This last year has been a long one. I’ll admit that election years are never easy for the church but it seems like, in many ways, this has been one of the hardest that I can remember in recent history. Many of us, myself included, found neither candidate particularly appealing and some of us who did support one candidate or the other allowed it to become a source of contention. It’s almost as if we have equated following Jesus or being Christian to political support of one party or the other. The two are not the same. I’m not saying political support and political action aren’t important, quite the contrary. Political policy is the main way in which we effect change in our society from a secular standpoint. My concern is when we equate those things to a person’s character and question their relationship with Jesus. I have many Christian friends on both sides of the political aisle and while I don’t always agree with them I do respect them and their opinions don’t change my view of who they are as a person (unless there is a clear heresy involved but a person with a differing political stance is rarely, if ever, a heretic). If anything it challenges me to dig deeper and try to better understand why I hold my view and they hold theirs, thus deepening our relationship. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I will change my mind but it allows for a certain level of discourse, something that we desperately need right now, not just in this country but in the church as well. If we really want the United States to be united then we, the church, need to be the example of what that unity looks like.
For much of church history we have, in one way or another, been a fractured church. Various denominations have risen and fallen. Cults and false teachers have sometimes caused Christians as a whole to be unfairly judged. Persecutions have led to numerous martyrs all over the world losing their lives for the cause of Christ. Through all of this we have endured and we will continue to endure but we need to realize that we, the American church, don’t live in a theocracy and the United States is not God’s covenant people. While I do believe that God has blessed us as a country that distinction of covenant people belongs solely to the church and to the nation of Israel. However, we, as his covenant people, live within the boundaries of the existing laws and we need to honor the government that is in place. Paul told the Romans that “it is important that all of us submit to the authorities who have charge over us because God establishes all authority in heaven and on the earth. Therefore, a person who rebels against authority rebels against the order He established, and people like that can expect to face certain judgment…keep doing what you know to be good and right, and they will publicly honor you…submission is not optional; it’s required. But don’t just submit for the sake of avoiding punishment; submit and abide by the laws because your conscience leads you to do the right thing” (Romans 13:1-5, The Voice). In other words, for the believer, #notmypresident is a dangerous mantra to live by. I’m not advocating that we should remain silent on issues like abortion, racism, poverty, the refugee crisis and other injustices because the Bible is clear about how we as the church should treat these issues. If we really want to make an impact in our larger society then we need to remember that there is an established system that we have to work within and we need to work together regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomics or political persuasion with a spirit of love and humility. Arrogance has no place at the foot of the cross nor in the streets of our nation.
Every Christian has a story. It’s what makes them who they are. This is part of the reason that I love the scene in Revelation 7. Regardless of all of our differences one day we will stand before the throne of God as equals. Until that day, and in the midst of the seemingly constant turmoil in our nation, we need to remember two things: first, nothing will be perfect until Jesus comes back. It is only he who can truly and completely fix the brokenness that we see around us. Second, our citizenship is in heaven not on earth. We are part of a kingdom that is so much greater and so much more glorious than anything that we can imagine. Our eternal destination is so much more important and so much more rewarding than any temporal victory, political or otherwise.