‘Love Your Neighbor with Your Vote’

We don’t put out political yard signs at our house. For 21 years as a journalist, I could not take a publicly partisan stand on political matters. And now as a pastor, I should not take a public partisan stand.

But I’m thinking of having a special yard sign made. Here’s what I want it to say: “Love Your Neighbor with Your Vote.”

No doubt, some would read that as a partisan sign. But my intent would be fully bipartisan. Passersby would have to wrestle with their own sense of what this statement means. If they read it as a partisan statement, I fear that would say more about them than about me.

Here’s why: This is nothing less than what Jesus teaches us in the New Testament. Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan, right? That was a story Jesus told. And the point was that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. There’s no getting around that message; it’s clearly what Jesus says.

What would happen in America if Christians applied Jesus’ command to their voting habits? For starters, I doubt anyone would be pulling a party lever but instead would pay careful attention to each candidate in each race and vote according to individual records and commitments. More importantly, it would change the conversation.

Right now, our political conversation is full of “me”—as in, “I want to make sure I get mine.” We want our tax breaks, our Medicare, our pet causes, our control of social issues, our health insurance, and on and on. It’s rare to hear someone say they’re basing their vote on what’s best for their neighbor, especially if what ‘s good for your neighbor might not appear to benefit you.

So here’s a challenge. Ask yourself how your vote could be cast in ways that would demonstrate love for neighbor. If you study and pray about it and come to the conviction that trickle-down economics offers the best hope for your neighbor’s prosperity, then vote for that kind of candidate. If you study and pray about it and determine that more government-funded social services are best for your neighbor, then vote for that kind of candidate. Or if neither of those models appears best for your neighbors, choose a third way. The challenge is to make a decision based on the welfare of someone other than yourself. Take your own interests out of the equation, and see how things add up. I think that’s what Jesus would do.

Be a Democrat. Be a Republican. Be an Independent. The label really doesn’t matter. The label that does matter for a Christian is to be found imitating the Good Samaritan, whom Jesus praised as a model for us to follow. So go out and love your neighbor with your vote.

Mark Wingfield

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About the Author
Mark Wingfield is associate pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and author of the book, “Staying Alive: Why the Conventional Wisdom about Traditional Churches is Wrong.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/letabw Leta Woodfin

    Hello, Mark.  I knew you years ago at Hulen St. BC and have enjoyed seeing you fulfill your calling in such a wonderful way.  It came as no surprise because you were outstanding even then as a seminary student.  This article is exactly what I’ve been struggling with and  hadn’t been able to articulate it.  Thank you for making it clear to me and everyone who reads it.  God bless.
    Leta Woodfin

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1540208079 Mary Konstans Benson

    My vote will show that I want to help thy neighbor by increasing his opportunity and mine in finding work which gives dignity and food on the table by me not by some social means where I can become lazy and just take…..If i am able to make money I can also share my gift with others….if I cannot….I will just be standing in line with my hand out along with my neighbor. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1540208079 Mary Konstans Benson

    “And the point was that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.” Interesting point, except the word used is “as” not “in the same way”. The point I make is that Christ is not saying for us to love others in the same way as we love ourselves. He is saying to love others as persons, who, like each of us, are created in the image and after the likeness of the Creator God. That kind of love removes such responsibility to care for the needs of others from government and shifts it onto us, the Church. When we abidicate such responsibility to the government, government becomes the source and an idol.

  • Winterspeace

    Remember, we can justify almost anything to ourselves, some would call that our struggle with the devil . Christ was a simple, humble, spiritual man and teacher. His message is simple, humble and spiritual. In it’s translation it is: love your neighbor as yourself. If you take care to feed and clothe yourself, you take care of others in the same way. The instruction was to the person/people; there was no Christian Church at that time. His message, which he repeats often, is one of love, compassion, kindness, goodness, humility and generosity. He instructs us many times about “the lesser of these”. If you are going to separate church and state then, if the government chooses an ‘everyman for themself’ approach to the governance of it’s people, so be it. That government isn’t of God nor, in truth, is it of the citizens of the country it governs. A country, much like God’s children, is comprised of many different kinds of people of many different moral and religious belief systems, at many different spiritual levels and financial levels. A servant of God doesn’t draw the line on who is hungry because they have judged them to be “lazy” or, who is hungry because they are poor, your spirit doesn’t judge the need; that judgment is God’s alone. Jesus told us that all the commandments are important but the greatest of these is love. When you come from a place of love, you just do what is needed. You can quibble over if his word is do unto others LIKE or AS, which really is trivial argument because it comes down to what’s in your heart. If God is everything we have ever claimed him to be, then we can’t even begin to know the vastness and the intricacies of his plan. He even told us this in Genesis. For me, I will go simple way,  let God judge and remember that the greatest commandment is Love and, not a love of money or mammon.

  • AnonymousFour

    I understand where this is coming from.  I affirm the teachings of Jesus.  But we need to be clear that Jesus did not come to give a bunch of rules for political activity or how we are to exercise our vote.  This is an attempt at applying what Jesus said, but it’s not what Jesus said.  The people of that day had no vote anyway.

    The older I get and the more I read the more I become uncomfortable urging the use of representative government as a means of ushering in Jesus’ kingdom.  Governments should provide police protection, courts and a host of other things that allow people to thrive and to protect them.  I do not think that excludes some form of social safety net.

    But the most altruistic governmental programs of the 20th Century where the programs advanced by the Communists in the former USSR and the Nazis in Germany.  If you listen to Hitler’s speeches, for example, he talks about providing for all people and eliminating classes (that the laborer would be esteemed just as much as the corporate Titan etc.).  Naziism was explicitly altruistic.  One should vote for what was good for all, not individual self interest.

    The danger in this is that it leads to psychological and ethical manipulation of people.  

    Of course one should consider others.  But there is a fine line between that, and urging people to abandon their interests in the political field for the interests that some politician promotes and has decided are important.

    And then we may ask, am I supposed to vote for the interests of my 3 year old daughter, or vote against her interests in favor of some interest that some politician has told me will be good for everyone.

    It is interesting to note that today and for most of history, the great majority of people in the world have lived in grinding poverty under the thumb of some supreme leader or authoritarian government.

    And it is interesting to note that the countries that have done the best job at affording prosperity to the greatest number of people are those countries that allow and encourage people to be free and to pursue their own interests.  In a strange way, it is that freedom (rather than moralizing on some scheme to achieve an altruistic purpose) that produces a greater amount of goods and services.

    Encouraging people to ignore and abandon their own self interests, while noble in intent, leaves them as sitting ducks for people who will use that to control them, their economic and social freedom.  History teaches this clearly.

    So we need to be careful how we apply Jesus’ teachings.  There has been 2000 years of human history since he walked on this earth.  I think it is very Christ like to use our minds to consider what we have witnessed in that history and to apply the lessons we have learned.

  • AnonymousFour

    I understand where this is coming from.  I affirm the teachings of Jesus.  But we need to be clear that Jesus did not come to give a bunch of rules for political activity or how we are to exercise our vote.  This is an attempt at applying what Jesus said, but it’s not what Jesus said.  The people of that day had no vote anyway.

    The older I get and the more I read the more I become uncomfortable urging the use of representative government as a means of ushering in Jesus’ kingdom.  Governments should provide police protection, courts and a host of other things that allow people to thrive and to protect them.  I do not think that excludes some form of social safety net.

    But the most altruistic governmental programs of the 20th Century where the programs advanced by the Communists in the former USSR and the Nazis in Germany.  If you listen to Hitler’s speeches, for example, he talks about providing for all people and eliminating classes (that the laborer would be esteemed just as much as the corporate Titan etc.).  Naziism was explicitly altruistic.  One should vote for what was good for all, not individual self interest.

    The danger in this is that it leads to psychological and ethical manipulation of people.  

    Of course one should consider others.  But there is a fine line between that, and urging people to abandon their interests in the political field for the interests that some politician promotes and has decided are important.

    And then we may ask, am I supposed to vote for the interests of my 3 year old daughter, or vote against her interests in favor of some interest that some politician has told me will be good for everyone.

    It is interesting to note that today and for most of history, the great majority of people in the world have lived in grinding poverty under the thumb of some supreme leader or authoritarian government.

    And it is interesting to note that the countries that have done the best job at affording prosperity to the greatest number of people are those countries that allow and encourage people to be free and to pursue their own interests.  In a strange way, it is that freedom (rather than moralizing on some scheme to achieve an altruistic purpose) that produces a greater amount of goods and services.

    Encouraging people to ignore and abandon their own self interests, while noble in intent, leaves them as sitting ducks for people who will use that to control them, their economic and social freedom.  History teaches this clearly.

    So we need to be careful how we apply Jesus’ teachings.  There has been 2000 years of human history since he walked on this earth.  I think it is very Christ like to use our minds to consider what we have witnessed in that history and to apply the lessons we have learned.

  • barryclinton

    If your neighbor is an unborn baby, vote for the candidate that won’t fund the local abortionist at Planned Parenthood.

    So patently obvious. How can Christians with their heads screwed on straight possibly wonder about which way to vote?