Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Robert Grossmann Free Elections, Free People

Free elections of rulers by the people they will rule over is one of those uniquely biblical ideas that make America great.

That's right, we were following a specifically Christian principle last week when we again carried out the radical idea that people should choose their own leaders by free and honest elections. Ancient Roman citizens also voted, but only for local leaders, who then might someday be appointed to the national Senate that decided who the emperor (dictator for life) would be.

The founders of the American colonies were Puritan and Presbyterian people from England and Scotland whose fathers and mothers had fought and often died for the right of the people to choose their own pastors, rather than to have pastors imposed upon them by the outside force of government or church.

In America they now applied this same principle to the choosing of their civil leaders. This principle has been so successful in providing freedom and prosperity that it has become the standard by which nations are judged. Even despotic dictators like Saddam Hussein and the Communist Chinese leaders hold fake elections to make their rule seem legitimate.

In using elections by the people to choose leaders, the founders of American liberty were consciously following the Bible and the example of earlier Christian practice. Christians in Switzerland had long followed this practice, and God already commanded through Moses over 3000 years ago that the people of Israel were to choose their own King; "when you decide to set a king over yourselves," he said in Deuteronomy 17.

This is carried out in the election of David, for although David had beed anointed by God when still a teenager, he did not become king until he was 30, when "all the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah" (2 Samuel 2:4). It was a full seven and one-half years later that the "electoral college," "the elders" of the other Ten Tribes come to anoint David king over them.

And, when David's grandson Rehoboam was rejected by the Ten Tribes to be their king, God commanded Rehoboam not to go to war against them. The people of Israel had the God-given right to choose or reject their own king!

In the New Testament, the same principle holds. In Acts 1 we fing that the 120 members of the congregation voted (they cast their lots, or votes) to choose an apostle to replace Judas Iscariot who had betrayed Christ. Again in Acts 6, the first deacons are chosen by "the multitude" from their own number.

And finally, in Acts 14:23 we learn that they "choose elders by raising the hand" in "every church" in what is today western Turkey.

Your English Bible will say "appointed" or "ordained," but the Greek word cheirotoneoo, clearly means "to stretch out one's hand, to give one's vote," according to Greek dictionaries.

Over against this Bible principle of people choosing their own leaders, one finds a world of contrary practice in other philosophies and religions. In Plato's Republic, the philosophers are the ruling class by default. In Communism and other despotic systems, ballots are handed out with only one name for each office (the fact that ballots are used at all is of course a false bow to the Western system and not of the essence of communism at all).

In most religions, leaders are chosen from the top down, often by family descent, and not by free elections in which the ordinary members vote on the candidates.

As Americans, we need to be careful not to despise the Christian roots of our nation, nor to run away from them. The result will not be more freedom, but the same old despotism that has plagued mankind for thousands of years.

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