Do Your Duty

Author: Don McFarlane
October 25, 2018

Nowadays I seldom listen to the news on radio or television. Most of what I learn about developments, events in the world, and country comes from my Twitter feed. Even that began to distress me after a while. I then learned how to block certain people and organizations from my Twitter feed, in order to be able to maintain a balanced view of reality and remain hopeful about human nature in the face of overwhelming seeming evidence to the contrary. However, despite my earnest efforts to avoid the daily round of “news,” it’s not possible to escape hearing or reading about some of the vitriol that has become the stock-in-trade of many who have a personal stake in the mid-term elections that will take place in less than two weeks from now.

In my youth, I was constantly fed with the notion that politics was for everybody but Adventists. We were enjoined to stand above it all. Having left Jamaica for the United Kingdom in 1978, it was not until after I became a British citizen in 1991 that I began to exercise the right to participate in the important process of deciding who would be leaders in my city, county and country. That right has not been afforded me as yet in my adopted country of the United States. However, most of you who are reading this blog have the right to vote. While whom you vote for is a personal matter, it is important that as Christians we exercise the right to decide on the leaders of our country, our county, our state and other positions of public service. If we leave it to others, we might not appreciate the consequences of our action, or more accurately, our inaction.

As salt and light in the world, Christians have a duty to ensure that every aspect of society, including public life, is impacted by their values. Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, scored a bullseye when he said, “Societies are tragically vulnerable when the men and women who compose them lack character. A nation or a culture cannot endure for long unless it is undergirded by common values such as valor, public-spiritedness, respect for others and for the law; it cannot stand unless it is populated by people who will act on motives superior to their own immediate interest.”  These are Christian values.

As Christians, our responsibility is not to vote the party line. We are to vote our values, our convictions and our God-directed aspirations. At the 1865 General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church the following action was taken by delegates, which in many ways is a good guide for us today: "Resolved, That in our judgment, the act of vot­ing when exercised in behalf of justice, humanity, and right, is in itself blameless, and may be at some times highly proper; but that the casting of any vote that shall strengthen the cause of such crimes as intemperance, insurrection, and slavery, we re­gard as highly criminal in the sight of Heaven. But we would depreciate any participation in the spirit of party strife." (Reported in the Review, May 23, 1865).

One cannot help but admire the courage of our pioneers in addressing many of the injustices and imbalances of their time and in calling them what they were - crimes. They set a good example for us to follow in our attempt to exercise our voice and vote in support of that which is true, that which is good and that which is just. General Conference president for sixteen years, J .L. McElhany’s words in the August 13 Review of 1952, are a fitting reminder of our duty: “We believe every member ... is entitled to exer­cise his or her right of franchise. The stability and foundation of good government rests upon the peo­ple. If those who are stable and law abiding and have a high regard for the principles of good gov­ernment hold themselves aloof from the task of choosing good and fit men for governmental leader­ship, they thereby make themselves responsible for failures in government.”  Do your duty!
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