When I was in college, I had a job one summer pouring basement walls for large houses. I was one of only two ‘college boys’ working on the crew (while everyone else had been on the crew for about 300 years each) and the crew chief liked to poke at us a bit. One of the things he did several times a day was to yell at me across the worksite, “Hey Rob, are you ticked? Are you ticked?”…short pause…“HE’S ticked! HE’S ticked! Beats all I’ve ever seen how ticked that boy is!” Bear in mind this had nothing to do with anything (I wasn’t ticked and actually rarely spoke at all), it was just a way for him to have fun and pass the time (it was an odd group of guys – I could go on and on with examples of the strangeness). I thought of that this week because after an election like we just endured I think we could go to a good percentage of the population and ask, “Are you ticked? Are you ticked?!” and have an answer most definitely in the affirmative. I also realize the opposite is true – we could go to the other half of the population and ask, “Are you happy?” and get a very enthusiastic response.
As you read this, it could be that you’re hugely relieved because it feels like your side finally won and can start to reverse all the ills of the last four years. On the other hand, you might think the world has come to an end and you can’t get over how it’s possible the country could have chosen as it has. It may also be that you’re overwhelmed and exhausted with the whole thing and have decided to block it out of your mind for a while.
Regardless of where any of us are on the political spectrum, it’s always a good time in the aftermath of an election to reassess how we as believers look at the world. Does our response to last week show an eternal perspective or does it show we’re a little too planted in the here and now? Do we have a different take on the unfolding events because of our theology, or do we just look at things the same way as everyone else?
Ultimately we all have to answer two questions as we recover from the election: Where is our treasure? What is our mission? If last week made us either elated or horrified, it could be that we’ve misplaced the former and lost sight of the latter. It’s only when we keep a biblically centered perspective on both questions that we can live in a changing world in a way that pleases our heavenly Father.
The following is a list of 14 thoughts that hopefully help us do exactly that by reassuring and challenging us with a focus on what the Bible says. The list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but it should stimulate our thinking and help our outlook. Its intent is to enable us to see things from a gospel-centered perspective instead of one that’s purely political, economic, or temporal.
God is in control. God isn’t discouraged or surprised by the election. God isn’t wondering how He’s going to accomplish His ends now that the political landscape has shifted. God isn’t wondering how He missed it so badly with His polling data. The new political landscape is one item on a list that includes managing seven billion lives and holding together an infinite universe. For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm. God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne (Ps 47:7-8).
God chose our president. And that would be true regardless of who won. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (Rom 13:1).
We are to honor our leaders for the Lord’s sake. Peter wrote the following words when Nero was emperor of Rome: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king (I Pet 2:13-14, 17).
This is not our home. At home they don’t hold elections and they don’t appoint Supreme Court Justices and they don’t lose their jobs. At home no one wonders about the motives of the Leader or how long He will be in power or who will benefit from His policies. At home no one is worried and no one is scared. If you traveled to a foreign country for a long-term visit and witnessed a bruising election and experienced the country’s economy imploding, you might think to yourself, “I hate what’s happening here, but I’m SO glad this isn’t my home!” Shouldn’t that also be our attitude here on earth? Peter called us aliens and strangers (I Pet 1:1, 2:11) because he knew our citizenship was in another world. Consider the following: We were created to live in the garden of God. That was the world we were built for, a place in which there was no parting from love, no decay or disease. It was all these things because it was life before the face of God, in His presence. There we were to adore and serve His infinite majesty, and to know, enjoy, and reflect his infinite beauty. That was our original home, the true country we were made for (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God; 95-96.). And it’s the home we’ll someday return to! Why are we so worried about the future of a world that isn’t ours? For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (Phil 3:20-21).
Freedom and prosperity aren’t God-given rights. Can you name one verse in the New Testament that equates freedom and prosperity with God’s blessing? To the contrary, wealth is pictured mostly as an impediment to belief and persecution is promised to be an ongoing part of any disciple’s life. We must never confuse the American dream with biblical values. Our goals are higher than ease and abundance in this world, and those goals should affect our anxiety over the future of the country and how we see those with whom we disagree. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Matt 19:24). Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt 16:24).
What’s good for the Kingdom is not necessarily good for America. This goes along with the preceding point, but God does not often achieve His ends through happiness and prosperity. How effective have wealth and comfort been in leading Americans to God? Has increased prosperity led to increased godliness? Isn’t it true that areas around the world where people suffer or are persecuted are the same areas where the message of the gospel is typically most accepted? We have a hard time anticipating heaven when we think we already live there. Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (James 2:5)
God works for His glory, not our happiness. It’s really not about us. The purpose of all of creation is to glorify its Creator. Regardless of what’s happened in the last week or what might happen in the next four years, if our focus is on the glory of the Father instead of our own comfort, we’ll find contentment and peace. There is none like You among the gods, O Lord; nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord; and they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God (Ps 86:8-10). Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created (Rev 4:11).
We shouldn’t be surprised by the increasing godlessness of our culture. As Christians we should be the most realistic people in the world; and while we should work to reverse moral decline in our culture, we shouldn’t be surprised by our failure to arrest it. The vitriol that we increasingly see directed at people of faith should concern us, but in light of biblical history and teaching, shouldn’t surprise us. We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (I Jn 5:19).
We aren’t to hate those with whom we disagree politically. Both Jesus and Paul lived in an occupied country under sometimes brutal Roman rule, yet neither wrote nor said much of anything about it. Jesus said He was here on His Father’s business for the kingdom of heaven. Paul said his life was all about the gospel. If our theology lines up with Jesus and Paul, we won’t write off the half of the country that disagrees with us or see our mission in life as going to war against their views. Liberals aren’t bad because they’re liberal. Conservatives aren’t bad because they’re conservative. The bottom line for all is that they need a Savior regardless of political beliefs. If we’re called to make disciples we won’t refuse to engage with 70 million potential converts. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood… (Eph 6:12). But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Lk 6:27-28). And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (I Pet 3:14b-15).
Our mission is to make disciples, not win elections. Nothing in the New Testament instructs us to form voting blocks to ensure moral representatives get elected or certain judges appointed. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with political involvement or political movements, we must never forget that our primary mission is making citizens of the kingdom of heaven, not influencing the votes of the citizens of the United States. Perhaps if American Christians focused more on individual hearts and less on political action we’d have more of an impact on our society. Along the same lines, when we confront issues like same-sex marriage and abortion we must understand that they are merely symptoms of a disease – the disease of unbelief. The problem with our culture is not that it accepts same-sex marriage and abortion; the problem with our culture is that it doesn’t know Christ. When we focus exclusively on symptoms we miss opportunities to offer the cure to those who are dying from the disease. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20a)
Our treasure should be in heaven. What makes us happy? What makes us angry? What keeps us up at night? What makes us dislike others? The answers to those questions explain a lot about what we value. Jesus said in regard to this, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:20-21). Jesus’ words apply to more than wealth. If we’re semi-suicidal over the new administration or if we’re so relieved we can hardly stand it, what does that say about the location of our heart? Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed (I Tim 6:17-19).
All things work together for good.
All things. No caveat, no ‘except for.’ Everything God brings into our lives – including the results of this election – are meant to make us more conformed to the image of His Son (the definition of ‘good’). They make us more useful for God’s kingdom and we’ll one day spend eternity in thankful worship as a result. If we are emotional about last week, it’s likely that we not only struggle with what our mind and affections are set on but we’ve also lost track of how God graciously shapes us for His loving purposes. I had a good friend say something to me recently that I thought was incredibly profound – “I need disappointments in my life to get my eyes focused away from myself and this present world.” That’s an example of understanding how God works and that He never does things randomly or without reason in our lives.
We’re not to worry; we’re to seek and trust. Do not be anxious then, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “With what shall we clothe ourselves?” For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 7:31-34). Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Heb 13:5-6)
We are never alone and we have no reason to fear.
- Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Ps 23:4).
- …and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20b).
- Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (John 14:27).
- These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).