As Election Day nears in my country, the United States, I find myself fighting the temptations of anxiety, discord, criticalness, self-righteousness, prejudice, and even hatred. On the other hand, an even greater temptation for me is to not care at all; to bury my head in the sand and focus only on myself and my family. There’s a battle in my mind and soul between clinging to my sinful nature or pursuing the heart of God. What should I do?
For some reason Psalm 119:9 keeps coming to mind:
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
While I’m not a “young person,” this scripture still speaks (uh…actually SHOUTS) to me. How can I stay on a path of purity and godliness in my thoughts? I must live according to God’s word.
What does God’s word teach me as I face this tumultuous time in my country? It teaches:
1. Love prevails.
God calls us to love Him, to love our brothers and sisters, and yes, even to love our enemies—those who think differently from us.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
For those of us in the U.S., during this election season our communities – and sometimes even our homes and families – are very polarized. We see people on every end of the political spectrum spewing words of hate and discord. If we don’t put on our spiritual armor and get on our knees (Ephesians 6:10-18), we can very easily join in the fray. I know I have sometimes found myself thinking or saying divisive and hurtful words about those who don’t think like me. Yet, in Matthew 5, Jesus teaches the proper response to animosity: Love. Instead of feeding the natural hostility toward my enemies, I can feed the love. It’s natural to pray for my “own people” as this scripture says, but it takes conscious effort to pray for “others.”
Challenge: Spend time today in prayer for those whose political views are different from yours. Pray that you will love them like Jesus does.
Further Reading: James 3:6-10, Romans 12:14-21, Luke 6:31-36, 1 John 4:7-12
2. Jesus (not politics) is the answer.
Whenever I get anxious and stressed about politics it’s usually because I have convinced myself that “my” candidate somehow has the power to solve all the problems “I” see in my community. I am looking for mankind to be who only God can be. Although he was a king, David saw where true power came from.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Politics is not the answer to the world’s woes. The answer is and always has been Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus says that he is “the way and the truth and the life.”
While I may know that in my head, I need to continually impress it onto my heart. It makes me think of the testing of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism. Satan tried over and over to cause Jesus to trust in flesh rather than to trust in God. Turn this stone into bread. Throw yourself down and see what happens. Worship me and I’ll give you whatever you want. But Jesus shut it all down when he declared, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:1-11)
I must ask myself: Am I worshipping Jesus or my favorite political candidate?
When I believe that a human being has the power to make everything “right,” then not only is it unfair to that person, but it is insulting to God. I must be able to put politics in its place; which is never the place of Savior. That spot is already filled.
When the political pundits of Jesus’ day began to blur the lines between politics and godliness in Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus set them straight with these words:
“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Even Jesus’ family and followers wanted Jesus to step into the world of politics (John 7:3-5, Acts 1:6). Yet our Lord made it clear that he came to save the world; not through politics, but through a kingdom established in the hearts and souls of people (Luke 17:20-21).
A question to consider: Am I more passionate about politics and supporting “my candidate” than I am about honoring and glorifying Jesus?
Challenge: Share your faith with someone today. Share about the freedom that comes when we trust in God and not in mankind.
Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, 1 John 2:15-17
3. What Goes In is What Comes Out
It has been shocking to see and hear some of the vitriol that comes to the surface when people talk about politics. No side of the political landscape is immune. I saw a documentary recently that explained how the way in which people get news has changed drastically in the past few years. The days of unbiased news sources are largely gone. As more and more people turn to social media and the internet for news, we find that the algorithms of many search engines ultimately feed us only news that fits in with our current views. The result is that we get more and more rooted in whatever viewpoint we have.
When I was a journalism major in the 1980s, it was instilled in us that news reporting must be balanced. No matter the topic of the news story, we were taught to gather views from all sides of the issue. I vividly remember one article that I wrote regarding a topic that any “decent, upstanding” person would view from a particular perspective. But I knew that I needed to hear from the other side. Without going into more detail, I can say that I began digging around and interviewing some fairly seedy sources to get another viewpoint of the topic. I remember my professor praising my article. He said he had never expected nor read a news story that gave the other perspective on that particular issue.
The point I’m trying to make is that what we read and take in shapes how we think and act. If we take in only a certain viewpoint, then it entrenches us in that view; ultimately making us intolerant of any other perspective. We cannot imagine how anyone could possibly think differently from us; which, in turn, divides us from even our own brothers and sisters.
Even more dangerous, if we feed ourselves with words of anger and hatred our hearts will become filled with anger and hatred and our own words will follow. What flows out of our mouths is a result of what gets stored up in our hearts.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Instead of feeding our hearts and minds with divisiveness and discord, we can feed on God’s word and allow Him to fill us with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
A question to consider: What effect does the political news and social media that I consume have in my life? Does it produce idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions? (Galatians 5:19-21)
Challenge: Devote a day to fast from the news and social media. Read and meditate on God’s word during the time when you might otherwise be checking your newsfeed on your phone or scrolling through social media.
Further Reading: Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:8-10, Proverbs 4:23, Ephesians 4:20-24
As this difficult election season winds down, no matter who wins or loses, may we as disciples keep our unity in Christ. May we love God, one another and the community around us. May we love our friends and love our enemies. May we keep Jesus as the priority in our lives. And may we guard our hearts and minds as we remain devoted to the only One who can save – Jesus Christ our Lord.