Christian Civility and Hopefulness on Election Day

8 November 2016

Election Day is underway in our country. This is a time of great anticipation. It’s a liberty  for which men have toiled and given their lives for.  We should be thankful for that. And yet, this is a time of year where the fracture lines in our country are seen most clearly. A casual scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed will put on display self-righteous judgments, vitriol, and cynicism. Sadly, many Christians get sucked into the relentless cycle and even perpetuate it. This is not the way of Jesus and His kingdom. Jesus’ way of being and doing is a totally different program from the way of polarized American politics (John 18:36), and that is a good thing! During this Election Day, several truths can keep us sane, thankful, kind, and hopeful in the midst of a country that is bitterly divided.

  1. As Christians, our identity is not found in being American. Neither is it found in being a Democrat, or Republican, or Libertarian, or whichever party you want to hang your hat. We are not Americans who happen to be Christians. We are Christians who happen to live in America. This brings with it certain civic responsibilities – voting being one of them; but it also locates our hope in King Jesus, not any party or president. In a time in which people will divide and categorize people based upon their particular candidate, Christians are able to celebrate their unity in their diversity. One of the great realities that Jesus accomplished upon the cross was that He broke down the dividing wall of hostility that separated Jew and Gentiles (Eph.2:14-16). These were two groups who hated each other in every way. Moreover, in Jesus’ kingdom, systems of racism, classism, sexism, and nationalism are to be disbanded with as we celebrate the unity we have in Christ (Gal. 3:27-29). This means that, as Christians, the things that so often divide people have no place in the church. And the only way that kind of unity is possible is if we locate our identity elsewhere. The identity of the Christian is found in Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. This frees us to love one another as blood-bought children of God. 
  2. God is sovereign over ALL things. Countless Scripture verses and stories could be shared that show God’s total sovereignty over all things. The prophet Daniel extolled the sovereign wisdom of God when he declared, “He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings.” Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Or, we could modernize this a bit – “The vote is cast onto the ballot, but its every decision is from the Lord.” At the end of this day, millions of Americans will grumble and complain that their candidate didn’t get in. They will moan and lament that our worst days are ahead. But the truth is that whoever is our next president didn’t get elected without God’s sovereign authority and ordination. God is moving all of history in line with His all-wise, glorious purposes. For those of us who bow the knee to King Jesus, we can know that those purposes are good. It doesn’t mean that things in America won’t be difficult. It doesn’t mean that things won’t crash and burn. But it does mean that no matter what may come, God is in total control and will work all things together for the good of His people and His glory. That is the side of history we should seek to be on.
  3. America is not God’s Redemption Strategy – the Church is. Though America is a special place and has been used by God to accomplish great things in the world, America is not God’s strategy to bless the world. If God were interested in turning different people groups into nice, moral, democracy-loving people, then maybe America would be the strategy. But that is not God’s global purpose. God’s global purpose is this: that through the substitutionary death of Jesus, His blood would redeem people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. And that He would make these people a kingdom of priests to God (Rev.5:9-10). Jesus’ kingdom is not white, or American. It is a multi-ethnic kingdom radiating the beauty of their King to the world! This is God’s redemption strategy – “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph.3:10). When local churches realize that they are outposts of Jesus’ kingdom, little embassies on earth, they will be guarded from the temptation to think that God’s gospel purposes hinge upon the government. The church has a unique mission that is not dependent upon the status of the political climate. When we understand this, we’ll be positioned to do what we do best – “Go and make disciples!” 
  4. Whatever the outcome, we work and pray for the peace of the city. Regardless of the circumstances, this is our responsibility. In the Old Testament story, God’s people have been carried into exile and living in conditions that are far from ideal. God tells them this: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer.29:7). Whether things are good or bad, Christians are exiles awaiting the return of King Jesus and the fulness of His kingdom of which we are already citizens. This reality enables us to be civil, kind, caring people as we await that final day. No matter who gets elected, Christians are called to pray for the president (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We are called to honor the president (1 Pet. 2:17). And to submit to earthly authorities – insofar as they don’t call us to disobey our true King (Rom.13). If early Christians, who lived under cruel emperors like Nero, were called to pray and honor their leaders. How much more are we!? When we do these things, we work for the common good and bring fortitude to our communities as we lead a “peaceful and quiet life, dignified and godly in every way” (1 Tim.2:2).

As the electoral results come in, and the finger-pointing commences, may we respond in kindness, hopefulness, and trust in God’s purposes. As we do, we will carry the aura of a different kingdom, one that is not marked by power politics, but by sacrificial love and joyful resurrection!

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