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Election Aftermath

Election Aftermath

In recent weeks and months, pastors, bloggers, and analysts of all sorts have spilled plenty of ink in discussing how to be a Christian on November 8. To read the articles, one would think that day will be the most significant in the history of American Christianity and that decision in the voting booth the most consequential American Christians will ever make. Yet in spite of (or perhaps to some extent because of) all this flurry of passion and analysis, many Christians remain confused, uncertain of how they will vote, unclear on how they should feel about the current climate in their country.

While not seeking to denigrate the importance of thoughtful involvement on Election Day, this article will not even attempt to clear up that particular confusion—and it’s quite unlikely that the Bible will announce a late-breaking endorsement of any candidate! Instead, this article will ask a perhaps more significant question and one to which the Bible gives all followers of Christ some clear answers and direction: What does it look like to live as a Christian on November 9 (and all the days to follow)?

The Church of Jesus Christ is predicted by many experts to have a significant impact on November 8, but it is promised by God himself to have a significant impact on the rest of history. The Church must consider now what a faithful witness will look like then or risk falling into the trap of short-sighted pride or despair. The Bible calls God’s people to many things, of course, but here are three particularly needful beginning on November 9, 2016.

Trust the True King

When we wake up on November 9, the White House will have a new prospective occupant; the Throne of Heaven will have the same one as always. Now doubtless that statement can be a trite truism thrown around without much meaning, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that the authority of the most powerful leader in the world pales in comparison to and ultimately comes from the sovereign King of Kings.

This is why God consistently warns his people to “put not their trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3). Blessing, rather, is found in placing one’s hope in the God of Jacob, who reigns forever, the psalmist says. Functionally living this way provides the people of God comfort and hope because one who shares their values is always in control. The next president may appoint cabinet members and Supreme Court justices, but the ultimate “balance of power” will remain intact: YHWH reigns, and therefore we have unfading hope!

Election cycles are good at revealing one particular idol in my heart: power—or control. I remember as a boy rooting for the San Antonio Spurs to win the NBA Championship because their star player, David Robinson, was an outspoken Christian, so clearly (I assumed) his team’s gaining success and influence would best advance God’s kingdom. Sound silly? Isn’t that how we’re often prone to think the world will be impacted for Christ—by getting power and exerting our ever-expanding influence?

Yet time after time the Bible makes clear that God’s strength typically works not from the top down, through human might, but rather from the bottom up, through the poor and weak. In fact, as we see in the book of Daniel and elsewhere, God uses apparent defeat to bring ultimate blessing to his people and honor to his name. Nebuchadnezzar appears to have the upper hand, to have greater power than YHWH, to be exerting greater influence in the world. He’s got the votes, the positions of power, and the military might. And yet God is controlling the king’s every move, and no one has unseated the Ancient of Days from his throne. And that’s the glorious and eternal hope the prophet offers to God’s seemingly displaced and disenfranchised people.

How did Jesus himself impact his society? By amassing votes? By associating with the influential? By accruing political capital? Quite the opposite. The “friend of tax collectors and sinners” attracted the poor, alienated the religious elite, and ended up being sentenced to death by those in power. The pattern of kingdom impact that Jesus sets is one that features humility and human weakness—highlighted by his apparent defeat in his death on the cross—and it is the one from which his Church has seen the greatest fruit for centuries.

It’s vital, then, that while we pursue justice and pray for excellent leaders, we also remind our hearts to trust the true King whether our preferred candidate is elected or not. A Church that despairs due to the results of an election or a Church that declares ultimate victory due to the results of an election would be a Church that has ceased to depend on her Sovereign King and to follow his pattern for cultural impact. A Church, however, that remains confident and hopeful regardless of the outcome of an election testifies to the treasure of a heavenly citizenship, a mighty King of Kings, and an eternal inheritance that no one and nothing on earth can diminish.

Pray for the President

This may seem obvious, but emotions have run so high and attacks have been so demeaning that many will find it easier to desire failure than success for the next president. So let’s not forget that one of the implications of God being the True King is that no one has any authority unless God establishes it. We may argue about the reasons why God would give such a president to our country, but regardless He will be the one who does so.

God is very clear that we are to pray for those in all places of authority (I Timothy 2:1-3), and the basis seems to be connected to the admonition in Jeremiah 29 to seek the welfare of “Babylon” or whatever other land where we find ourselves in exile. The blessing of the leader means blessing and prosperity for all the people. And before we give up on anyone—no matter how big a failure—let’s remember that in particular the hearts of kings are mentioned as being in God’s hand and controlled by him in whatever direction he pleases (Proverbs 21:1).

So, let’s start praying now… for whoever it may be. As our Confession of Faith teaches us, God’s Word will call us to “pray for,” “honor,” and “be subject to” someone we may find quite difficult to respect. The best way to begin moving our hearts in that direction with anyone we struggle to love or respect is sincerely to pray for their good, to ask for God’s blessing on them, and to ask God to change our hearts that we might genuinely seek their welfare.

Love Those Who Differ

In a way I’ve not witnessed in a presidential election season before, people are calling those on the other side unreasonable, misguided, or disingenuous for voting differently from them—and then sitting in the same pews on Sundays. The number of people assuming “all good Christians” will vote the way they are (or are not) voting is remarkable. How do you feel about someone handling their November 8 decision different from you? How does Christ call you to treat fellow Christians who nonetheless think differently from you on this?

Brothers and sisters, this is a huge challenge for the Church today. The question is not where “evangelicals” throw our weight around on Election Day but how we show our love for each other afterwards. Are we preparing now to love and seek to understand those who do on November 8 what we consider unconscionable? We must! That is the mark of those who follow Christ—that we love each other in spite of our differences for Jesus’ sake!

And this need is true, of course, beyond the Church. Whether we consider things politically, ethnically, or socioeconomically, our nation as a whole seems to be highly polarized, and not many would argue that any decision on November 8 will change that reality very much. We say we long for a “unifier,” who will break down these barriers and “reach across the aisle” to bring us together, but we consistently pull back to our own corners, defend our own positions, and push our elected leaders to implement our own preferences.

Brothers and sisters, no man or woman has the power to break down barriers between people single-handedly, but we are the ones with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the hope of glory that promises to unite those radically divided by ethnicity, class, religious or political background (Ephesians 2, Galatians 3:28). God has called you and me to carry a message not of division but of reconciliation—with God first and as a result, then, with each other. We must speak truth with love, not venom. We must build bridges, not barricades. We must point to Christ the King, not any human leader.

I usually love watching election returns, doing the math, watching the trends. It’s interesting to watch and learn about the culture in which God has placed us. This year on the evening of November 8, I’m scheduled to be in a Session meeting, and I’m glad. I suspect it will be a room where people will have cast votes that day for multiple different candidates. I know it will be a room where we will be preparing for November 9 and the days that follow—praying for our next president to the True King and asking him to make us gracious messengers of reconciliation for the sake of Huntsville, America, and the world.