Monday, October 8, 2012

Why do Christians vote? (Sermon preached 10-07-12)

Why do we vote? We don’t vote because it is our right. Unbelievers are concerned about their rights; they want to exercise them, they want to protect them. Christians care little about their own rights. Why do we vote? We don’t vote to get what we want. Unbelievers are concerned about their own desires. No wonder the economy is such a big issue, indeed the issue in this election—voters want to see more money in their own pockets, and they will vote for the candidate that they believe will make it happen. But voting based on my bank account is the height of selfishness, and it certainly isn’t Christian. Christians don’t care about getting their own way. Why do we vote? We don’t vote to protect ourselves. Unbelievers are focused on what they have, and what they don’t want to lose. Christians aren’t concerned about the things of this world.

As Christians, we vote for one reason, and one reason alone: to serve our neighbor. We vote for the good of our neighbor, not for our own good. Voting is an act of service, and how we vote isn’t determined by our own wants, but by the needs of those around us. We vote for their rights and interests. This is fundamental, basic Christianity, and for an example, we need to look no further than the LWML. The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League has for decades been a wonderful example of Christian service. Their sacrificial giving in those wonderful mite boxes has supported the spread of the Gospel and the good of their neighbors around the world. Those mighty mite boxes make it possible for the work of the Church to go on in witness and mercy. The service of these women in our own congregations is sacrificial, it is indispensable, and it is given in love, following Christ’s example and command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

As Christians, we vote to show love to our neighbor, for their good, not our own. In fact, we may vote against our own interests in order to serve our neighbor. Our neighbors’ need compels us to go to the polls, to speak up for them on the basis of God’s Word in the public square. If we voted only for ourselves, we could stay home if we wanted to, but because we vote for the good of others, refusing to vote is not an option. Christians aren’t quiet—they speak, their voice is heard. The distinction between church and state, taught by our Lutheran Confessions, doesn’t mean that our faith has no place in politics. Luther taught that the Church and the State have two different spheres or realms; the Church is concerned with eternal salvation and works through the Word and Sacraments, while the State is concerned with temporal welfare and works through rule of law. But God is over both, and you stand with a foot firmly in each. God’s Word should inform how you serve the neighbor, just as it should inform how the Christian rules. Applying God’s Word to foreign policy, economics, defense, and a variety of other issues isn’t easy, and sincere Christians will have honest disagreements on how we best serve our neighbors in those areas, but we cannot pretend that God’s Word has no guidance for such thorny topics. Moreover, there are other areas where God’s Word speaks very clearly, and there we must take our stand.

We vote to serve the most vulnerable, those under the greatest threat. We vote to serve those whom Christ loves, whom He protected during His days on this earth, saying to His disciples, “Let the children come do me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Christ’s concern for the little ones is our own; they are unable to protect themselves, and so we are called upon to protect them. And no other class of human beings is under greater threat. I’m told that after the Second World War, German citizens were taken to the Nazi death camps. As they saw those horrors that occurred in their own backyard, they kept saying, ‘We had no idea.’ You and I cannot make that excuse. Over fifty million children have been sacrificed on the altar of convenience over the past forty years. Fifty million children killed for any reason, or no reason at all, and for every child, there is a mother and father scarred, in need of forgiveness. When the fifth commandment is so blatantly disregarded, we are called upon to have the same compassion as Christ: “He took them up in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.”

The Christian has no higher priority than the protection of life. No other liberty can be guaranteed to our neighbor if life itself is threatened. Christian quietism, being convinced election after election that there are ‘more important issues,’ has led to now more than forty years of slaughter. Christians failing to stand firm and demand an end to the destruction of unborn life has led to leaders that support abortion and leaders that oppose it with their words, but are unwilling to do anything about it. We need to hold our leaders accountable, we need to demand an end to this culture of death. There is nothing more selfish than to be concerned with our own bank accounts while thousands are dying.

The protection of life, especially that of the unborn and infirm, trumps all other concerns; without the protection of life, no other liberty matters. But there are other areas where God’s Word calls on us to speak. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus spoke about divorce and then affirmed the definition of marriage found in Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This one flesh union was established by God as the very foundation of society. He did this for our good, especially for the good of children. But as Satan attacked that relationship in the beginning, so we find the building blocks of a healthy culture being torn down by sex outside of marriage, rampart divorce, and the attempt to redefine it to make it genderless. Who suffers when marriage is weakened? Children, and the evidence is all around you, with broken families and hurting children everywhere you look.

In this nation, we aren’t just free to express our faith behind closed doors on Sunday morning; we are free to take that faith into our lives in this world. And this freedom is under attack, as the government attempts to keep religion inside church buildings, even telling religious employers that they must provide drugs to employees that they object to, including those that cause abortion. Gay marriage will also erode our religious liberty, as we will find ourselves increasingly unable to speak God’s Word of condemnation against sexual sins. We must speak out against such attacks, not for our good, but for the good of our neighbor. We vote so that all religious people, even those we don’t agree with, will be able to express their faith, in worship and in the public square.

We vote and do not despair, we do not fear. When we vote for ourselves, we vote out of fear, fear for our interests, our rights, our possessions. We vote in fear, and then we despair that the outcome will not be as we desire. A Christian doesn’t do anything from a standpoint of fear, nor does the one with hope in Christ despair the outcome of anything in this world. The Christian votes for the good of the neighbor, and then rests with confidence in Christ. For, as our Epistle lesson put so beautifully, Christ is Lord of all. “‘You made Him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned Him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under His feet.’ Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside His control.” He has everything under His control, even history itself. Whatever rulers we have are given by God, sometimes to chasten, sometimes to help, but always for our ultimate good. St. Paul wasn’t joking when he said, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Nations rise and fall; it has been happening since the beginning, and it will continue to happen until the Last Day. America has no promise of eternal endurance. But Christ’s Church does. That is Christ’s promise, His gift to you and to me. He promised Peter that the gates of hell would never prevail over His Church, and He intends to keep that promise. The Church will never die. Christianity will never be snuffed out. The Church is Christ’s body, and Christ is risen never to die again.

There is no need to fear, no need to despair, no matter what comes in November or in the years to come. For Christ has won the victory over all the powers of this world. He holds all things in His control: our nation, this election, even history itself, though it is difficult to see. “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him. But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” The crucified One conquered the powers of this world by submitting Himself to their rage and allowing Himself to be killed at their hand. He is exalted because He humbled Himself to death, even death upon a cross. His death is victory, victory over sin, victory, over death, victory over Satan. That victory is hidden, “At present we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him.” Indeed, the world seems to just be getting much worse. But Christ’s victory isn’t determined by an election. His resurrection is the proof of His triumph, not votes in a ballot box.

Therefore, your salvation is certain and true. Christ tasted death for you, dying in your place, dying with all your sins upon Him. Nothing can change the victory He won for you, nor the claim He has on you in your Baptism. In the month to come, vote as a Christian, not seeking your own interests in fear and despair, but instead seeking the good of your neighbor in faith. Do not despair over the result, for Christ’s victory is certain and true, and your salvation is equally true. No election can change that. Christ tasted death for you so that you will not die eternally, so that you will be delivered from this world of sin to live before Him forever. Take confidence, your sins are forgiven, and the One who claims you as His own is the Lord of history. All things are under His feet, and will be, forever. In the Name of Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, Amen.

No comments: