Presidential elections are a bit like an extremely busy Christmas season that never ends. The advertising is incessant. The hype is crazy. The expectations are overbuilt. And by the time the day arrives most of us are ready for it to be over.
As Christians the messages are numerous. I have been told by many different people of many different persuasions that I must vote for a candidate for this reason or that. In almost equal numbers I have had other voices telling me that I must not vote for a candidate for this reason or that. Those I love and are closest to me disagree and arguments ensue. This election, more than any other I have seen in my short 33 years on this earth, has caused more division, pain, anxiety, and fear. Friends, none of those attributes describe the Christian faith.
If any voluntary exercise or activity was going to cause division, quarreling, or arguments between Christians, why should we participate? If the cost to us is anxiety, fear, and even anger, why should we be a part? Not only are we a part of the election, Christians have had a loud voice in campaigning for candidates and causes. Is the cost to our church worth the harm done? We would be wise to heed Paul’s advice to Timothy.
“Avoid foolish and thoughtless discussions, since you know that they produce conflicts. God’s slave shouldn’t be argumentative but should be kind toward all people, able to teach, patient, and should correct opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will change their mind and give them a knowledge of the truth. They may come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap that holds them captive to do his will.”2 Timothy 2:23-26
We Christians have priorities out of order.
There are many issues that crop up every election. Many are important. I understand they come close to our hearts. I have had good friends pleading on behalf of very important causes. Abortion, death penalty, social justice, poverty, gun rights, and religious liberty are all worth discussing for those who feel they are important.
What if there is a greater priority than the hot button issues? What if the hill we are willing to die upon is not really the most important one of all.
I’m not going to make a plea for some sort of false unity. That is never a real thing. Yet as Christians we have much that unites us than making great pot-luck dinners. When we become Christians we are given a new list of priorities.
Our God is a God of transformation. That means that what was important to us before is no longer as important. God gives us a new identity. We are his children. What is at the top of that list of priorities?
The top priority is his Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is unlike this earth. Those new priorities are the Kingdom priorities. Most of all, we no longer belong to this world. We are now citizens of heaven.
That means we don’t belong here.
We are bound for heaven. We have eternal life. That means that we look forward not to the day our candidate is elected or the day we have the right to do something. We instead look forward to the day Christ returns and sets the world right again. We look forward to the day when we feast at his heavenly banquet table.
How do we then re-prioritize our lives? We need an example to follow. Jesus spent 3 years of his ministry modeling Kingdom priorities to his disciples.
How did Christ live? He wasn’t popular with the officials and leaders. They crucified him. He wasn’t popular with those that had authority and power. He did not put his hope in a legislative agenda. He did not campaign for closed borders or one language. Jesus instead reached out to everyone. His Kingdom is not only for the Jews. Gentiles are welcome as well. His Kingdom was not only for the Roman Empire. It has outlasted the Roman Empire by a long shot. As another pastor recently put it, “Jesus was a rebel.”
Why even bother with what is on earth?
Why bother to vote? Why worry about what is going to happen? If we are bound for heaven shouldn’t we just bide our time, make the best of these days one earth, and then go on to eternal glory? Not at all.
We should be deeply concerned with what is going on here on earth. What we do today echoes for eternity. The world is filled with people who do not know the love of Jesus Christ. The reason Jesus died on the cross was not because officials were unhappy with him. He chose the cross. He chose to take on our sin and death so we might live. We then need to make every day of this eternal life we now live count.
Jesus spent his time living Kingdom priorities. Share the love of Christ. Let love be your hallmark. May humility be your first response when you disagree. Great Christians have disagreed since the very early church. Disagreements are not a problem. Conflict is a necessary part of living in community with others. Yet resolving conflict in love is far more important than winning the point.
The Prayer of St. Francis echoes true for this election. Perhaps you can take a moment and pray it now and then everyday as we approach this election.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
Why should Christians vote?
When we have the right Kingdom priorities and the humility to approach them, elections serve as valuable opportunities to show the world the love of Christ. As important as these issues are, our greatest allegiance is never to this earth, to any government of this earth, or to any issue or candidate on this earth. Our greatest allegiance is always to Christ.
That means when disagreements arise we discuss our points. If that becomes impossible, we humbly bless the other person and let it be. Opinions are rarely if ever changed by shouting matches. No election is worth division in the Church. Instead, we should remember our faith is far more important than what may seek to divide us because the One who unites us overcomes all things in the cross.
So come November 8, 2016 go and vote. Between now and then, I encourage you to follow the words of John Wesley concerning voting in elections.
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:
1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy.
2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.