On the second Tuesday of November, I plan to step up to the electronic ballot table in my voting precinct and cast my vote for president of the United States.
I will do so prayerfully. I will do so carefully. I will do so gladly. I may do so sadly. But, Lord willing, I will do so. This has been my pattern during the years of my adult life and I see no reason to change.
Unlike billions of people on this globe who long to have freedom of expression and opportunity to influence government -- and billions more who lived across the millennia -- I am privileged to live in the land of the free. For now.
Most of us who will vote on Nov. 8 did not choose to live in America; our citizenship is a right of birth. We have a God-given and constitutionally-granted opportunity to help shape the destiny of our nation by selecting its top official, as well as numerous other elected leaders who will also be on the ballot. In some election cycles, I've been on the winning side. In others, I've been on the losing side. But whether winning or losing, I have sought to make my voice heard.
No one is more keenly aware than I of the dire straits in which we find ourselves in the 21st century, 2,000 years since the death, burial and resurrection of our wonderful Savior and Lord.
Gone are the days when our leaders governed by Judeo-Christian principles shaped by a biblical worldview. Gone is the time when we had a cultural consensus on matters of good and evil, of right and wrong, of moral and immoral. Gone are the days when elected officials at every level of government truly believed that one day we will all stand before the Great Lawgiver and be judged by the Book ... or by the books (Revelation 20:12-15).
I find it interesting that one of the mightiest periods of miracles in Scripture occurred during one of the darkest times in Israel's history. The kingdom was divided. The northern kingdom of Israel had followed the leadership of its first king, Jeroboam I, into consistent idolatry. Its gods were two golden calves. Its shrines were at Bethel and in Dan. Its priesthood was composed of the basest of people. The darkness only intensified when Ahab became king and brought his wicked queen to the capital city of Samaria.
1 Kings 16 contains an amazing passage: "Then as if following the sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat were a trivial matter, [Ahab] married Jezebel ... and proceeded to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he had built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him" (vv. 31-33).
In this dark setting, the LORD still had a people. Obadiah hid 100 prophets of the LORD, providing shelter and provisions when Jezebel was slaughtering the LORD's prophets (1 Kings 18). The LORD revealed to Elijah that He had a remnant of 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19). And, of course, there were thousands who proclaimed "The LORD, He is God" atop Mount Carmel when the LORD answered by fire (1 Kings 19).
Here is an intriguing fact. It was in this setting that the LORD instructed Elijah to anoint two kings and a prophet -- Hazael as future king of Aram, Jehu as future king of Israel and Elisha as Elijah's successor. Though the anointings were to take place immediately, ascension to the throne for the two kings did not unfold for many years. And, when it happened, Elijah was long gone.
Elisha wept as he prophesied of all the evil Hazael would do to the people of God (2 Kings 8:11=12) when he became the Aramean king. Though Jehu became God's instrument to execute the judgment of God upon Jezebel, the descendants of Ahab and the worshippers of Baal, he did not turn away from the idolatrous sins of his predecessor, Jeroboam I (2 Kings 10:28-31).
We hear a lot in the current election cycle about what a Christ-follower should do as the sprint to the White House begins. Some say a true follower of Jesus shouldn't vote. Others advocate for a "lesser of two evils" approach. Still others hope a viable third-party candidate will suddenly emerge. And, as always, some are already ardently committed to their party of choice, irrespective of who the nominee will be.
I suggest another option -- let's approach the election with the "greater good" in mind. Why not ask the LORD to guide you to cast your ballot for the greater good for the nation? For the greater good for our Christian liberties. For the greater good for our children and their children and their children's children. But, most importantly, for the greater good for God's will and purposes for our nation and for us as His people.
Why would Elijah anoint wicked Hazael as king of Aram, who would later afflict God's own people? Because God directed him to. Why would Elijah anoint Jehu, who would carry spiritual reform so far and no farther? Because God directed him to.
Regardless of who sat on the throne then -- or who sits in the seat of power now -- God is still in control. His will and purposes will not be thwarted by mere mortals.
God has blessed us to live in this golden age of democratic governance. The franchise is more than a mere right. It is a responsibility. It is a stewardship of trust, a stewardship that billions of earth's inhabitants would love to have.
Do I as a Christ-follower have a right not to vote? Each of us must do what we feel led by God's Spirit to do. But, we are neither unspiritual nor unscriptural if we choose to cast our ballot, bathed in prayer, and exercised with the earnest desire that God's ultimate and unfailing purposes be fulfilled, whether for redemption of our sin-sickened society or for the rightful judgment of a nation that forgets God.
At the end of the day, we confess with those gone before that we are merely strangers and pilgrims on the earth, for our citizenship is in heaven. Our hope rests not in political parties, powerful personalities or prestigious positions. Our hope is in God.
As we approach the ballot box in our individual voting precincts this November, let each of us render unto God the loyal obedience He is due. But let us also render unto Caesar the elective influence God has graciously granted to us at this strategic juncture in history.
Frank S. Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. This article first appeared in the Summer Preview of SBC LIFE, journal of the Executive Committee.