Every year we approach the polls with some sense of self-responsibility, sometimes in a selfish way.
We do our best to research the candidates, the tax levies, the state law measures and in the end we will inevitably ask ourselves. “How will this vote affect me?” This question is asked while worrying about a tax increase, while refusing to see the value in what it could bring our communities. We look at candidates like heroes on white horses who will champion our political tribe, yet often forsake the consideration and impact it could have on our neighbor. One candidate promises to reduce healthcare costs while the other doesn’t promise such a thing, but will fight those who need it most.
Voting is an incredible responsibility, and it comes with a great deal of cost. What if before voting we considered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of the not so favorable outcomes? What if we considered how our vote tells a story on how much we love our neighbor as ourselves?
There is a passage in the Bible in a letter written to one of the early churches in a region called Philippi. The recipients of the letter were facing incredible tension with the political order, yet the writer, Paul, encourages them to act in a different way. It reads, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
The last couple verses have recently struck a rather interesting cord, and I have even taken the liberty to reword them in relation to the discussion.
“Do not vote out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Vote not looking only to your own interests, but also with the interests of others.”
It is easy to look at personal interests, and even remain exclusive, but perhaps we can take a different approach and not accept that this is just the way it is. Voting does more than change the amount of taxes taken out of our paychecks; it impacts whether or not a family will receive the healthcare they need. We might know that our job will be safe regardless of who gets in office, but what about the person who is afraid theirs is on the line? A person with white skin may not need to worry about a presidential or mayoral influence on stop and frisk, but there are certainly others who fear stepping out their front door. Tapping into domestic oil reserves may very well lower petroleum costs, but what about the family or communities being forced off of their land? We may not think we have a responsibility to care for our global neighbors, but I can assure you that we would want to be on the receiving end of the compassion we are not always quick to show.
Let us not vote out of only our own self-gain, but vote thinking about also the interests of others.