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How Christians Should Respond to the Election Results

To put it mildly, most people would like to close the 2020 history books. It is my personal goal to release my vendetta on 2020 by unleashing my Christmas spirit on November 1!  It has brought untold inconvenience and loss. However, God allows circumstances that are unpleasant to get our attention and challenging our thinking. As American Christians, it’s easy to think unpleasant and unplanned circumstances should be avoided or endured. Or, like “good” Americans, we tackle challenges and discomfort with a “DIY” approach through our democratic process. We are tempted to live out our values vicariously through ideas and people—and rightfully so! We live out important values based upon God’s Truth, looking to leaders (religious, economic, and political) to implement them. Maybe this is the mistake we make as we approach the secular intersections of our lives…like socio-politics and speaking Truth into a broken world. One of the challenges (and possibly disappointments depending on how you view it) is the results of our recent presidential election. How should Christians respond to the latest Commander-in-Chief of our powerful and influential nation?  

Slugging through this political season coupled with COVID, social unrest, injustice and TP shortages, I have wrestled with Jesus’ words in Mark 12:17:

“Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

In my current struggles, I can’t help but dare to ask if Jesus means there are things that belong to God, and things that belong to men—earthly things and heavenly things—so we should prioritize the heavenly things. I even admit my mind goes so far as to wonder if Christians shouldn’t concern themselves with earthly things like taxes, elections, politics, protests, rioting, unrest and injustice. I mean, what do these things have to do with the heavenly pursuit of Gospel living and preaching?  

However, further pondering Jesus’ meaning, I recall Jesus’ heavy words to his disciples in Luke 14, paraphrased in the following:

Whoever does not hate those closest…whoever does not take up their cross…whoever does not choose the right foundation, whoever does not count the cost…whoever does not renounce worldly possession cannot be my disciple.”

The act of his disciples humbly rendering taxes that belonged to Caesar and not getting distracted from pursuing God’s kingdom is a major point here.  In other words, Jesus moved the conversation from politics to kingdom values and wasn’t ultimately concerned about a small monetary tax. Rather, it was their pursuit of God in being set apart amidst their interaction with temporal affairs and not allowing it to be an undue distraction. He taught them to engage important earthly things while ultimately surrendering and committing themselves to God, and that “Caesar” should see it!  That taxes, tribute, socio-political power and influence may have belonged to Caesar, but they didn’t. They belonged to God! And as such they were to live in a manner that prioritized the things of God for the purpose of making disciples, even over the prospective protest of government taxes.  

Disciple-Making and Election Results

So, what is our focus and how do we best pursue disciple-making for Christ? That’s really the question as we gauge our response to election results. To do this, we must see the affairs of the world through God’s sovereignty. We cannot be driven by fear, anger or resentment. Nor can we put our trust or hope in ideological policy nor in those who implement them. We must, however, put our hope in God and respond in worship. We must enact compassion and conviction in our own lives. The sovereignty of God is His ability to enact His will (priorities) upon the affairs of an object (the earth) through His mighty authority and infinite wisdom.  In turn, this creates key opportunities for us to simply reflect Him amidst earthly affairs.  Particularly today, in the socio-political areas of our lives. The Apostle Peter gives us timelessly sobering instruction:

“Submit yourselves for the Lords’ sake to every human institution whether to a king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”  (1 Peter 1:13-14)  

The obvious curiosity here is how we respond to evil leaders, but this is not his focus. His point is the reason we submit to human leaders. It is clear in the context that it is for the sake of being a witness, causing others to praise God! Submitting to divinely sanctioned secular authorities is an act of neighborly love (See Romans 13 here). The unbelieving world is always watching those who claim to follow Jesus. As we act righteously and avoid contention, people see a clearer picture of Christ. But more so, God receives the praise because most people are rightly using us to determine who He is! It is difficult to discern and admit that our message is the Gospel, and socio-political ideology and programs are merely instruments.  When we fight for ideology and programs to be our message we become offensive to those who think differently and therefore the Gospel is dismissed, or worse, rejected! It is no longer for the Lord’s sake! More importantly, this mistake can cause division in the Church and further ruin our witness. Collectively, we should be prioritizing the Gospel in making disciples over a particular ideology or program. Consequently…

  1. Our political opinions must be based on biblical standards and not dependent on human ideas. We must assess the issues within a framework that emphasizes love and truth, compassion and conviction, social justice and moral order. Our political decisions must demonstrate love for our neighbors while observing the timeless truths God has revealed to us through Scripture. (37-38)
  2. America’s current political system separates love from truth, compassion from conviction, and social justice from moral order as if they’re somehow at odds with one another. (39)
  3. Through days of abundance, famine, or persecution, followers of Christ speak the truth in love because our beliefs aren’t determined by our circumstances. (42)
  4. Christians ought to evaluate all political issues through the love and truth of the gospel. This is a both-and proposition, not either-or. The world separates the two, but the gospel transcends the false divide and shows that we must value both. (Giboney, Justin; Wear, Michael; Butler, Chris. Compassion (&) Conviction (p. 42). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.)

Justin Giboney has a very important point for Christians to consider given the signs of our times. If we believe that the Gospel truly is for all people, for all time, and that it transcends circumstances then it has to transcend our political differences. We must be unified and thoroughly convinced of the ancient truths of Oneness:

“…One body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6) 

What Unites Us

This is who we are and it is what makes the Gospel attractive to those who are not like us! Paul’s point cannot be any more relevant and applicable to our current socio-political climate. Contextually (and certainly culturally), his audience had differences! (Ephesians 2). As difficult (and possibly offensive) as this might seem, our political views are not what unites us. It is not where the power to change hearts and redeem lives is found. It is found in the message and power of Jesus Christ’s Gospel! This is what we must be known for to one another and the outside world.   

Jeff Riley is the chair of the Educational Ministries Department at Emmaus Bible College and actively engaged in the spiritual development and ministry education of students as a full-time faculty member.

Posted by Jeff Riley

Jeff Riley is the chair of the Educational Ministries Department at Emmaus Bible College and actively engaged in the spiritual development and ministry education of students as a full-time faculty member.

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