People decide not to vote in elections in Nigeria for different reasons. Some do not believe that their votes count in elections in a country where electoral malpractices are normal. Some fail to vote because of the stress involved. The various forms of electoral violence which are a part of elections in Nigeria also discourage many from participating in elections in Nigeria. Some cannot vote because they didn’t register to vote while some refuse to vote for religious reasons. These reasons and many more account for why less than 40% of registered voters actually vote in any election around the country. Except in the 2011 presidential elections in Nigeria where some states in the South-South and the Eastern region set a new record of over 85% turn out; a record which was not replicated in the other regions of the country.
I did not vote in the 2011 presidential elections not because I wasn’t interested; in fact, I was. Or because I didn’t have a favourite candidate. I did. But I did not vote in the 2011 general elections because voting was done on Saturdays. Not because I’d miss a party or lose money but because it is a day that God has commanded us to rest on.
In every culture in the world today, there are only seven days in one week. This casts one’s mind back to the biblical account of creation, in which the God who made the world and all that is in it, made the days as He created the world, and after which they were completed, He made the seventh one in which he rested; “and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” (Gen. 2:3).
God would cast humanity’s mind back to His original plan of rest and communion with mankind on the seventh day when at the heart of His unchangeable law, He tells us to remember it. He says
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exo. 20:8-11)
I belong to the group of few Christians who still believe that this Sabbath commandment, right at the heart of the ten is still binding on Christians today, and so the sacred hours of the Sabbath should not be spent on something as trivial as voting. It is not an emergency and it can be done on any other day. If Christians still believe that worshipping of idols or murder is a sin, then consistency in beliefs demands that negligence of the Sabbath commandment is as well a sin; because the same constitution which calls murder a sin also says profaning God’s Sabbath day is a sin.
But that is not to say my refusal to vote is also the stance of all those who believe the Sabbath commandment is binding on us today; as many in that category will still vote on that day and justify it with whatever reason they find. I have also thought of many reasons with which I could rationalise and change my stance towards voting in an election on a Sabbath day, but then I’d be pre-empted by asking myself questions such as whether Daniel or Shadrach or Meshach or Abednego would choose to vote in an election on the Sabbath day even if they are threatened with death in a lion’s den or at a burning fiery furnace.
I’ve had to, under strong conviction, refuse to attend job interviews and indeed turn down a job offer because it would have to interfere with my Sabbath observance and so why not voting? My mother as nurse worked on some Sabbaths for 35 years until she retired recently even though she believes the Sabbath commandment. She is guided by Christ example of healing and doing good on the Sabbath, that which the religious leaders of His day almost hurt Him for. He asked them: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill? But they kept silent. (Mark 3:4)”. Jesus Christ came to show us an example, instructing that the Sabbath is not just a day of “do nots” it’s as well a day of “dos”. While I would readily do my part in saving a life (physically or spiritually) and relieving a burden as a matter of urgency on the Sabbath day, I would not spend the Sabbath days on secular festivities, voting, job interviews or exams and other unimportant things which can be done on the six other days of the week. Not on the Sabbath day; a day which God blessed, sanctified, rested on and commanded us to rest on it as well.
Religious freedom is enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. This in effect could mean that my right is being trampled upon by the electoral body which oversees elections in Nigeria (INEC) by being disenfranchised. In countries like America and Europe, elections are held on a working day which gives my brothers and sisters in Christ the opportunity to participate in elections. Their voice is heard even though they are in the minority. Perhaps the fight could have been easier in Nigeria if some of us don’t believe that voting in an election on the Sabbath doesn’t really matter. And the 2011 general elections also proves that election can hold on a working day in Nigeria, because an election was held on the Tuesday after Easter.
Apart from being disenfranchised, Sabbath worship services during that period were also difficult to attend because movement were restricted as from 6am in some cases because of the kind of violence which attends elections in Nigeria. I was in the Federal capital city at that time where curfews were strict, but we agreed as a church to leave home as early as possible and be in church before the curfew began. We took the chance because we desired to follow Christ’s example who as a custom, went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day (cf. Luke 4:16); as well as Paul, who even after Christ’s ascension worshipped with many Jews and non-Jews continuously on the Sabbath day (cf. Acts 13:42-44). Of all the things which the Jews fought Paul about, they never accused him of making light of the Sabbath commandment.
And the history of Christianity in Ethiopia which traces its origin to the Ethiopian Eunuch baptized by Philip in Acts 8, bears the record that Christianity used to be synonymous with Sabbath keeping until the more recent past when Christianity was polarized and Sunday was introduced without any scriptural authority. It is evident that the Apostles kept the Sabbath because Jesus or His resurrection did not effect any change thereupon.
Can I not choose any other day to rest upon? What’s in a day? Nothing. Except that God blessed it, hallowed and rested on it and commanded us to do the same. Those who remember to keep God’s holy Sabbath day stands as a rebuke against Satan’s philosophy of evolution (whether theistic or non-theistic) which strikes out God’s power to create in seven literal consecutive days. God created the world in six days, not six years nor is it six hundred years. It is not six million years either. Six days and he rested on the seventh and commanded us to do so as a memorial of His creative power.
Even though there are many calendars in the world, with varying number of days which make up a month and varying number of months which make up a year, the world is unified on the seven-day weekly cycle. And the seventh-day of the week is still Saturday or As-sabit as the Arabians would call it, a pronunciation close to ‘sabbath’; or sabato as the Italians call it, a word whose etymology easily links it with the Bible Sabbath. Therefore, one needs not be confused about whether the seventh-day is exactly Saturday or whether it has been lost in transit. We still remember good Friday and the resurrection Sunday at Easter, Luke, a non-Jew, tells us which day is in-between in his account of Christ’s crucifixion. Beginning from Friday, He wrote:
“It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. (Luke 23:54-24:1 emphasis supplied)
These women had been taught directly by Christ. He had taught them of the resurrection of the dead at the last day (cf. John 11:24), but He hadn’t taught them that the Sabbath would not matter much after His death, because that isn’t a truth. The saints through all eternity will keep God’s commandments, the Sabbath commandment included, through faith in Christ. (cf. Rev. 14:12). This is why, speaking of the time of trouble to precede His second coming, Jesus told his disciples, “But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.” (Matt. 24:20). Jesus is not chargeable with the offence of abolishing the Sabbath because He himself speaks of it as something that would be important even until His coming. That accounts for why I did not vote in the 2011 general elections and why I will not vote in any election held on a Sabbath day.
Going by the account of their lives, Daniel wouldn’t do it. Joseph wouldn’t do it. Jesus wouldn’t do it and neither should I. The Sabbath was made for all who would become God’s children and worship Him in Spirit and in truth through Christ, “the Sabbath is a sign of Christ’s power to make us holy. And it is given to all whom Christ makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying power, the Sabbath is given to all who through Christ become a part of the Israel of God.”[i]
And the Lord says, “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; . . . then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” Isaiah 58:13, 14. To all who receive the Sabbath as a sign of Christ’s creative and redeeming power, it will be a delight. Seeing Christ in it, they delight themselves in Him. The Sabbath points them to the works of creation as an evidence of His mighty power in redemption. While it calls to mind the lost peace of Eden, it tells of peace restored through the Saviour. And every object in nature repeats His invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.[ii]
God has given us six to use for ourselves while He sets one apart for our own good that we might come to commune with Him and drink from the fountain of life for renewed strength for the new week. The Sabbath is a blessing to mankind and an honour to God.