Today is election day 2012. Millions of us have gone to the polls and cast our votes for the candidates of our choice. Everywhere I turned, the lines to vote were very long, and as you know, I am not a big one for waiting in lines. But the election today was one of the most important elections of my life, at least in my opinion, so after I had the sutures removed from my oral surgery last week, I went to the polling place and braced myself for what I would find inside.
Sure enough, the line snaked through the room and election officials were predicting a two hour wait. Normally, I would have been really amped up at the slow process – there were only 2 polling machines for the area, but I had mentally prepared for the ordeal. Sure enough, God shined a little light into my life when I saw that an old friend of mine was just ahead of me in line. Sure enough, we talked for almost the entire time and finally reached the booth to vote in just under two hours.
I was amazed at how many middle aged people were there. The younger folks came in and then headed out. They just weren’t going to wait that long. On the other hand, other than a little discomfort from the suture removal, I was committed to the mission to vote. I saw a few of the neighbors there and we chatted a little but overall, there was a somber attitude in the room – you can tell that folks were taking this election very seriously.
Later in the day, I decided to go to the Bible and study the word “vote.” After all, we know that God instituted government and I have written on that topic in the past. But I haven’t ever studied what the Scripture has to say about actually voting. You know what I found? That the word “vote” only appears once in the entire Bible, at least in the NIV and the NASB versions.
And the circumstance during which the word was used is rather astounding. It occurs in the book of Acts during Paul’s discussion of his former life as a persecutor of Christians. In fact, the story preceded Paul’s recounting of his conversion experience. In case you are not familiar with it, Paul was on the road to Damascus when he had an encounter with the Living God and was struck blind. Christ asked Paul why he had persecuted Him… Christ then went on to tell Paul that Paul would become an ambassador for the kingdom of God and that he would preach the Gospel message to the world, including the Gentiles.
Paul went on, by his own account, to study directly under Jesus for three years in isolation so as to become knowledgable about the faith and life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul had been raised as a Jew and, in fact, was a member of the Sanhedrin, the leaders of the faith. He was one of the most learned men around and that is one of the things that made it even more difficult for people to believe that he had converted to being a follower of Jesus. In fact, in the book of Galatians, Pauls actually refers to himself as an apostle. Now that word is not one that was used lightly. Among other qualifications, an apostle had to have studied under Jesus Himself. That means that even though this was years after the ascension, Paul claims to have had a personal encounter with Jesus and to have learned directly from Him. When you think about it, that’s quite remarkable.
Perhaps that is one of the things that made Paul so committed to the faith – his encounter with the Living God. Regardless of the circumstances, he was passionate – that much is for sure. But Paul was passionate before his conversion experience. Except that he was passionate about the persecution of the Christians. And that’s where the word “vote” comes in. After all, people who stick around to vote are generally very concerned and involved in the outcome of the issue. Paul was no exception.
Our verse for tonight recounts Paul’s own words about his past. We are told, in Acts 26:9-10, “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” In other words, not only did Paul put believers in prison, he actually took an active role in having them executed. That is one of the things that made his conversion experience even more powerful.
My encouragement this evening to you is that we live in a country where the right to vote is a fundamental thing that we should take seriously. Because if you don’t vote, chances are you are not as passionate about the outcome as those of us who took time to stand in line and have our voice heard. My prayer is that even though each of us has a stake in wanting our candidates to win, please remember that God is on the throne and I encourage you to pray for whoever wins this election. After all, God was the one who invented government and it would be disrespectful to ignore God’s wish for our support of our elected officials. I know that will be tough for some people who will undoubtedly mourn the loss for their candidate, but with God, all things are possible. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…