Every vote counts. So you’ve probably heard a few times in the past weeks, if you’ve been following the American presidential elections or accompanying American media. After all, democracy, and its less well known cousin, republicanism, are built upon the principle of the participation of the people.
Such participation, in theory, prevents tyranny. The American experiment has served as an example to many countries to throw off despotic governments and establish some sort of representative democracy. In my own adopted country, the US served as inspiration for its own changes, reflected in the name from 1889-1968 as the Republic of the United States of Brazil.
So in many places of the world we share the values of representative government, where the people, through their elected officials, decide the policies and directions of the nation. These are values that many countries believe in and promote.
The greatest symbol, perhaps, of such liberties is the vote. The ballot represents the power of a nation’s citizens to determine its path. As such, it is a protected right. In some countries like Brazil, it is legally mandatory. Free and honest elections are the guarantee of liberty. Nations zealously protect the election process, and the first attempts at subverting a government often begin at the ballot box.
As much as we value the right to vote and “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” there is a vote more decisive and determinative than all the numbers that will be tallied in the next election. That vote is God’s.
In a wonderful mystery of divine sovereignty—call it a paradox, even—the will of God does not impose itself upon human free will, but uses the evil and the righteousness of man to fulfill his plan. As Jeremiah marveled at the unfolding of God’s revelation and judgment over Judah, he exclaimed,
“Oh, Lord God, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you! You show unfailing love to thousands. But you also punish children for the sins of their parents. You are the great and powerful God who is known as the LORD who rules over all. You plan great things and you do mighty deeds. You see everything people do. You reward each of them for the way they live and for the things they do” (Jeremiah 32.17-19 NET).
These are the words of a prophet who on the one hand cries over the divine pronouncement of doom for his people, but who can simultaneously stand in awe of “the great and powerful God” who “rules over all.”
Human government can go bad, quickly and tortuously. Even so, it will still fulfill, in its worst manifestations, the purpose of God (see Romans 13). And while Christians may enjoy their rights as citizens of a nation, as did saints like the apostle Paul, government officials, and military officers in the first century, their heavenly citizenship is a far greater value, which guarantees to them rights and responsibilities, such as:
- The confidence in the promise of God and the hope of eternal life:
- The participation in God’s kingdom, that is, his people, the church of Jesus Christ;
- The commission of proclaiming the Good News to every nation;
- The holiness of life in imitation of divine fatherhood, without which no one shall see the Lord.
In the end, a child of God may vote in an local or national election, but he knows that the decisive vote comes from his Sovereign God. Forces larger than he are at work. Of earthly trends and worldly directions he has little idea, less than the averaging of political polls. But for real and lasting change, the disciple’s efforts are turned wholly toward the eternal salvation of the soul, for he can be certain that the Spirit of God who dwells in him cooperates at every step to that end.