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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
Revised October 16, 2016
Biblical Principles for Political Decisions
I have spoken on this topic several times before, and each time I do, I find there is more that I would like to cover. However, though there is much I could say regarding historical background and principles of American government, those comments will be kept brief for my primary focus is not on politics but on thinking through Biblical principles that apply to all political decisions. My desire is to help you live out your Christian faith in this area of life at all times and not just concerning the coming elections. For those who would like to further discussion on historical background, principles of American government and on particular candidates, come back tonight at 6:00 P.M.
I will begin by stating that there is not any “separation of church and state” clause anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or its amendments, therefore religious values belong in politics as much or more so than other value systems. Many states at one time required those running for office to be members of a church. It is up to us to make sure that religious values are part of the political discussion despite the opposition of secular media.
Second, a church is tax exempt by virtue of being a church and actually does not need to have 501(c)(3) status. No church has yet lost its tax status for political involvement, so do not fear that my sermon today is somehow illegal or will jeopardize our tax exempt status.
Third, politics is simply the art and science of public affairs and the government of a state, and a politician is simply a person who is involved in politics. It is tragic that so many politicians have sought personal gain instead of societal good that these words have developed such negative connotations. As easy as it is to deride and make fun of politicians, we should be careful not to group all politicians as being the same. There are still many who do have high integrity and strive to be public servants.
The Christian & Government
Christians are often surprised to find out that the Bible has great toleration for many types of governmental systems including patriarchal (Abraham), tribal (early Israel), theocratic (Joshua through the judges), kingdoms (Saul, Caesar, etc.), a representative body (the Sanhedrin) and an absolute dictatorship (the Millennial kingdom). Much debate occurs about which type of government is best, but more depends on who is leading it than the type of system itself. That is why we look forward to the absolute dictatorship of Jesus Christ in the Millennium, but would fear any other human dictator.
We must begin by understanding that God is the foundation of all government regardless of the particular type, for He establishes or removes those in positions of power. King Nebuchadnezzar found this out the hard way in Daniel 4. God judged him for his pride and after seven years of living in the fields like an animal, God gave Nebuchadnezzar back his reason who then blessed and praised the Most High saying, “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom [endures] from generation to generation. 35 “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And [among] the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35).
The ramifications of this include: 1) Those in positions of power need to be humble because God put them there and He can take them out in a variety of ways. 2) Those in positions of authority need to be more concerned about pleasing God than pleasing people since ultimately they will give an account to God. 3) Christians can be at peace regardless of who is in charge of government because we know that God is ultimately in control and will accomplish His will though them whether it is for a blessing or a curse on the nation.
Paul states in Romans 13:1-2, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Since the origin of governmental authority is from God, Christians should submit to the government as long as doing so does not require them to disobey God including the principles and precepts of His word. Christians should be the models of good citizenship of any nation in which the government is fulfilling its God given purposes, but since our first allegiance is always to God, an evil government will persecute Christians because of their righteousness (See Daniel 3).
Paul continues on in Romans 13:3-4 to explain the twofold purpose God has established for human government. “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.
The first purpose of government is to promote what is good. Roman rule could be oppressive and cruel, yet for the most part, Roman rule brought stability and security for those that did what was good. Governments that cause those who do good to fear are in direct violation of its God given purpose and are in danger of God’s judgment against them. The prophet Isaiah warned ancient Judah about this saying, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). If God will judge His chosen people for this failure, then all other nations should heed the serious warning of their example.
The second purpose of government stated here is to be an avenger who brings wrath upon those who do evil which is why government bears the sword. The “sword” represents the authority of the ruler to punish evil doers even to the extreme of the death penalty.
Notice that verse 4 specifically says that the ruler is “a minister of God to you for good.” We don’t often think of government officials in that light, but it is true nevertheless. All government officials are ministers of God in this respect, regardless of their own personal beliefs. Why is that an important point? Because every government official will have to give an account of their stewardship of office to God. What King Jehoshaphat said to the judges he appointed still applies today. “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. “Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe” (2 Chronicles 19:6-7).
If a government will not fulfill its God given duties, then He may chastize it or replace it with another one as He has done many times throughout history. Chastening may come through natural disasters or oppression by other nations such as happened to Egypt (Exodus 7-11) or to Israel during the period of the Judges and Kings. He can replace a government by striking down the ruler supernaturally or with a disease (such as Herod in Acts 12:21-24). He may have it overthrown by an internal rebellion (1 Kings 12, 22, etc.) or by having another nation conquer it (2 Kings 17, 25).
Responsibility to Government
Paul goes on to explain our responsibility to Government in Romans 13:5-7. “5 Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake.” 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for [rulers] are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax [is due;] custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
In brief, we willingly subject ourselves to government out of both the desire to avoid the negative consequences of breaking the law, and more important for Christians, a quest to have a blameless conscience before God and man. That is the example Paul set for us in Acts 24:16, and Peter said this would silence and put to shame those that would slander us (1 Peter 2:13-17).
We also pay our taxes following Jesus’ example and teaching. We “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:17-21). While in a democracy we can and should work toward making sure taxes are fair and used properly, we still pay them and do not cheat even when the tax laws are corrupt and the money used wrongly out of fear and conscience sake. It is the government that spends the taxes that is held accountable by God and not the person from whom the taxes were extracted.
We are also to render “fear” and “honor” to the authorities by showing them respect with proper decorum, protocol and courtesies including respectful speech and gestures in all situations.
Christians and Politics in a Democracy
While God sovereignly sets in office the individual of His choice, either as a blessing or a curse, in a democratic republic this occurs through its citizens who have a direct responsibility in selecting their representatives and petitioning them on the issues. If the government officials are good, the people will reap the blessings that come with wise choices. If the government officials are corrupt and evil, the people will bear the consequences that come upon them because of those they elected to office. The Christian citizen must apply Biblical principles when choosing a candidate and addressing the issues of the day.
Responsibilities: The Christian citizen must be serious about voting and then vote for the candidate that would best fulfill the purposes of government in promoting good and repressing evil as God defines them. You have the responsibility to strive to see God’s standards upheld and so must work hard to elect godly candidates to office – perhaps even yourself. A godly government is a blessing on all people. Even Proverbs 29:2 tells us, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.” At the same time, we must also be very careful not to fall into the trap of substituting the quest for a godly human government as a quest for the kingdom of God. There are theologies that teach that man will bring about God’s kingdom on earth through establishment of proper human government. That is simply not true. Even a cursory examination of the book of Revelation or consideration of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 tell us things will get a lot worse before the Lord returns to establish His kingdom.
The Christian citizen must also stand in opposition to governmental representatives, officials and policies when they are contrary to the clear teachings of God’s word. It is wrong to take God’s sovereignty in some divine mystical sense by which it is thought that God approves of whoever got elected and therefore we are to submit without opposition. Not only does that mindset have the danger of resulting in fatalism, but it is contrary to the Biblical examples. The prophets did not follow that example even when the King was specifically chosen by God. Nathan directly confronted David about his sin in 2 Samuel 7. Samuel confronted King Saul because he did not carry out the commands of God and so was rejected from being king (1 Samuel 15). John the Baptist called King Herod to account publically because Herod violated God’s moral law by taking his brother’s wife (Mark 6). Jeremiah rebuked the king because he was violating the purpose of government in being unjust and oppressing the stranger, the orphan, and widows instead of protecting them (Jeremiah 22). The fact that neither Jesus nor any of the apostles advocated the overthrow of the Roman government does not abrogate the responsibility to oppose ungodliness in government. Jesus pronounced plenty of woes upon the Scribes and Pharisees, many of whom were in the Sanhedrin, a governing body. In John 19:11 Jesus pointed out the guilt of those who had delivered Him to Pilate, but He still held Pilate responsible for his judgment. In the future, Jesus will overthrow all human governments to set up His millennial kingdom (Revelation 19). When God’s moral laws are transgressed and His purposes for government are not fulfilled, it is not only right, but necessary to be in opposition and especially so in a democracy.
Priorities: Political organizations and media work hard to control which issues get public attention and the perception of the candidates. They use sound bites and video clips in the effort to get low information voters to feel positive about their candidate and negative about the other candidates. That is why polls swing so widely in short periods. You must be careful not to allow the propaganda to sway you from the priorities God has already set as you consider issues and candidates. For example, I can complain about taxes as much as anyone and can make good arguments about the economic benefits low tax rates have for everyone. However, my study of scripture has made it clear that God places a much higher priority on a just judicial system (Deuteronomy 16:19-20) than on tax rates for business and individuals. God will provide for those that seek first His kingdom and righteousness regardless of tax rates (Matthew 6:33), but His judgment abides on those who pervert justice (Isaiah 10). Moral issues are much more critical than economic systems and policies.
Since political candidates will be a mixture of various moral standards, it will be rare to find a candidate that rates well on every issue. You are looking for the best candidate, not the perfect candidate. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you must choose between the lesser of two evils. While the two major parties dominate most elections, there are other candidates and political parties that can and perhaps should be considered. If you cannot in good conscience vote for any of the candidates, you can write in a name as a protest vote which is a legitimate and important action to take. Do not fall into the lie that I have heard a lot lately that if you do not vote for one of the major party candidates, then you are by default supporting the other major party candidate. Not only is that nonsense at face value, it is contrary to our political system, and more importantly, our trust in God’s sovereignty. At the end of the day, you need to be able to vote and then go to sleep with a clean conscience. Paul states at the end of Romans 14:23 that “whatever is not from faith is sin.” If you cannot in good faith vote for the candidate, then don’t, and please avoid trying to get other people to violate their conscience to vote for your favored candidate.
Evaluating the Candidates and the Issues
Let me quickly go over some of the major issues and give you some questions to consider as you evaluate the issues and any candidate for any office. I have listed these in my order of priority. Yours may differ slightly, but I think that any Bible believing student of God’s word will come up with a similar list. Other issues may also be important, but they would be of lower priority.
1) Life: The first moral priority is human life. God is the creator of life and all human life is made in His image, so all human life has inherent worth (Genesis 1:26-27), which is why God prohibited murder of human life and required capital punishment for those that do (Genesis 9:6). Other punishments were given for those that accidentally killed a human (Numbers 35). The innocent blood of those murdered cried out for justice and that was one reason for the destruction of Judah (2 Kings 24:2). The Bible is also clear that human life begins in the womb. God formed you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). God said He knew and consecrated Jeremiah while he was in his mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5-6). John the Baptist recognized the presence of Jesus and leaped for joy while both were still in their mothers’ wombs (Luke 1:41-44). To kill a baby in the womb is to destroy the work of God and attack His image. Abortion is murder of a human being just as is infanticide and euthanasia. Yet, there are candidates that advocate all those things as acceptable. After the overthrow of our abortion laws by Roe vs Wade in 1973 it was not until the Born Alive Infant Protection act in 2002 that infants born after a failed abortion were given legal protection from being murdered outside of the womb. Oregon and Washington have legalized euthanasia and other states (NC, UT, WY) have decriminalized assisted suicide.
Questions to consider concerning life: What value does the candidate put on human life? What protections does the candidate advocate to protect human life? Is the candidate pro-life, indifferent or pro-abortion? Those who call themselves “pro-choice” are either indifferent or pro-abortion and are usually liars since they rarely support informed consent and waiting period laws. Those that will not protect the life of the most innocent and helpless among us, a baby in the womb, cannot be trusted to protect anything else except their own interests. What is the candidate’s position on euthanasia? Do they uphold capital punishment for those convicted of murder? In the matter of life, the Democratic party platform is unquestionably pro-abortion and actively seeking to repeal what few restrictions have been put in place. Any Democratic candidate would have to be an exception to the party platform before a Christian could in good conscience vote for him or her.
2) Protection: Protection encompasses both internal and external threats. A police force and local militia protect against local threats while armed forces protect against threats from other nations. While armed forces can be used by evil men for evil purposes, that very fact proves the necessity of having armed forces to protect against those who would do us evil. The founding fathers of the United States understood this and that is why the U.S. Constitution enumerated the need of an army, navy and militia to suppress insurrections and repel invasions (Article 1, Section 8) and the role of the President as the Commander in Chief (Article 2, Section 2).
Questions to consider about protection: Does the candidate understand the protective role of government both locally and nationally and advocate law and order? Police should be supported in their protective role while being restricted from becoming oppressors themselves. Does the candidate understand the necessity and proper use of armed forces as well as diplomacy in averting war (Proverbs 20:18; Luke 14:31)? While it is important to try to avoid war, when it must come, there must be the ability to wage it effectively with clear purpose and objectives.
3) Justice: Government has the responsibility to establish and execute justice, and to the degree a government deviates from God’s standards of justice is the degree to which it is failing. Tragically, the United States is failing in many ways to carry out justice due to political corruption by which laws are ignored or changed to benefit the politically favored classes. We also have judges that rule based on what they would like it to be rather than what the law actually states. This is true all the way up to and including SCOTUS which has issued many opinions that are contrary to our U.S. Constitution.
Let me quickly point out that so called “social justice” is not Biblical justice whenever it is an effort to bring about an equality of outcome. God has not gifted all people equally so equality of outcome is impossible without forcibly taking from some to give to others. The word for that is stealing. True social justice is an equality of opportunity or fairness in the application of the law and not equality of outcome.
Justice must also be carried out with the right attitude. Micah 6:8 succinctly states, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness (or mercy), And to walk humbly with your God? This statement encompasses what you do, what you desire and what you are. It is humility in walking with God that brings about the proper kindness and mercy that temper justice. We are to be merciful because we have received mercy from God (Matthew 5:7; 18:21-35). However, mercy without justice is injustice and an abandonment of the protective role of government.
Questions to consider concerning justice: Does the candidate uphold the rule of law? Does he advocate interpretation of law according to what is written and original intent? Is his advocation or opposition to a law based on Biblical standards or something else? Is the candidate fair in his dealings with both supporters and opponents? Is the candidate subject to political corruption by influences either in or outside of government?
4) Morality: Isaiah 5:20 pronounces a woe upon those “who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.” Tragically, there are now many in our society that do just that. God clearly describes what is good and what is evil in the Bible, but He also pronounces some things as abhorrent and abominations. There are some things that are especially evil which should receive a priority in a government’s protective efforts and application of justice. Some of these things reveal an evil character even when the outward presentation looks good. The Old Testament word for abomination (toebah) is usually used in reference to idolatry and improper worship of God, however, there are also societal actions that are also described as abominations.
Leviticus 18 lists immoral sexual practices including homosexuality, incest, fornication, adultery and bestiality alongside child sacrifice as abominations which defiled the land. The penalty for most of them was death. Abortions are this nation’s child sacrifices to feminism. Many political leaders now advocate sexual immorality and perversions and are demanding homosexual and transgender “rights.” The family should be the first social unit of protection, but incest turns it into the first opportunity to prey on the weaker. Adultery destroys the trust that is foundational for marriage and thus destroys families, and both it and fornication spread a host of diseases that can hinder or destroy health and leave women infertile. Bestiality and homosexual practices introduce and spread even more diseases some of which kill. The Sexuality and Gender report by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer and Dr. Paul R. McHough, professors of Psychiatry at John Hopkins University, shows that catering to the desires of gender confused individuals and pushing them into the transgender agenda harms them psychologically and physically. Simple compassion should compel us to strive to stop these practices for the protection of society and the individuals doing them, yet many candidates pride themselves in advocating not just tolerance, but acceptance and celebration of these abominations.
Questions to consider concerning sexual morality. Does the candidate seek to protect marriage or make it easier to get a divorce (which usually exploits the woman with children)? Do they uphold the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman or advocate its redefinition according to the homosexual agenda? Do they advocate laws against sexual perversion, or do they advocate the LGBT-XYZ agenda forcing society to accept as a specially protected class the sexually perverse?
Personal Integrity. Proverbs 6:16-19 is helpful in understanding God’s assessment of people and therefore in evaluating a political candidate’s personal integrity. “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness [who] utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Haughty eyes refer to that condescending look the proud can give because they think themselves to be superior to the rest of us mere knaves. This is a common attitude among the political elite. Beware of proud and arrogant candidates that think they know what is best for you and want government control over your life. Is the candidate proud or humble?
A lying tongue reveals a dishonest and selfish character striving to do what is best for themselves. It seems many politicians strive to make lying an art form, but a person that is characterized by lying cannot be trusted on anything. The Bible gives strong warning against it including that those who practice it will be cast into the lake of fire instead of going to heaven (Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 12:22; Colossians 3:9; Revelation 21:8). All candidates will fail at some point, but more is revealed about their integrity by whether they are honest about it or not than in the particular failure itself. Is the candidate characterized by honesty or lying?
Accomplices are as guilty as the individual that actually sheds innocent blood. This includes those who allowed it to happen because they either advocated the laws permitting it or were complacent in their duties to prevent it. What is the candidate’s position on abortion, infanticide and euthanasia as well as their positions on law enforcement, military and justice?
A heart that devises wicked plans will be revealed by what the candidate advocates. Does the candidate’s vision for the future and goals for the present line up better with what God would want or Satan? Do they promote what is moral and godly and strive to restrict what is evil, or do they call good evil and evil good?
Feet that run rapidly to evil describe the feeding frenzy of sharks that strive to get whatever they can when someone has fallen victim to another. They may join in the evil themselves or just watch it with glee. They see another person’s downfall as an opportunity for gain for themselves. They broadcast the shame of another instead of trying to correct and heal it. What is the candidate’s response to the evil that befalls others? Intervene? Watch? Join in?
A false witness is worse than the general liar because his lies make someone else his victim. It is bad enough to lie about yourself to get others to think you are something you are not or can do something you can’t, but it is a lot worse to try to destroy another person with lies. That includes spreading gossip or having others do that in his stead. This has become common political practice. Does the candidate lie about others? Verify content of political attack ads.
The final abomination in this list is spreading strife among brothers. Relationships that should be close and harmonious, or at least cooperative, are strained or even destroyed by the actions of an antagonist. They can generate the strife themselves or just take advantage of a rift or strain already present and make it wider through lies, gossip, rumor and innuendo. This is often a root cause of dysfunctional governments. Is the candidate known for antagonism or graciousness?
When these various abominations are combined, we have the politics of personal destruction. An evil, but effective tactic, used by wicked people to gain political power.
Let me quickly add that having solid convictions and firm positions does not require you to be obstinate. The truth should be spoken in love. Even strong rebukes can be given with a sense of caring. A position can be stated firmly without joining in the rants and rage of the opposition. Is the candidate able to hold firmly to his convictions and still be gracious and have a spirit of cooperation?
There are many other Biblical issues, such as stealing and graft, that could also be addressed and should be applied to politics. This sermon is meant to prod you to start thinking according to Biblical values and priorities instead of political ones when voting, running for public office or serving in one. Policy positions are important, but so is moral character and personal integrity otherwise there can be no trust in the promises made. You will not find a candidate that agrees with you 100% on every issue, but you are to evaluate carefully and make the best vote you can.
As a Christian, your first priority is always to please our Lord and trust Him to bring good out of any situation even when they are not to your liking and are antagonistic to His stated moral will (Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4). While you want your candidate to win and may work hard to achieve that, your primary goal is to please the Lord, not to be on the winning side. If running for office, your primary goal is to please the Lord, not to win the election. If in public office, your primary goal is to please to the Lord, not to win re-election or please the people. The goal of every Christian should be to one day stand before our Lord and hear Him say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
Sermon Notes – 10/16/2016
Biblical Principles for Political Decisions – Selected Scriptures
The “separation of church and state” clause is ____anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or its amendments
Churches are tax _________ by virtue of being a church – not a 503 (c)(3) organization
Politics and Politicians were not always words with ____________ connotations.
The Christian & Government
The Bible has great tolerance for ________________ of governments.
Those running for office need to be more concerned about pleasing the __________ than people
Believers have __________ regardless of who is in office and how good or bad they may be
Romans 13:1-2. Christians ________to government as long as it does not require disobedience to God
Government’s Purpose – Romans 13:3-4.
Government should promote what is _____________
Governments that cause those who do good to fear risk being ______________ (Isaiah 5:20)
Government must cause fear to those who do _________ because they carry the sword as an avenger
Government officials are “a ____________ of God to you for good” (Romans 13:4)
They will give an _____________ of their stewardship of office to God (2 Chronicles 19:6,7)
God has chastised or replaced governments that do not fulfill their ___________ given duties
Responsibility to Government – Romans 13:5-8
We are to be in subjection to government out of both fear and ___________
We are to pay our __________ whether we like them or not
We are to render proper ___________ to the authorities
Christians and Politics in a Democracy
We have a responsibility in ____________ our representatives and petitioning them on the issues
Responsibilities: We must be ____________ about voting for who would best fulfill God’s purposes
We have a responsibility to see God’s ______________ upheld and seek a godly government
We must not substitute the quest for a godly ___________ government as a quest for the kingdom of God
We are to oppose people and policies that are ___________ to the clear teachings of God’s word
Priorities: Do not allow the _______________sway you from God’s priorities
God’s priorities are often different from personal ones: Example – ____________over economics
Look for the best candidate your _____________ allows you to vote for in a multiparty system
Evaluating the Candidates and the Issues
Abortion, infanticide and euthanasia are all ___________.
True social justice is not equal outcome it is equality of opportunity or _______in the application of law
Micah 6:8 – Justice is to be tempered by mercy. Mercy without justice is injustice.
Some things are especially evil and God pronounces them as abhorrent and ______________
Leviticus ______ – immoral sexual practices and perversions and child sacrifice
Sexual perversions ____________ families and spread diseases, some of which are deadly
Haughty eyes – The condescending look of the _______& arrogant. Is the candidate proud or humble?
A lying tongue – Liars cannot be __________. Is the candidate characterized by honesty or lying?
Shed innocent blood – _______________ advocate laws allowing it or are complacent in preventing it.
What is the candidate’s position on abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, law enforcement, justice?
A heart that devises wicked plans – Do the candidate’s policies _________God’s or Satan’s standards?
Feet that run rapidly to evil – What is their ___________ to evil? Intervene? Watch ? or Join in?
A false witness – done to ___________ the other person. Does the candidate lie / slander others?
Spread strife among brothers – either generate it or perpetuate it by lies, __________ and innuendo
Is the candidate known for antagonism or graciousness and cooperation?
Conclusions – Strive to approach politics according to _______values and priorities instead of political ones Our first priority is always to be pleasing to our ________& trust Him whether voting, running or serving
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “candidate” is said. 2) Discuss with your parents how to apply Biblical principles when voting.
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