A Wise and Biblical Response to the Election

Back in 1973, at the age of 17, i headed off to college a long way from home. That year, i had a roommate whose name was Steve Froehlich. Now 43 years later, Steve is still my friend (amazing, right?) and he’s a pastor in Ithaca, NY not far from where i grew up in Oneida. Steve sent me this message he wrote to those in his congregation about how we should respond to the election. I found it profound, Biblical and wise, so i asked his permission to share it with you. Steve’s words focus on the centrality of the Gospel.

AFTER THE ELECTION – REFLECTIONS

Wednesday morning dawned like every other morning. The rain pattered the autumn leaves, and somewhere above the grey, the sun charted its familiar course across the heavens. Yet, as with every new day, above the heavens and beside us here below, our God reigns.

Most people across the country were shocked by the election results Tuesday night. None of the political prognosticators anticipated what happened among the electorate. Yet, as with every event that unfolds before the watchful eye of the Lord, our God reigns.

In itself, Tuesday’s election has neither advanced nor deterred the kingdom of God. Our Lord has been on the move since the beginning of history to bring creation to completion, and his mission proceeds certainly, without fail (as our Confession says, in the Froehlich Free Paraphrase: “with us, against us, and in spite of us” WCF v.iii). Yet, regardless of what we intended by our choices, our God reigns.

Besides reminding you of God’s sovereign faithfulness, I want to comment on one observation being made about this week’s election. I’m aware that folks in the congregation have responded to the election very differently. So, while I’m offering these thoughts pastorally, they are also personal and I don’t presume to speak for more than myself.

Pundits and newsreaders as well as thoughtful students of culture have suggested that our President-elect is the candidate of evangelical Christians (admittedly, a group fuzzily defined by most in the media). But the idea that any candidate has the blessing of the Church (and implicitly, the favor of God), should be abhorrent to us as Christians and antithetical to our biblical understanding of how God is at work through government (Rom 13:1ff).

As much as I delighted either in the idea of a competent woman being elected or an entrepreneurial outsider shaking things up, I could not in good conscience vote for either of the major candidates. I speak only for myself in this opinion; and my opinion focuses on holiness and relationships, not public policy or political theory. Policy agreements and disagreements aside, my moral objections to both candidates proved insurmountable, and I cast my vote for someone else. Yet, one of the two major candidates prevailed, and we now have a President-elect who has a long history of reprehensible immoral behavior that is completely antithetical to Christ-like and civil virtue. Again, speaking only for myself, I am embarrassed by our choice. Also, I have deep and honest empathy with those women and minorities who have been given reason to experience fear and shame because of the President-elect’s words and behavior… an anxiety compounded by the sense or perception that the electoral choice of white America and white evangelical Christians has brushed aside that evil as if it doesn’t matter. It does matter. It matters to those who have endured rape, prejudice, and injustice, and it matters to us as Christians struggling to live out the gospel.

For those who are both devastated and exultant by the election results, let me urge you to reflect on hope. Encouragement and disappointment can be very appropriate responses to the events of life. But, are your deep hopes rising and falling on whether a candidate or party is elected or defeated? Then, this is hope misplaced. Let’s join Jesus at the Cross again, and let’s give thanks for his invincible grace. We can honor the emperor (1 Pet 2:17), whether he/she be righteous or unrighteous, because our hope is in the King of kings and Lord of lords whose cause can never fail – Christ is risen! As we confess, God (Father, Son, and Spirit) is our only hope and comfort in life and in death.

How then do we respond to this suggestion that the President-elect has the blessing of God’s people, and even of God himself? How do we live in response to the claim that the President-elect is the choice of Bible-toting religion?

I don’t recommend your arguing the point to defend the Church or to help people who say such things see the light – it’s just not a productive response. Nor do I recommend berating people who don’t understand the impact our President-elect has had upon some of our neighbors. It’s better for us to encourage each other to get on with living out our love for God and neighbor with a deep confidence in the gospel.

1. Worship

Our King is the Lord, and our God reigns. He is omnipotent, righteous, faithful, and true. He governs our lives as he does the whole world with wisdom and love, and we entrust ourselves to his good rule. He is true, even when we are untrue. Good, even when we are evil. Faithful, even when we are unfaithful. Again today, let’s give him our greatest loyalty and allegiance. What matters most is that we live the whole of our lives for his glory (this will result in the greatest good for our neighbors), and that is a life-mission that guides our lives regardless of the political structure in which we find ourselves.

2. Live

What does the Lord require of you? What is God’s will for your and my life? “Do justice; love kindness; and walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8). But to love righteousness means that we cannot be indifferent to unrighteousness, injustice, cruelty, and arrogance. Our love for righteousness is grounded in our love for God. But when those who lead us refuse to love righteousness and choose to degrade men and women made in God’s image, we must rise with a holy defense of our neighbor. We must in love stand with those who need the safe shelter of the gospel. As with Jesus, we must stand with and for the poor, the weak, the imprisoned, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18). This sacrificial humility is essential to our proclamation of the gospel.

3. Listen

Some post-election analysis indicates that over 80% of (mostly white) evangelical Christians voted for the President-elect. Given our commitment as a church and denomination to racial reconciliation, we cannot ignore this reality. Therefore, like it not, we as Christians in Ithaca are linked to this national evangelical groundswell – it’s how many of our neighbors will think of us when we identify as Christian. As one commentator wrote: “Evangelical Christians are shameless hypocrites who reject morality and decency in favor of an immoral, authoritarian, bully.”

So, I believe we need to ask questions like: How are those who have been verbally and ideologically assaulted by the candidate during the campaign to think of the Church that has spoken with such an approving voice? Have we not given Muslims, blacks, women, Hispanics, and more people reason to distrust the Church? Does not this significant endorsement of the candidate effectively drive a wedge between Christians and those with whom we want to share the good news of Christ? Why should they believe us when we say, “Jesus loves you”?

We are associated with a group of people that has spoken loudly and powerfully. Yes, our voting has been an act of power (effectively, for many, exchanging the Cross for a sword), and damage has been done. We have been party to actions that have generated fear and have opened wounds. But, this behavior is completely contrary to the mission of God. We should be a place of shelter and healing, a refuge as we faithfully live out the truth of the gospel.

So, to regain trust, our first response is almost certainly to listen and let our neighbors tell us how they have experienced the impact of our political actions and endorsements. Let us listen as they tell us their fears and hurts. And let us begin the patient and humble work of reconciliation that is at the heart of the gospel and the mission of God in the world.

4. Pray

Our God reigns, and he reigns even in American political elections. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). So, we pray for the king (1 Tim 2:1-4) and all who are in authority.

We pray for the salvation of our President-elect and all in public office – may he turn to Christ in faith and believe the good news.

We pray for the government of our President-elect – may he love righteousness and peace and hate injustice and oppression; may he act with wisdom, humility, strength, love, and mercy; may he deal equitably and justly with people, businesses, and nations.

We pray for the people of our President-elect, our nation – may we be a country that is a blessing to the nations of the world, and may we use our wealth, knowledge, and power to care generously and unselfishly for all who look to us for help and security.

As citizens of the kingdom of God, may our greatest allegiance be reserved for the One True King. May our lives make visible the invisible kingdom of God. May we be known as people who follow in the nail-scarred footprints of our Saviour, and not people who chase after imperial promises to make us great.

Yours for New Life,
Steve

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