Vote your values, hope in God: A Christian worldview for human government

by Hennie Swart & Phillip Boshoff

It’s our duty, especially in a democracy, to not only submit to governing authorities, but to participate in them by voting and public discourse, and to hold those who govern us accountable.


On Wednesday 8 May South Africans will cast their vote in the national elections. Christians should approach this decision with faith and boldness, not fear.

From the very beginning of creation, God intended for human beings created in His image to rule the earth on His behalf. In Genesis 1:27-28 He addresses both Adam and Eve (“them”), showing He never desired individual rulership. Even in Revelation, Jesus is not King alone – His Bride will rule with Him.

Biblically, any human government must ultimately be subject to heavenly government. Rulers must fear the Lord and represent Him in serving their subjects. When that doesn’t happen, God brings judgment. He does not look kindly upon governments that abuse their rights and shirk their duties.

God said to the mighty Emperor of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, that he would “…be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32).

This is a challenging Scripture. With all the political scandals and reports of mismanagement, do we really think God rules the kingdoms of men? But this passage (and others) clearly shows that that is true.

God appoints and removes kings. When Saul abused his power as king, He rejected him as king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1). He then sent Samuel to anoint David, “for I have provided for Myself a king”.

The ideal human ruler is chosen and anointed by God – someone who can represent Him because they have His Spirit inside of them. God, not the king, remains the highest government.

But even David’s rule was not perfect. He was a type, a foreshadowing, of the ideal king, fulfilled only in Jesus – God as King in the form of Man, the only incorruptible One who could accurately represent God on earth after man fell into sin.

And once again, we see Jesus delegating His rule to His followers. In the New Testament Jesus said to His disciples: “and I assign to you, as My Father assigned to Me, a kingdom…” (Luke 22:29).

God has not abandoned His original plan for humans to rule the earth, and He has made provision for that to happen through Jesus’ return. But until then, we have a Biblical responsibility to be involved in human government.

Christians’ role in government: Salt and light

God appoints human government, but He is not pleased with wicked human government. Beware of quoting Romans 13:1 out of context, saying: “God appoints all human government, so don’t complain.” It’s our duty, especially in a democracy, to not only submit to governing authorities, but to participate in them by voting and public discourse, and to hold those who govern us accountable.

The church should not just react against upsetting policies. If God calls us to be salt and light in society, we must be salt and light in government as well. We should be there when the laws are being written, engaging constructively. Like Daniel, Joseph and Esther, we shouldn’t be afraid to engage in a secular space. It’s very hard to be a shining light when you’re removed from the darkness.

Practically, we can’t all govern together at the same time, but we can appoint people to represent us and God, to have a Christian voice at the highest level of policy-making.

Because of South Africa’s history and diversity, we have proportional representation in government. Therefore there is no such thing as “dividing the vote” by voting for smaller parties. You can vote for someone who shares your values to represent you. If that party gets enough votes, they can have a voice in every discussion, every debate, every point put forward.

We will be accountable for our vote

On Judgment Day, will we be held accountable for the choices of the people we chose to represent us? If politicians and parties keep to their official, published public policy – and we knew what that public policy was and voted for them – the answer is yes. If we empower someone to make decisions on our behalf, we are responsible for those decisions.

You will have very few opportunities to demonstrate your devotion for Christ as clearly as at an election.

When voting, consider this:

Are you voting out of fear or faith?

What do you think are the key issues on God’s heart for our country?

Will the people you vote for really be able to represent you? Are you completely comfortable with all the policies of the party you vote for?

Will the party you vote for have the right values and the competence for service delivery?

Pray and hope in God

Like the Israelites who were living under Babylonian rule, we should work and pray for the welfare of our city (Jeremiah 29:7). Vote for Christian parties, but also pray for the Christians in the different parties to stand up. Pray as Jesus prayed: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV). No political party is irredeemable, and no one is perfect.

Ultimately we look to God, not man. “The LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; He will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

Even if the ACDP came into power, that would by no means solve all our problems. All human governments will be disappointments, except for One: The Son of David. When He finally rules, human government will be perfect government. Until then, we must vote our values, but hope in God.

Listen to Hennie Swart’s sermon here.

Listen to Phillip Boshoff’s sermon here.

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