Two Things the Election Tells Us
A Facebook friend of mine from college lives in a state which allows early voting in the presidential election. His recent status was “I just voted. Now I want to hurl.” I laughed but could sympathize with his feelings, given the candidate choices that face us and the futures that could go with each choice. If anyone is keeping score, there has to be more groaning and cringing going on than ever before, and that for the candidate you’re voting for. As much as we want a candidate who is inspirational and reflects our values, it is in the middle of this particular muddle that Christians might best learn two important lessons that might otherwise be lost on us.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Tim. 2:1, 2
First, it is clear that whomever wins this match will enter the presidency with a torrid past, a present full of anxiety and danger, and a future of constant opposition. It is at a moment like this that our leader, whether we voted for them or not, needs our complete support. That’s not to say we advocate for all of their policies, but to support them with prayer to the one who is the king of kings and president of presidents. Paul begins his first letter of encouragement and instruction to Timothy with the admonition to pray for our world and its leaders. Before teaching on anything else, Paul calls for prayers of every stripe for the Roman empire, which was headed at that time by the wicked persecutor of Christians, Nero. He called for prayers of all kinds: supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings. This pictures a prayer life familiar with the world and its needs, and its leaders and their failings.
I have prayed both for and against our current president, but when I read Paul’s words I know I could have been more engaged in that effort, and sense that the church in the United States as a whole could as well. Before we curse, let us bless. I urge us all to be more consistent in heeding Paul’s command. With a praying church at the right hand of the president, we know that we have exercised not just all that most of us can do but the best that any can do for a leader. Our words to God may be more influential than those of any cabinet member. Lift our leaders, their health, heart, mind and family to God as you never have before. They will need it. We will need it.
The second lesson that a slate of candidates of this caliber can remind us is that our president is not the champion of our faith. While a minister of God (Rom. 13:4), he (or she) is not the one on whom we pin our ultimate hopes to rescue this world from its sin. Texas pastor, Dr. Joel McDurmon, in a recent article poignantly wrote
"... Christians continue to act as if they can fix this nation via the centralized powers of Washington, D.C., before they get their own houses and churches in order... With few exceptions, the most important things in U.S. history have not occurred because of elections, and will not be solved by them. Until … Christians … understand this, they will continue to lose ground no matter who is president, and the last state of the house will be worse than the first."
We must continually refocus on the true shaper of the destiny of nations (Pro. 21:1) and on our role in affecting the world around us (Mt. 5:14, 2 Cor. 5:19). In Acts 17, when Paul and Silas began preaching in Thessalonica, a crowd of Jews protested to the city's authorities saying “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also ... and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (v. 6)
The God-ordained function of government is to punish evil and reward good (Rom. 13:3, 4). It is the role of the church however, led by its champion (Rev. 19), to transform it, to turn it upside down, or more accurately, right-side up. Our efforts to use political machinery to accomplish that task is a dead end. If we believe that the church in the 21st century can be as influential as it was in the first, let us not now turn our minds to the 2020 presidential election, looking for another political savior. The world has and needs but one. Instead begin now in earnest the campaign to heal hurts, right wrongs, train the young, and make our personal and collective influence in the world count eternally for King Jesus.
If our current candidates were the second coming of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, we could be easily tempted to let the praying slide and leave the work of making our world a better place to the professionals in Washington. But given who we have, our mission, our twin duties are more clear than ever.