I don’t think I have said much, if anything, about this year’s presidential election. There have been too many voices carrying on ad nauseam about it, and I figure if I have been sick of it for weeks already, probably most of my readers have as well. Plus I don’t like stirring up controversy, and this election has been the most controversial in my memory.
But there are some things on my heart, and this is my outlet, so I am going to try to lay them out here. Who knows, I may get to the end and then delete it. But I want to take the swirl of different thoughts and try to set them out and examine them one by one.
Most of the blog and social media posts I have seen on election eve have been reminders that no matter who wins the election, God is in control. And that’s true.
The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. Proverbs 21:1
For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. Psalm 75:6-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1
Some take these truths to mean, “God’s in control so it doesn’t matter what I do or whether I do anything.” While there is a sense in which that’s true, God most often uses means (like prayer to accomplish His purpose or witnessing to bring the gospel to the lost). We can each only do in good conscience what we feel God wants us to do, but we should at least do that: pray about it and then act accordingly. I don’t think God ever intended for us to take no notice of what’s going on in the world and never participate in it because He is in control. Throughout the Bible He calls people to action even while asserting His sovereignty. Sometimes He works in spite of people or without people, but most often He seems to work through people.
I’ve even seen a few saying that since Christians are citizens of heaven and this world is not our home, we don’t even really need to participate in the election process. That, to me, falls in the category of being so “heavenly minded one is of no earthly good” and seems a slap in the face of myriads who fought and died for us to have this privilege. We have this incredible gift to have a legal say in our government, and I can’t understand not using it. I think the above truths apply here as well.
But most of the chatter I have seen has not been along the lines of opting out or disregarding the privilege to vote. It’s been more along the lines of the best way for Christians to use that vote, often fraught with deep disagreement.
My biggest problem with some of the political bantering on social media is the idea that if person A has a different view on things than person B, then B thinks there must be something defective with A’s understanding, reasoning, intelligence, motives, sanity, character, patriotism, Christianity, etc. It’s possible for good people to have very different views on what should be done and how and who should do them.
Almost every election, I’ve heard the phrase going around about choosing the lesser of two evils, meaning neither candidate is ideal. This is the first year I have heard Christians objecting to that. But no candidate is ever going to line up 100% politically and spiritually with how we think. No one like that would make it that far because that’s not how the majority of the country thinks any more. And we differ so much on some of the finer points, we wouldn’t all agree on a candidate like that anyway (that, in fact, is how I believe we ended up with the Republican candidate we have: most Christians I know were splintered between 3 or 4 of the other candidates in the primaries, dividing their votes and resulting in none of them winning). We can’t hold out for the ideal candidate: we have to choose between what we have, rather than wishing for what we don’t have.
There is such a deep divide over the issues and candidates, I fear that whoever wins, the other side will be discontent and continue to complain for months to come, if not until the next election. But once we’ve studied not only the candidates, but the platforms, and prayed, and before God in good conscience made the best choice we know how to make, we have to accept the results.
We need to remember, too, that no president operates in a vacuum. We do still have a voice: we need to be alert and use that voice to let our representatives know our views on issues.
And once it is all over, our response is to be:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NKJV)
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. 1 Peter 2:13-17
Those verses have all the more poignancy when we remember the kinds of rulers those writers were under.
In some ways, Christians tend to be more watchful and prayerful when their preferred candidate is not the elected one. Otherwise we tend to sit back and relax and trust everything will go well and forget about it all until the next election. But I do pray for God’s mercy in this, and, as a guest speaker prayed in church yesterday, ask that we’ll get the candidate God knows we need, not what we deserve.
And though I do believe the political process is important, and some are called to participate more than others, ultimately that’s not what helps people’s hearts or brings lasting change. Only the gospel can change hearts; only God and the Bible can change people’s thinking. Doing our part to be informed and vote is vital and necessary: doing our part to share the gospel and make disciples is even more so.