The news coverage is nonstop. Twenty-four hours a day, we can find the latest information, gossip, analysis, and arguments about why Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (or Gary Johnson or Jill Stein) should or should not be our next President. One presidential debate took place earlier this week; two more will follow in the next month. As a nation, we can hardly contain our excitement – not to mention our hopes, our disillusionment, our fears, and our anger – about this whole process.
Honestly, I have grown weary of this political season. As I scrolled through my Facebook timeline last night, I saw nothing but aggressive, one-sided posts (supporting either major candidate). I saw people arguing angrily with their friends about one issue or another. I saw memes and jokes that belittled one candidate or another. I saw long, thoughtful articles explaining why we should all vote for one candidate or another.
But I didn’t see much of Jesus in the discussion.
I think the combination of social media and the election season brings out the basest parts of our personalities. This season shows who we really can be, or perhaps who we truly are: divided, isolated, demeaning, spiteful people who can hurl words at each other without any sense of remorse or consideration. (See how easy it is? I just did it myself.)
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
God’s word speaks into this moment in American history with a shattering, destabilizing silence. God, you want us to be still at a time like this? You want us to find our identity in you? You expect us to remain in fellowship with other Christians when they honestly disagree with us on political issues? You call us to value our connection with you more highly than our association with a political party or presidential candidate?
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. (Psalm 46:6)
God speaks a word of peace into our world that is louder than all our angry shouting. God, do you want to be heard? Do you share our concern about this election? Are you as anxious about the next president as we are? Don’t you understand the significance of this election for our nation? Or are you calling us to approach this election from a broader perspective?
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:7 and 11)
God’s presence reorients our lives so that our frantically spent energy can be redirected away from the things of this world and toward the kingdom of God. Yes, elections are important. Yes, we should be involved in our nation’s political process. Yes, it matters that you vote. But imagine how amazing our church life would be if we took all our angst about this election and channeled that energy into loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, and working for the kingdom of God!
For Christians, the real test of this election season is whether we pledge allegiance to the kingdom of God or we pledge allegiance to the kingdom of this world. How we go about communicating with each other, living together, and choosing how to vote means much, much more than the results of the election. The person we elect as President will not hold that office ten years from now. Neither major candidate will, in my opinion, bring an end to American life as we know it. But even if he or she does cause our society to collapse, the kingdom of God will still stand strong. No matter what party is in control of the White House, no matter what nation is listed on my passport, my citizenship is in God’s kingdom. I belong to something much larger than myself – something much larger than the United States of America.
That’s not to say that I am disinterested in this election. I have very strong opinions about the presidential candidates, and I know how I will be voting in November. If you wish, I will be glad to speak with you privately about my thoughts, and I will be happy to listen to yours as well. Like all elections, this one matters.
But Jesus is still on his throne. And Jesus isn’t voting for the Republican or for the Democrat. Jesus isn’t even an American citizen. God’s ways are higher than our ways. We should be careful to listen to the Lord, to our neighbors, and to our enemies as we discuss and participate in our political system.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)
Can we rest in Jesus at a time like this? Can we recognize that our political opponents may find rest in the very same Jesus too? Can we walk together through the final six weeks of this terribly long election season, while still remaining faithful to Jesus and his call for us to lay down our lives for each other, to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies?
Will we intentionally grow as citizens of God’s kingdom? Will we take Jesus seriously when he says these words?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-29 NIV)