Five Reasons the 2016 Presidential Election is Great for God's People1
While cooler autumn weather begins to blanket our country, the political climate of the nation is still sizzling with confusion and conflict. Rationales and resignation are commonplace. And with so much talk about “the lesser of two evils”, clearly a large group of people feel a good outcome is impossible.
But what if I were to tell you this polarizing and fever-pitched political atmosphere is not simply “good”, but is actually great for the Church. Would you believe me? Does that reflect your take on these current events?
Let me suggest five reasons why this chaotic time is, in fact, wonderful for God's people:
It Should Drive Us to Prayer. When the political climate of Daniel's day became even more turbulent and hostile, we read that he “went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God” (Daniel 6:10). Similarly, the Apostle Paul urges us to pray for “all people”, but is quick to specify, “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (I Timothy 2:1-2) Notice how prayer for those in political power has as its goal the good of those who reflect God to the world. Are you praying not only for the candidates and our fellow citizens, but more importantly, for the flourishing of the Church in times like this?
It Should Draw Us to Gentleness. While the political rhetoric out there is heated, within the Church, and wherever we go, followers of Jesus should be characterized by the wisdom of which James writes: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) Building on this, Paul actually connects this idea with our attitude toward political powers: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1-2) When we 'talk politics', are we shining with the qualities of which James and Paul speak?
It Should Remind Us About Character. Saul was a popular choice for king over Israel. He apparently 'looked the part' (I Samuel 10:24), and his policies concerning the military and foreign affairs were well received by the people (I Samuel 11). But his character was severely lacking. His positions on policy eventually gave way to the turbulence of his heart (I Samuel 13:12-14a), and God set forth to bless the people with “a man after his own heart” (13:14b). The book of Proverbs also speaks about character and those who rule: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2; cf. 29:4, 12, 14). Character matters. Political positions and campaign promises are not unimportant, but a candidate's character is the fire that will forge words into enduring, uncompromising action. Are we considering character as we should in times like this, especially our own?
It Should Turn Us to the King. The flaws and failings of human leaders, or those who seek positions of leadership, should cause us to rejoice that we serve a King who is “righteous in all His ways” (Psalm 145:17). And when we look to our heavenly Father, who is the “King of Heaven” (Daniel 4:37), we are reminded “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (4:25). Being “subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) should lead us to political participation, to vote according to our conscience. But no matter how this election turns out, our trust in the King of Kings gives us eyes to see the next President as “God's servant”, one of many “ministers of God” in our government (Romans 13:4, 6). Will this in turn drive us to continued prayer and gentleness, as we are “in subjection” to our civic leaders, even those for whom we did not vote?
It Should Inspire Us to Watch. Deep concerns over the state of our nation should drive us to prayer, to gracious conversations, to the guidance of God's word, and to discerning action. But those concerns must also remind us that our world is broken beyond repair in terms of human effort. Our only hope is summed up in the cry of the Apostle John: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). Jesus himself called His followers to this kind of wakefulness and watchfulness (Mark 13:32-37) Longings for justice and political reform have driven and will drive many to action. And that's a good thing in terms of democracy. But to what new depths of faithfulness and gospel engagement will disciples of Jesus be driven, “all who have loved his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8), all who long for ultimate justice and peace in His unrivaled monarchy?
This election is a great thing for God's people because it is yet another opportunity for the Church to consider its priorities; to live as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20); to consider who it ultimately trusts. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4) Of all people, only God's redeemed people can truly say, “In God we trust.”