A Response to the Election Results: How should we feel and what do we do now?
This has been a whirlwind of an election season, inciting passionate involvement in the likes we’ve never seen. More people have voted in this presidential race than ever before in American history. On 95, heading northbound into Wilmington, we have seen the billboards, stating “Vote like your life depends on it.”
It is that kind of mantra that has failed us, the American public. For whatever side of the political fence you may identify with, we find ourselves at the end of the election. Joe Biden is declared the winner, and even if the votes are contested, it seems unlikely that the decision will be reversed.
As your new pastor, as we are still getting to know one another, you will find that although I enjoy politics and reading about it (sign me up for a fireside chat with the Federalist Papers and I’m all in!), I do not like to strongly identify with a side. There is a vacuum in our nation, an identity vacuum – a worldview vacuum. What is good and evil, just and unjust? Who is our hero/heroine we depend on to support what is good and evil, and who is the enemy? How do we consider others, and how do we treat others? Who are we as people?
What is alarming is that our political dialogue tries to actually give answers to these questions, using the red or blue parties as a compass to find the answers. There has become an almost religious nature to American politics – using messiah language, “saving” language and the like for either candidate. Even worse, on multiple occasions in the past few weeks, I’ve heard of people I know who are cutting off or being cut off by other family members who voted differently than them, as if their identity with their political vote is more important than their family relationships. Only our allegiance to Jesus is to be the dividing point between “a man and his father, a daughter against his mother” and because of Jesus we might find “enemies in our household” (Matthew 10:34-39). If we allow politics to divide our most intimate relationships, do we need further evidence of how politics has become almost a religion in America for so many, demanding one of our greatest allegiances in life?
As we will observe the transition to power, some of you at Immanuel will be happy, and some will not be. I’ve already received various contact points from both sides of the fence from in our congregation and outside. Also, Pastors I highly respect, even the very conservative ones (yes, even in the Southern Baptist Convention), have endorsed either candidate and also are responding differently.
I know that for some this is very difficult to see or understand, but we must be compassionate and understanding towards one another, and learn to admit that quite possible it is true that genuine Christians could vote for Biden, as well as vote for Trump, and that there are good reasons for either.
However – to get to my primary point of this blog post - I can only say this: it is time for the Church to learn to participate in the political process with the restraining wisdom to not tie our ultimate hopes and fears into it, or our identity. If I am honest, the Bible does not give clear directives for us in how we are to vote and participate in a democracy, and what to expect (one could argue for indirect directions, such as found in Romans 13:1-7). This is due to the historical conditions in which the early Christians found themselves in. The early church could not have dreamed of a democratic voice in its choice of Emperors. Rome was to be feared. If you protested Rome, you were destroyed by the most powerful military in the world. There was not speaking out against injustice if you weren’t willing to wield a sword to kill Romans.
I’m no expert in the history of first century Rome, nor am I a biblical scholar, and I’m not here pretending to have all the answers. At least, we can say that due to the various views and approaches that other biblical scholars have taken, and to observe the different outcomes, shows that there is some unclarity here and the ability to be embrace historic Christianity with all of your heart, and find yourself in different sides of the political fence.
However, more importantly, all I want to do is submit a word of encouragement: our call in Christ is still the same, our mission still remains, and our ability to show the world what is true, just and beautiful is still ours. The call of the Good News of Jesus Christ and to be his ambassadors is still is in our stewardship. If you find yourself overly pleased in deep, deep joy or feeling hopeless or despairing concerning the election results, I would encourage you to look to our King Jesus, who with his crown of thorns and bloody royal robe of mockery was raised as the true King of kings and Lord of lords through his death, burial and resurrection. The Church has lasted longer than any one nation or Empire on earth, and in all conditions imaginable, the Church can flourish, and we still can, too.
Your next door neighbor still needs Jesus, and the city of Wilmington still needs to hear the good news of Jesus. May our eyes not leave the work that is left to do, and may our time be wisely spent in making disciples of Jesus, and less spent staring at media clips and the oval office, waiting for the next week or news article that will provide us with a whim of gossip or an opinion from sources “familiar” with whatever situation they are covering.
To echo what I’ve said before, if our nation is ran by the people, then let us fulfill the Great Commission by focusing on reaching people – and if we all want to see a better and more stable America, seeing more lives forever altered by more people submitting themselves to Christ and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit will, slowly and overtime, bring about a changed nation.
Whether flourishing or famine, persecution or freedom, whether prosperity or poverty, whether conflict or peace - whatever awaits us as a nation does not altar our call to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all [He] commanded” (Matthew 28:16-20).
The sign on 95 is not true. Your life did not depend on your vote. You still have a mission before us, and now is a better time than ever to get to work for the Kingdom of Jesus and his mission.
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