A month from now, what does your life look like? Christmas shopping? Prepping for finals? Recovering from your Thanksgiving food coma? Binging on the new episodes of Gilmore Girls for the seventh time? (Probably. Thankfully, no. Likely. And I really hope so.)
A month from today, America will be several weeks removed from election day. Our nation will have chosen a leader for the next four years and, despite the fact that our two main candidates are the least popular in our country’s history, there will be nothing any of us can do to change that.
Does it matter who wins? In some ways, absolutely. My husband is a preacher. I recently gave birth to a perfect, innocent little boy and I think a lot about the world he’ll grow up in. There are issues and agendas I care deeply and passionately about.
But I care about the church more.
I care about the eternal kingdom of God more than I care about a four year term. And that is what is so concerning to me about this election: the willingness to call out one another and cast doubts on the goodness of another’s intentions or the security of their soul.
Everybody votes for what they believe to be the better moral option. We all have values, issues, platforms we care about. We have experiences that cause us to place the value of some things over others. Things that we think matter more, or sometimes even just things we think have better odds of actually being fixed.
That’s why people vote. Because they’re trying to do what they can to institute some sort of positive change in the world. Nobody votes because they believe their choice is morally repugnant and will bring about some sort of universal moral downfall. It’s important for us to remember that.
I’d like to direct you to what Jesus said about this election. Or Paul. Or Peter. James. Somebody. I’d like to, but I can’t. Not only because 21st century America was a few millennia away from existing, but because politics and government in general seemed to be of very little importance to the first century church.
Here are a few things we can know that they thought about our relationship with government. We know we’re supposed to pray for our leaders. We know that those prayers should include a desire to live a “peaceful and quiet life”. We know that no nation has any authority without God’s say-so. We know God can and does use even those leaders we consider evil to accomplish His will. And we know that we are to “submit and show honor to every human institution”.
That’s pretty much the gist of it. None of these things tells us how to vote, because being in charge of governmental changes isn’t really something most of the early church had the luxury to worry about. More importantly, none of these things gives any of us the right to degrade, chastise, or otherwise insult other Christians because of their voting choice.
There’s nothing wrong with caring about things and wanting to use your governmental freedoms to attempt to bring about a greater good. What is wrong is when we start using these things as a moral checklist of who is and isn’t right. When we start getting sucked into political fear-mongering and allowing that to decide whose soul is in need of serious reconstruction if they want to have the same hope of Heaven as us. When we allow the earthly things from a temporary nation that won’t last to tear apart the church and the eternal kingdom that God has planned for those that obey Him. That’s a problem. That’s when we should be concerned. That is a topic that is addressed by Jesus. Repeatedly And Paul. And Peter. And James. Pretty much everybody, really.
Look, we don’t have to all agree on some things. And we won’t all agree on some things. No one side or one person has all of the right answers. Because none of them are God. America isn’t the church. And I wouldn’t want it to be, because what a horrible letdown that would be. Not everyone will share your perspective or your rationale. And, if I’m honest, not every perspective is valid. Some are almost comically irrational. I’m not advocating some sort of humanistic viewpoint where we have to accept everyone’s perspective is equal, because we actually can’t all be right. That’s not my request.
My request is that you quit looking at your fellow Christians and making their ballot a litmus test of their Christianity. That we acknowledge that, right or wrong, every person is doing what they believe to be the best moral and ethical choice and quit vilifying the other side. That we quit judging the heart and holiness of another person for something that has no Biblically correct answer. Even if another person is wrong, it’s important to remember that they might just be wrong. Not evil.
This nation will end. How quickly that will occur, I have no idea. But it will definitely end. God’s kingdom won’t. Our relationships with one another as part of that kingdom are too special, too holy of a nature to debase them with something as temporal as this.
It’s okay to care. It’s okay to vote. It’s okay to be passionate about things. It’s okay to try and effect change. As Christians, these things are more than okay. They’re pretty much required. We’re called to care for “the least of these” among us. But if that care begins and ends during the few minutes every few years when you’re casting your vote, you have a bigger problem. If you’re willing to cast aside someone’s soul for a cause that you don’t do anything to help in your own life the other 3 years and 364 days, then you have a bigger problem.
I can’t imagine what any of the Biblical writers, having witnessed what was sacrificed in order to establish the church and facing their own persecution to join that church, would think of us tearing it apart for something as eternally unimportant as an election. Don’t place your hope in a country to solve issues that the church should be working toward. That’s not their job. It’s ours. Work to provide for the least of these, to spread the Gospel, to show Christ’s love. Work to promote unity, because that’s what we’re actually called to do.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”