Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Thoughts

The Nation has spoken. Donald Trump is president. As we stand on the far side of the most divisive election in decades, my question as a pastor and Christian is, how do we move forward as Christians? As people who name the name of Christ and want to see him glorified? Whether you voted for President Elect Trump, or for Secretary Clinton, or one of the other candidates, whether your candidate lost, or won, or never had a chance, how do you move forward?

I write this as someone who was a #NeverTrump voter, and refused to vote for either major party candidate. But the question is for all of us. How do we move forward, together? How do we act as the church on the back side of election day?

First, speak and act with respect.

8 years ago, as we came up I to the election of president Obama, I was listening to a news report, and the reporter referred to the president as Mr. Bush, rather than President Bush, and was sharply critical of President Bush. Soon after that, I heard a local talk show personality from a different perspective state that if one political candidate won, he would not call that candidate president, and do everything that he could to see that this man’s presidential agenda was undermined. That was in 2008, and things have just gone downhill from there. We have reached a point where it seems that respect and civility is dead when it comes to our political dialogue. Worse, many Christians do not act much different. We show much of that same disrespect. We often act the same way that those who are not Christians act, showing the same disrespect that those who are not Christians show. This cannot be. It cannot be, can saltwater and freshwater flow from the same spring, James asks? The answer is no. of course not. And the same goes for us, and what we say. We must speak and act with respect. 1 Peter pointedly remind us in 2:17 that we are to “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” Paul echos this thought when he says in romans 13 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves… Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 

Everyone means everyone, it means people, on both sides of the aisle. Gay. Straight. Old. Young. Man. Woman. Rich. Poor. Urban. Suburban. Rural. Black. White. Hispanic. Asian. Everyone.  Model grace, model dignity, model civility. Remember that we are called to bright red dots, spiritual salt and light in a dark world, and do not engage with hostility and disrespect. However you feel about the election, and however you feel about both the winner, the loser, and the parties of either, show a different path to the watching world.

Second, pray for the new president and pray for the nation.

On election night, I stayed up late, and reached the point where I couldn’t stay up any longer. At that point I said, “Four years ago I basically said congratulations to the president for winning the election again, and called on people to pray for the new president and honor him. Today we've elected a new president. Same thing folks. Congratulations to president elect Trump. Fear God, honor the king”, referencing Peters words in 1 peter 2:17. “I pray the he may find a way to unify the nation and heal its wounds. I pray he shocks me and leads well.” That call needs to be cranked up to ten. We need to pray, and keep praying, remembering the words of 1 Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Tim. 2:1-2)”.

But with this, we must pray for the nation. “When God wishes to judge a nation, he gives it wicked leaders”, said Calvin. The track record of both candidates was such that we were all but guaranteed a wicked leader, which means that we need to be praying for God to work in hearts and minds to transform this nation, knowing that apart from his mercy, we are going to experience his great and terrible judgment.

Third, work to extend grace but do not excuse evil.

Every president will succeed in some places and fail in others. Every one of us does. Remember that King David was a man after God’s own heart, the greatest king of Israel, and the progenitor of the messiah. And he had an affair, and then killed the husband of Bathsheba. Ever leader fails in some way shape or form. This will be true of every leader until the day that Christ restores the world and brings everything to complete submission to his perfect will.

But with that said, there cannot be a hint or a whiff of excusing racism, torture, misogyny, the mistreatment of others, and the like. Not one hint or whiff. We must be willing to call sin, sin, and be absolutely unflinching in our refusal to wink at or paper over moral evils. Right now, many are looking at the church, waiting to see if we will excuse the bad behavior of Donald Trump (or worse, join in), or if we will take seriously what the bible says about sin. 20 years ago, many Christian leaders rightly called Bill Clintons activities sin, and now many of these men turned around and excused it with trump. Other leaders rightly stood up and said, his words and actions are a problem. I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic. But, at the same time, I have no intention of excusing one bit of sinful, evil behavior.

Fourth, expect that Christians in America now have allot of repair work to do to our reputation.

Many are looking at the church, asking, how did a man with his moral track record end up with such an incredibly high number of believers voting for him? I believe part of the answer is that they believed the other candidate was worse. But, with that reality, we must understand that our reputation is in taters to a watching world.
Writer Jared Wilson of the Gospel Coalition rightly observes that 

There may have been no popular image more representative of this winning campaign than that of Jerry Falwell Jr. gleefully standing with Donald Trump in his office, Playboy Magazines prominently on the wall in the background”. He goes on, “Again, this may sound counterintuitive, since the candidate backed by what’s left of the Religious Right and the Moral Majority won handily last night. But what institutional evangelicalism has gained in a presidency it has lost, in my estimation, in gospel witness. And it’s not like this was hanging in the balance. Evangelical credibility was already circling the drain. It just experienced a decisive flush last night. Our new president had the full-throated support of the Klu Klux Klan and other white nationalist/supremacist groups, the conspiracy-obsessed tabloid alt-right, misogynistic shock-jocks, and . . . evangelical Christians? As the weeks went by and more of us became shocked by the kind of thinking — poor logic, poor theology, poor spirituality — on display from certain Christian Trump-supporters, it wasn’t so much a Trump ascendancy we feared but a certifying of evangelicalism’s biblical illiteracy and, thus, theological bankruptcy.

I said it before the election and I’ll say it now: most evangelical support of Donald Trump was hypocritical, double-minded. Character matters, except when it doesn’t. Biblical virtue matters, except when it doesn’t. When power and influence (and fear) are on the line, we will sell out in a heartbeat. The result is this: evangelicalism as an institutional movement has revealed itself to be exactly what the world has accused it of being all along. What will it profit the movement to gain the White House and lose its convictional soul?

He’s right. Which means we have an incredible amount of repair work to do.

Finally, keep your hope in Christ.

On the backside of this election, the world has not changed. Christ still rules. “He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. (Dan. 2:21-22). He makes clear that there is no salvation in politics. He tells us in his word that we are not to  “put our trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. He says in his word “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever” (Psalm 146:2-6). We must never forget this. On the backside of a crazy election we must remind ourselves of it regularly. Our only hope is found in Christ, the perfect king, who will right the world. We are citizens of his higher kingdom. Keep your hope in Christ, and Christ alone.