Election Season and the Christian’s Responsibilities8 min read

Christians and churches do funny things with politics and reconciling them to their spiritual life is a multivalent experience: they might jump head-long into a sort of old-world Manifest Destiny, believing that God will bless us with lower gas prices if only we had a more moral collective. On the other hand, they might eschew politics altogether, sitting on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon (as Simon and Garfunkel put it), pretending that governmental designs have no lasting effects on their lives. Both extremes are unsensible, but in different ways. Yes, God is present in the entire world, and no earthly government is perfect or permanent: “Trust not in mortal man,” (Psalm 146). On the other hand, pretending that your faith has nothing to do with your politics is like saying your skin has nothing to do with your body. You live in it, so how could it not? Even worse, getting angry because your church says you should keep the commandments of God is really just getting angry at the Bible when it says you should “choose life over death” (Deuteronomy 30:19).


Lutherans hold a mediating political theology that I believe is both Scriptural and realistic to guide a Christian, especially in an election season. It’s called the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. On the one hand (“Right Hand”) there is the Kingdom of Grace: this is the church, the gospel, the free-and-clear gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here there is no social status, no taxation, “neither Jew nor Greek … neither slave nor free … no male and female” (Galatians 3:28), no law or condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). It is not, never has been, and never will be a democracy by the people. It is a divine monarchy, and God the Father is our King. We live and die by His grace and providence. Nothing you can do will earn His favor, and no offense is too great to be forgiven. You are His citizen, set free to be free (Galatians 5:1) and to serve others as Christ served you.

The other Kingdom (“Left Hand”) is the Kingdom of Law: this is the world in which you live. So, you have relationships: you are a father, a mother, a son or daughter; you have a job with a title, a salary, and a tax bracket. You have papers in your fire-proof safe that legally declare your citizenship of a particular land in a particular time. You are under the law, and there is no grace here. There are only consequences if you break those laws.

The doctrine of the Two Kingdoms is a paradox. As long as you live, you live in both Kingdoms. By grace you are saved, and not by works. But by works and not by grace do you live decently and at peace with your neighbors. The Kingdoms are interrelated but offer very different statuses of existence. Consider this: if I sin by being angry at my brother, I’m guilty of hell in the Kingdom of Grace. Yet in the Kingdom of Law, if I harbor a grudge against my brother there’s no law I am breaking. Contra wise: even if I murder my brother, by repentance and faith in Christ I can actually (scandalously!) be forgiven in the Kingdom of Grace. Yet in the Kingdom of Law, I will spend the rest of my life removed from the general population (or in some cases be executed). These Kingdoms aren’t contradictory; it’s how God designed them, and He is in control of both Kingdoms (cf. John 18:36 and Romans 13:4).

Obviously, the Kingdom of Law is finite, and the Kingdom of Grace everlasting. So, in the maintenance of the paradox, how do these Two Kingdoms work together? Simple: your earthly life and citizenship in the Kingdom of Law is informed by your life and citizenship in the Kingdom of Grace. What does this mean? It means that I get over the grudge because God put His grudge against me on Jesus. It means I love my brother because Christ loved me and gave Himself up for me. It means I serve my neighbor because the Spirit of peace enflames in me a love of my fellow man. It means God didn’t save you so that you could be selfish, uncaring, and “sin boldly” whilst receiving absolution like a magic trick on Sunday morning. It means God saved you (Kingdom of Grace) so that you can do good works (Kingdom of Law) “which [he] prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

So, what does this mean (and not mean) for American Christians in election season?


It means that voting is a work in the Kingdom of Law, so your consideration is for your neighbor and not for yourself. Because of the way this Constitutional Republic is organized—your representatives representing you “the people”—voting is one of the easiest acts of service (or disservice) you can give to your neighbor. In fact, I would go so far as to say that sometimes not voting at all is a sin of omission, since you are failing to serve your neighbor even in this simple way.

The doctrine of the Two Kingdoms also does not mean that if a fellow Christian disagrees with you over any number of political issues that they are necessarily demonstrating themselves to be a Pharisee or a hypocrite. They might be, but it’s probably more complicated than that, so show a little charity. There are myriad issues that inform the reasons people vote. Some are naturally going to be prioritized due to the changing passions and harried instances of human life. But being broken by nature, politics is always a zero-sum game: sell your soul over here in order to get something good over there. Either way you look at it, you lose (Simon and Garfunkel again). But some losses are patently worse than others, and it would be foolish to equalize them. Instead, use godly wisdom to arrive at the best holistic decision, and pray that God’s will be done.

To that end, what is best for my neighbor (not necessarily what is most agreeable or comfortable for me) is what I will bring into the voting booth with me. Churches should not endorse individual politicians or parties as if good works are exclusive to individuals. They should rather examine (as saved people in a broken world) what God would have them do best to serve their neighbors according to the system of government—especially since that system is designed to change according to the will of the people voting. In church, Christians should expect to be exhorted toward moral and godly living always. Not just in election season, we should want to be turned toward the practical considerations and service of others, and toward being a good citizen of our land “so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). Obviously this includes addressing moral issues on the regular, and it also includes directly addressing ballot issues or legislation that would be harmful to your neighbor.


To be perfectly clear: you are entitled as an American citizen to vote for whomever you wish. To be even clearer: you are not entitled as a Christian citizen to vote for your neighbor’s harm. Right to Life ( of Michigan provides helpful information not only about what churches and pastors can and cannot legally say and do politically, but about the upcoming Proposal 3 ( that would enshrine a radical abortion law into the Michigan State Constitution. This is one of those rare occasions when it is legally and doctrinally acceptable for a pastor to adjure people towards a particular action in the voting booth. You can keep your opinions about whomever but a moral whatever like Proposal 3 is my pastoral responsibility to address. Go and read it: it isn’t actually about personal freedom; it’s a political bait-and-switch to make Michigan one of the most violent havens for abortions in the country. It is an abomination against humanity, and God will judge its supporters.

Again, I want to be crystal clear on this: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and its professional rostered members and congregations officially confess the Bible to be the Word of God, and our doctrinal positions and teachings support both the sanctity of life and the public exhortations against evil—especially if we are legally entitled to a voice against that evil. Could it be that some of our societal problems stem from cowering at the sounds of loud criticisms and wishing to be “polite” rather than “political?”

Dear Christian, you have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus and are free to do good works for your neighbor. Therefore, if you are a voting citizen of this state, you are conscience-bound by your Christian faith to vote “no” on Proposal 3.

Please do the right thing.

Click on this link for resources on Proposition 3.

Photo © vesperstock/iStock

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About the Author

Rev. Dennis W. Matyas serves St. Paul, Bay City (Frankenlust) and as a member of the Michigan District Board of Directors (North & East Region). He and his wife, Valerie, have four children.

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Mary Lou Temple - October 25, 2022

Well written, Pastor! As a Lutheran and co-founder of Michigan Nurses for Life, I agree with everything you said. As Christians, we should not be timid in speaking our pro-life, Biblical values.