I recently had a discussion on Twitter (if a series of tweets can be called a discussion) with a supporter of Donald Trump. He was attempting to talk me out of my decision to not vote for Donald Trump. I said I can not vote against my conscience, to go against my conscience would be a sin. I also believe in keeping my word; I said months ago that I would not vote for Donald Trump, and there’s nothing that has happened that was beyond my imagination since that would compel me to change my mind.
So I’m voting what my conscience dictates.
I was then accused of saying that voting for Donald Trump is a sin. I didn’t say any such thing.
I want to explain what I mean, and why it is important for people to have the freedom to vote their conscience.
The Bible tells me that I was “dead in the trespasses and sins in which (I) once walked,” (Ephesians 2:1, ESV). I was utterly and totally spiritually dead and totally deprave, but I was made alive in Christ and was saved, and this was not my doing, but God’s, (Ephesians 2:4).
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 points out that Christians like me come out of all sorts of sinful backgrounds, then we are told, “but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV).
Also note that when I was saved by grace through faith, when I was washed, sanctified and justified by the Spirit of Christ, my conscience was also cleansed. The blood of Christ purifies our conscience from dead works to serve the living God, (Hebrews 9:14).
This is a free gift that God gives, but it doesn’t come cheap. It cost Him His Son.
Before this our conscience was stained, but now we can come before God with a clear conscience. The Apostle Paul on trial before Felix said he “always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man,” (Acts 16:24, ESV).
The word “conscience” in the original Greek used in the New Testament is “suneidesis.” This literally means “a knowing with”. The word is used 29 times in the New Testament. Essentially it is used two different ways: 1. “the consciousness of anything.” and 2. “the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.”
Apart from Christ our conscience is misguided, and if we live in sin it can also be marred and dulled.
So there are times we can’t trust our conscience because it needs to be calibrated to Christ and God’s truth, not our feelings. Generally speaking it is wise to follow it, and we should never violate in order to maintain a clear conscience, even if that conscience is weak.
To violate our conscience we are told in Scripture is a sin.
Romans 14:23 says, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Now the Apostle Paul writes this in the context of Jewish dietary laws and whether it was ok to eat certain types of food deemed “unclean,” but it applies in other areas of life. Martin Luther once said, “to act against the conscience is neither right nor safe.”
For the most part that is true, but conscience is not always right however so we must be discerning.
R.C. Sproul explains in his booklet How Should I Live In This World?:
Here we must tread carefully lest we slice our toes on the ethical razor’s edge.
If the conscience can be misinformed or distorted, why should we not act against it?
Should we follow our consciences into sin?
Here we have a dilemma of the double-jeopardy sort.
If we follow our consciences into sin, we are guilty of sin inasmuch as we are required to have our consciences rightly informed by the Word of God.
However, if we act against our consciences, we are also guilty of sin. The sin may not be located in what we do but rather in the fact that we commit an act we believe to be evil. Here the biblical principle of Romans 14:23 comes into play: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” For example, if a person is taught and comes to believe that wearing lipstick is a sin and then wears lipstick, that person is sinning. The sin resides not in the lipstick but in the intent to act against what one believes to be the command of God.
The dilemma of double jeopardy demands that we diligently strive to bring our consciences into harmony with the mind of Christ lest a carnal conscience lead us into disobedience. We require a redeemed conscience, a conscience of the spirit rather than the flesh.
The manipulation of conscience can be a destructive force within the Christian community.
Legalists are often masters of guilt manipulation, while antinomians master the art of quiet denial.
The conscience is a delicate instrument that must be respected. One who seeks to influence the consciences of others carries a heavy responsibility to maintain the integrity of the other person’s own personality as crafted by God. When we impose false guilt on others, we paralyze our neighbors, binding them in chains where God has left them free. When we urge false innocence, we contribute to their delinquency, exposing them to the judgment of God.
This is why staying rooted in the word of God is key. It is also important to realize that our conscience is just that: our conscience. We do have liberty in Christ.
This is why I did not say, and I will never say, voting for Donald Trump is a sin.
Voting for Donald Trump would be a sin, for me, because I would be violating my conscience. The same is true for Hillary Clinton. It’s also important that fellow believers do not violate the conscience of another brother or sister.
1 Corinthians 8:12 reads, “Thus sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak you sin against Christ.” In this case the context here is Paul advising the Corinthian Church on eating meat that was sacrificed from idols. There were those who said they had liberty to do so, and then some who said they didn’t. They actually did have liberty, but Paul said out of deference to those whose conscience is weak they should not eat meat (unfortunately this verse has been abused to excuse legalism).
I am not going to get into a discussion about whose conscience is weak – those who believe they have to vote for Donald Trump to prevent Hillary Clinton or those who believe they have to vote against both. That would be divisive and misses the point.
The point is every believer should be encouraged to pray, get into the word of God and vote their conscience, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides should not browbeat those who believe differently in order to change their mind.