relatives? Were the Puritans wrong in conquering lands in the USA and fighting for their lives? Was this not a good thing, looking back since the USA until today has some Christian influences and culture based on those establishments?
These are very difficult questions that Christians debate among themselves. There are no clear Scriptures that refer directly to these issues so we all must seek guidance from general principles given in the Scriptures. We must be humble and seek wisdom from God (Jas. 1:5). We also must realize that others may disagree. Specifically, there are three questions which I will summarize as (1) Should I vote; (2) Is gun ownership wise; and (3) Were the Puritans right to fight for religious freedom?
Should I vote?
I confess I have never voted so admit that I am answering from a clearly biased position. However, I have heard opposing arguments and will try to acknowledge them.
Voting seems justified in the case when the laws of a country require citizens to vote. This is not the case in the USA (of which I am a citizen). I certainly cannot recommend violating the law where voting is a legal obligation of citizenship (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13). In this case, one must simply rely on God’s guidance and his own conscience.
The strongest case for voting that I know of is based on the argument that we are to be “the salt of the earth.” (Matt. 5:13) There are many ways that this argument can be presented, but they all seem to have this perspective at the core. The problem I have with this justification is that it requires us to judge consequences before they are known. Even in the clearest cases, such as when a specific law is on the ballot for ratification, we cannot know how the law will be implemented. In the case of a human candidate, it is worse because we cannot know their future actions.
But, there is a deeper problem. What is our testimony? Are our actions consistent with that testimony? This depends on some pretty basic perspectives on what the Bible teaches on the role of the Church and its place in history. I cannot go into that here, but if you believe (as I do) that the Church/Assembly has a heavenly constitution, calling (Heb. 3:1), and hope then that has a profound influence on this question.
In this case, our role is to warn the world of judgment to come and plead with men and women to trust Christ as Savior now. (2 Cor. 6:2) Political involvement would then be inconsistent and even damaging to our testimony. Even if we just vote, we would be working to improve the world while at the same time saying that the world is under judgment. Christ came as a king and the world rejected him. God has not forgotten that the religious and political worlds united in the crucifixion of Christ.
My personal conviction is based on John 18:36 and Philippians 3:20. It is particularly striking to me that the Lord specifically included the phrase “if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.” This guides our worldly actions to seek “the lost” and build up our fellow believers waiting for our Lord from heaven. (1 Cor. 1:7; 2 Thess. 3:5)
Is Gun Ownership Wise?
Except for misapplications of Matthew 26:52, Luke 22:36–38; 22:49–51, I know of no argument for or against gun ownership. (If a reader has an argument in either direction, please offer it in the comments section below.) It is important that we trust the sovereign God who cares for us (Ps. 34:4–7, 19–20, Lk. 12:6–7, 1 Pet.5:7.) for our well-being in all the circumstances of life. This might prove to be the best witness in a dangerous environment.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that this must necessarily be a personal decision. I would only say that accidents happen and are extremely serious. I certainly recommend that anyone who decides to own a handgun or similar weapons should take the most strict gun safety course available and spend a lot of time at the range to become sufficiently familiar with the use of the weapon so that there is little chance of accidental misuse.
How Should We Understand the Puritans?
This part of the question brings up an interesting and important principle. Just as we cannot base our actions on supposed future outcomes (see “Voting” above), we cannot necessarily justify past actions based on subsequent results. Actions stemming from good intentions can result in “bad” results and bad actions often result in good results. God’s sovereign grace often overrules actions resulting from incorrect understanding or bad motives. But, more than this, who can say we have found the right “results.” We are dealing with the ways of God which the Psalmist reminds us “are in the sea” (i.e., inscrutable; Ps. 77:19).1
So, we must be guided by principles found in Scripture. What was said above regarding voting applies here. We must certainly thank God for the blessings we enjoy in the country where we live. All of Western society has benefited from the Christian influence on the culture. However true this is, the rightness or wrongness of political movements or actions of individuals must be judged according to Scriptural principles. If we indeed live to bear witness for an absent king, then we are not to be involved with the present “kingdoms.” Romans 14 is quite clear as to our obligations to the present authority. Our place is one of obedience with the practical realization that we are strangers here.
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1. F. W. Grant, The Numerical Bible: Acts to 2 Corintians, (Beamsville, Ontario, Canada: Believers Bookshelf, 2006) 38, has an interesting commentary on this issue in connection with Gamaliel’s advice to the Jewish leaders.