Voting is an individual act for the collective good. We have a sacred responsibility to vote. But it is not just in the booth every two years that we vote. We have a responsibility to serve “the least of these,” (Matthew 25) when we vote. It is pagan to serve ourselves in the booth. It is Christian to serve the children, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the physically sick, the mentally ill, the imprisoned, those without shelter, and the otherwise impoverished when you go into the voting booth.
In both the Old and New Testaments followers of Yahweh are instructed to be engaged in loving our neighbors. Clearly, neighbors are not just those in our immediate proximity according to scripture. They are also not those with who we necessarily share religious traditions or socioeconomic status. Neighbors are anyone who our action or lack of action affects negatively or positively.
Jesus encouraged us to do good to our neighbors this is what he meant by loving them. The example Jesus gave was the famed “Good Samaritan” story in Luke 10. James 1:27 recorded Jesus saying, Real religion is this, reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.”
In our Western culture, we have confused warm fuzzy feelings with love. Love sometimes does come with warm fuzzy feelings, but more often than not, love is an act of doing something that is in the best interest of another even when we know the warm fuzzies may not come with it. Loving is a commitment to the other’s highest and best good. Love acts are not dependent on recognition, gratitude, or even reciprocation, although these may be some benefits of loving well.
In covenantal love like marriage, we do make mutual agreements for the other’s best. But in neighbor love, we are called as a result of our covenant with God to love and care for our neighbor whether it be mutual or not.
In the justice conversation, I often hear people say, “Why should I pay for what someone else did?” They may even go on to say, “I can’t help what my ancestors did.” More likely, they will say, “It wasn’t my ancestors who enslaved people! My ancestors were poor, came here as indentured servants, or to survive the potato famine. . . . “ Or they may say something to the effect of “my ancestors came here with nothing and worked hard to get what they have (what I inherited). Nobody helped them!”
We’ve all heard it, and honestly, it is good, even if misinformed question. The person asking the above questions is not ready for deep sociological theory or theology, they are ready for answers that can help us solve the problem of now.
The “whose fault?” and “whose responsibility?” questions are irrelevant to Believers in the One, Creator, God, Redeemer, and Healer of us all. To Jesus’ followers, it is a side issue. We are under a prime mandate to love, heal, restore, and reunite humans to God and to each other.
The relevant question is “How can I help my neighbor recover?”
In the Bodo River Kanga Nianze Village, the people of a small village tell the story of the poor souls who were chained and marched across the country to be sold (into slavery in the Americas). When they came to this village, they were in bad shape. The villagers knew they could do nothing to free them, so they decided instead to wash them in the “sacred river” to help give them back their dignity (Roots To Glory).
Like the “Good Samaritan” of Luke 10, the villagers did not stop to ascertain the “sin,” religious affiliation, or ancestry of the suffering, they simply began to restore dignity and minister healing. They knew that it was their place to do what they could to help the almost dead ones recover.
The villagers did what they could. The Samaritan changed his itinerary, stayed to nurse the man personally, and paid the injured man’s expenses and housing. Each has a different responsibility, according to our resources. This is the love we are called to do.
Isaiah 58:6 tells us of God’s chosen fast “To loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. To share our food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when we see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away. . . . “
Scripture has a lot to say about our responsibility as His people to the oppressed, poor, needy, and weak whether they are “our own” or “strangers.” (Search these words as well as “stranger, foreigner, and alien” in your Bible app or search engine.)
As we vote, it is our faithful duty as citizens of a higher community to think of the ones who have been beaten and left for dead by history and modern society. We not only should vote in ways that help in their recovery, but we should also live the other days between votes in such as way as to stop and minister to the needs of the suffering.
We can put ourselves in proximity to the need and the people. We can linger with them to help them get on the healing journey. We can provide shelter and comfort and food. We can do all these things out of our own personal resources and sacrifices . . . AND we can also do these things as a society, as a whole, as collectives, as voters. We can, and we should. This is the way of love, “we lay down our lives” for others, and show them the love of God.
We must vote every day, inside and outside of the booth to support the recovery of the wounded, oppressed, and suffering.
By Doc Courage