We’re here again. It seems like only yesterday when we were anxiously awaiting the 2012 election, and now we’re already debating, caucusing, accusing, and posturing for the next one. It’s going to be a long nine months. If you don’t like politics, it might be a good time to sign out of Facebook and log back on in about a year.
I want to say this is the most interesting presidential race I’ve ever witnessed—after all, The Donald is running!—but I say that every four years. It is fascinating, though, as it always is. Look at my record, one guy says. I’ll fix this country. But the other candidate shudders at the thought of her opponent sitting in the Oval Office. If you vote him in, we might as well move to Bangladesh.
Here’s a caveat: I’m not in the crowd that argues for Christians to disengage from the political process, though I’m sympathetic to their view. I still believe that we can be salt and light at the ballot box. I also don’t think we should just retreat to our little communes and sing Kum ba ya as the world spirals downward. God put us here to live, love, laugh, and light. Especially light.
Having said that, we Christians ought to state emphatically that the future of God’s kingdom doesn’t depend on who’s elected on November 8. I know you already know that, but I’d like to ask you to think about it again, and also make a commitment to let it show through in what you say and how you say it between now and the election, as well as how you act when your candidate wins or loses.
God rules in earthly kingdoms. He promotes and deposes, he blesses and thwarts, he gives power and takes it away.
He uses the good and the bad, and sometimes the wicked. He even uses cruel leaders to teach his people the lessons they wouldn’t otherwise learn.
God’s ways are inscrutable, and we sometimes find his choices to be inexplicable. The prophets wrestled with this, often voicing their doubts about the way God worked. How can you use wicked Babylon to punish your chosen people, Lord? Sometimes God answered with silence, and sometimes he answered with “trust me.” I’ve wrestled with God a few times over the people he chose to give power to, but I know he knows better than I do. It’s a good thing God doesn’t always do what I ask him to, you know? Our God is bigger than that, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
He also uses good rulers. He blessed Israel when David reigned, and good rulers like Josiah and Hezekiah helped the nation to walk more closely with God.
But America isn’t a theocracy, of course, as Israel was. There’s a big distinction between the kingdoms of earth and the Kingdom of God. America has never been and will never be a holy nation or a people for God’s own possession.
That’s the church, God’s elect people whom he’s called to be a light-reflecting community of believers to a dark world. When we get too comfortable down here with the kingdoms of earth, we tend to forget about God’s rule. When we’re pessimistic or optimistic based on who’s living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re focused on the wrong throne.
Sometime late Tuesday evening on November 8, we’ll know who our next President will be. We’ll be happy or sad, excited or discouraged, but we shouldn’t get too ecstatic or too dejected.
That same night two speeches will be given: a concession speech and a victory speech. It might be that the candidate you voted for gives the gracious, we-fought-hard-but-came-up-short speech. He’ll try to hide his disappointment, and he’ll speak optimistically about future political prospects.
But everyone knows what he’s saying—his speaking and campaigning and hand-shaking and baby-kissing didn’t capture enough hearts, so he lost. He concedes.
But don’t let there be a concession speech in your heart or on your lips, because we know something that lots of folks don’t. Our King wasn’t on the ballot, and he doesn’t rule by popular vote.
And to make it even sweeter, he already gave his victory speech, and we’re just waiting for the procession to begin. In the big scheme of things, this election just isn’t a huge deal, so we shouldn’t act like it is.
Jesus took his seat at God’s right hand about 2,000 years ago, and the world will never have an election that changes that.