Saturday, 19 October 2013

Following Jesus to the Ballot Box

The following is my By the Way column for The Medicine Hat News today: 
By the time you read this the United States will have gone over the fiscal precipice into the abyss of default, or not; and we will have been dragged closer to some moral and fiscal precipices of our own as the Senate expenses and the Quebec municipal and provincial corruption scandals grind on. Meanwhile our own parliamentary throne speech will have been thoroughly read, marked, inwardly digested and thoroughly dissected with all the ridicule, approval, optimism and gloom that goes with it. It’s all on a rather grand and distant scale, however, and there’s not a whole lot I can do about any of it except pray. 
On Monday, however, I do have an opportunity to do something tangible in the local political realm besides prayer. I get to vote in our own municipal elections. So do most of you. 
Although our local candidates may not be as colourful or as tragically and obviously flawed (thankfully) as some on national and international platforms, they are offering themselves to do real, difficult and important work for us in our schools and local government. My prayerful and thoughtful engagement in the democratic process and casting my vote both honours the commitment of those candidates and celebrates the freedom I enjoy. Moreover, it is to follow Jesus. It is both gift and ministry. The Bible tells me so. 
Consider, for example, Jesus’ delightful and adroit response thwarting one of the many attempts to catch him out in what he taught when the religious leaders of his day asked him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he said, “and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:13-17). For me to take an interest, prayerfully discern and vote in our local election is to “render to Caesar.” To thank God and worship him for the freedom to do so is to render to God the things that are His. Jesus is the model of a responsible citizen.
In the Bible God also shows how to be a responsible and faithful citizen through the Apostle Paul. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities,” Paul writes, “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1) Democratic elections are one of the ways God brings governing authorities into existence. To engage and vote is an important way I can be “submissive to rulers and authorities,…obedient,” and “ready for every good work,” (Titus 3:1) as I do my best follow Jesus. I am called to be a part of that process. So are you.