Matthew J. Hall on Your Vote Matters More (and Less) Than You Think

EDITOR’S NOTE: Matthew J. Hall is provost and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

We find ourselves on the verge of an election that is reflecting much of the fraying social fabric of our national life in the United States. It seems especially clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated those dynamics, rather than drawing us closer together.

Surely there are a variety of factors that explain how we have arrived at this moment. Some will point the finger at elected officials and lay the fault entirely at their feet. Others will warn of the cultural transformation induced by secularity, now showing itself in more conspicuous forms than we would have imagined. Of course, both of these explanations can be simultaneously true.

We should be especially grateful for the many brothers and sisters who have shared their public reflections on how Christians should approach the current election decision. While some may see those exchanges as a reason for frustration, it seems to me that quite the opposite is true. Conversations marked by grace and truth, motivated by brotherly and sisterly love, and focused on how to best love God and neighbor in our political engagement seem to be a sign of health within the people of God.

I don’t presume to have anything to add to those exchanges. By now, voices far more thoughtful than mine have already made their cases for their candidates of choice. What follows is not an argument for any candidate or platform, but rather an attempt to retrieve some foundational principles.

Your vote matters more than you think

We inhabit an age of cynicism and disillusionment. Within American life there is a palpable sense of suspicion about our most established institutions, along with a shared sense of fatigue, prompting many Americans to conclude that their voice and their vote are simply going to be drowned out by the rancorous chorus of our public square.

But we should not fail to acknowledge what a remarkable thing it is that we get to vote. It is a precious freedom won and defended at great cost. We dare not presume upon the freedoms we enjoy. Indeed, for Christians, our concern must be one of stewardship unto the Lord, as we seek to leverage those freedoms for the glory of His name, animated by the love of neighbor.

Different Christians will arrive at different conclusions about what political choices best serve those aims. The stakes are certainly high. We dare not deny that public virtue, justice, the rule of law, the defense of freedom and a great many other priorities are increasingly contested in a secular age.

The apostle Paul exhorted first-century Christians living in Rome – the center of political and cultural power – to fulfill their proper duties as citizens, even as they were to submit to the pagan regime and to do so out of conscience.

“And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s servants, continually attending these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.” (Romans 13:6-7)

The exercise of our right to vote is one way for Christians in the United States to pay their obligations to everyone. It is a small but significant way in which we can steward the freedoms entrusted to us as citizens for the common good, shaped by Christian conscience, motivated by love for others.

Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press