Americans head to the polls tomorrow for an election that many believe will be one of the most significant elections held during a non-presidential campaign year. Our nation has become increasingly polarized, and this election will be critical in determining the future course of our national policy.
Stepping into this election, there are two important things I want you to know:
- Lutheran pastors will never, ever tell you how to vote, or for whom to vote. We believe this is a matter of personal conscience.
- We will, however, tell you to vote. We believe that God calls people of faith to be good citizens and to engage fully in the world.
In his writings, Martin Luther talked about the “doctrine of two kingdoms.” It is the idea that God created two different spheres in which we live:
- “The spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians and pious people, and;
- The secular, which restrains the unchristian and wicked so that they are obliged to keep the peace outwardly…”
People of faith are citizens of both Kingdoms, according to Luther, and as such, we have a responsibility in both spheres to participate and lead.
And while the church doesn’t tell us how to vote, our faith does give us a helpful filter through which we can make our decisions. This filter actually comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus is answering the question of a lawyer, who asks him, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replies: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
This month when you go to vote (or for that matter, anytime you need to make a significant decision), ask yourself, “which of these options best shows love of God and love of neighbor?” Let your conscience; your relationship with God give an answer, and then make your decision.
This is how people of faith live and lead in a secular world.
“God of grace, as your people prepare to vote, we ask for your wisdom. Let us make decisions that glorify you. Let us make decisions that extend the gift of your love into the world. Let us make decisions that show love to our neighbor. Let us resist the urge to divide ourselves and instead work to unite us as a single people.
And grant wisdom to our leaders, that the decisions they make bring peace and prosperity to all of your people.
All this we ask in the name of Jesus, your Son, and our Savior.
Note: This blog post is adapted from an article written for the November “Messenger,” the monthly newsletter of Trinity Lutheran Church, Owatonna, Minnesota.