I think we can all agree that we are glad this election is behind us, regardless of how we feel about the outcome. Many of us may be discouraged. Some may be angry, not only at the candidates and political parties, but at their fellow believers who voted for or didn’t vote for those we personally felt strongly for or against.
Before anything else, let me begin with a plea for unity in the body of Christ that comes from Jesus Himself:
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:20-23)
I had a talk just the other day with a good brother who was voting for a candidate I could not in good conscience vote for. But he, in his conscience, felt he had to vote for him. We lamented that the outcome of this election would be discouraging for both of us. We talked about how we were committed to believe the best of each other, and not let this affect our friendship. I love this brother, and he loves me. Our friendship and our identity as partners in the gospel and part of the church will not be tarnished through this.
I encourage you to not assume the worst of your brothers and sisters in Christ. I found in this election more than any other I’ve seen, many people with pure motives passionately disagreed with each other’s choices. So don’t assume your fellow church members have sinned. But if you are convinced they have sinned, forgive them. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Here are seven perspectives as we seek to think biblically and eternally about not only the upcoming four years, but for the rest of our lives:
1. God remains sovereign and in control.
The Lord “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). There is great comfort in acknowledging and embracing Scripture’s teaching that God is sovereign over human events, including the outcome of elections. In Isaiah 46:10, God says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Those who believe in a God who knows “the end from the beginning” can relax because even though they don’t know what lies ahead, their sovereign God does.
Our fates do not rest in the hands of fallen humankind: politicians, lawyers, military officers, employers, or even spouses and children. If we believe this, our reaction to many of the difficulties we face will be different. Problems will seem smaller, for although we can’t control them, we know God can—and everything will work out for His glory and our good.
“Dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Because God has absolute power, no one—including demons and humans who choose to violate His moral will—can thwart His ultimate purpose. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
Ultimately our hope is in Him, this Sovereign over the nations: “O LORD, the God of our fathers, are you not God in the heavens? And are you not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations?” (2 Chronicles 20:6).
2. While circumstances can sometimes change and become worse, our Savior never changes.
I have been asked whether I think God will judge America. I believe He has for some time been judging us for many things, including the killing of the unborn, immorality, materialism, and arrogance. In fact, I believe the two major party candidates of our recent election were themselves part of God’s judgment upon us.
However, even when God judges a nation for its sins, He freely offers grace, empowerment, and hope for His people, and for all who will turn to Him in repentance and trust. He is faithful. In Malachi 3:6, God says, “I the Lord do not change.” He’s a God “who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God doesn’t change in His essence, character, knowledge, plans, or purposes: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck… Our heart leaps for joy as we bow before One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose.”
3. Only by trusting in Christ and His promise of the world to come can we find peace.
Jesus told His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). It is now, not at some vague point in the future, that “the Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11, NIV). The fruit of the Spirit is not something we wait until Heaven to enjoy; it’s available to us in this life (see Galatians 5:22-23). “So my heart rejoices and I am happy” (Psalm 16:9, NET). Did you catch that the psalmist is speaking in the present tense? He isn’t just anticipating rejoicing—he’s doing it now.
Today’s supernatural peace and happiness in Christ is drawn from an infinite deposit of happiness that God has already placed in our account. It isn’t something we have to wait to experience after death, though only then will we experience it completely. We can find comfort and joy knowing “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him” (Psalm 145:18).
May we thank God for His sovereign grace, and entrust ourselves, our children and grandchildren, our churches and our country, to His care and mercy. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
4. Remember that the Bible’s commands to submit to ruling authorities were given at a time when Christians were facing hardship and oppression.
Romans 13:1-3 says, “Everyone must submit himself to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.”
Paul was writing to a Roman church feeling the heat of persecution. In coming to Christ the Roman Christians confessed “Jesus is Lord.” Simultaneously, they boldly refused to recite the words of unconditional loyalty to the state: “Caesar is Lord.” That’s why they were facing suspicion and increasing oppression from the government. Within only a few yards of the writing of Romans, Nero would launch a campaign of persecution against them, which would recur in waves over the next two and a half centuries.
The Roman Christians could easily have become resentful of and even rebellious against the often corrupt government of Rome. Paul saw that Caesar could be regarded as the enemy in such a context. But for the most part, Roman law was just and worthy of obedience. It was only in rare cases that Christians should disobey. For example, the law that commanded sacrifice to Caesar or the law that forbade intervention for the abandoned infants left to die outside the city gates. Paul did not have to mention those exceptions. All his readers knew them, and churches didn’t obey those laws. (Examples today would include if the government forbade churches from speaking against homosexual practices or abortion, which would be commanding Christ-followers to act inconsistently with Scripture.)
If Paul called his readers to submit to the ruling authorities of Rome, we too should obey Scripture’s command to pray for and submit to our American leaders. Let’s thank God for the freedoms we continue to enjoy, and use every opportunity to glorify Christ and testify concerning Him.
When and if the time comes that we must disobey the government—for instance, if we’re told we can’t preach what the Bible says—let’s do so not with rancor but in the straightforward way that we see in Scripture: “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Act 5:29).
We may increasingly experience persecution in the years to come, as our belief in Scripture will continue to separate us from the culture around us. As Romans 8:28 indicates, God brings good things out of bad. If American churches face more adversity in the future, which I think we will, may we experience greater zeal for Christ, more fruitfulness, and increased joy in our Lord.
5. Deceit isn’t confined to politicians—and as Christ’s followers, we should be defined by gracious truth-telling.
As this election cycle dramatically illustrated, telling the truth is no longer normal among our civic leaders. (Sadly, this is true of people from every segment of society, not just politicians. Note the number of times characters routinely lie to each other in television shows and movies.) The spiritual implications of choosing a path of deception are considerable when you look at Revelation 22:15, which says that among those who have no place in Heaven is “everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
A society cannot function without trust. People should be able to trust their politicians, pastors, bankers, mechanics, shopkeepers, and police officers. Where there is no trust, families and churches and nations cannot operate properly. We’re naive to think that our own social system can withstand the barrage of dishonesty it has been undergoing for these last decades. Without honesty there is no integrity, and without integrity, we as a nation are nothing. None of our past virtues or successes can compensate for our present lack of integrity.
But as followers of Christ, we’re to live differently. We are to walk in the truth (3 John 3), love the truth, and believe the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10,12). We’re to speak the truth “in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We may not be able to fix the problem of deceit in our government, perhaps not even in our neighborhoods and workplaces, though we can be a positive influence there.
6. While we can’t control the world around us, we can positively impact the lives we do have control over.
We can’t control the new president’s choices. But by the Spirit’s empowerment, we can make daily decisions that are honoring to Christ: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20)
God has also given us opportunities to positively influence the other lives around us in our families, churches, and communities. If you’re a parent or grandparent, or a mentor of young people, you can impact future generations for Christ. You can choose to be a truth teller, and you can teach your children and grandchildren to be the same. We can help raise the bar of truthfulness in our churches.
When we fail to tell the truth, we fail to represent Jesus, who is the Truth personified. When we speak the truth in love, we cast our votes for Jesus. We become the kinds of people we wish there were more of in political office.
7. Our primary God-given job is not to promote conservativism or liberalism, but to represent Jesus, our true King, and Heaven, our true country.
Conservativism is not the Gospel. Liberalism is not the Gospel. Patriotism is not the Gospel. Only the Gospel is the Gospel.
I love my earthly country, and I want to hold on to liberty, but America is not the answer. Christ is the answer. The church shouldn’t merely be raising young conservatives, but sold-out followers of Jesus who just want to be like Him, regardless of whether in a given instance that looks liberal or conservative. (See my article Conservative, Liberal, or Christian?) We should teach our children to oppose abortion not because they’re conservatives, and teach our children to oppose racism not because they’re liberals, but because they love Jesus and believe in biblical justice for all people.
We should teach our children to set their hopes NOT on the Republican or Democratic parties or any other party, but upon the only One who can save them—their true President, their true Chief Justice, and their true Lawmaker. “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). No matter what direction our earthly country may be going, it’s our never-ending heavenly country that we should represent. America may or may not unravel in coming decades, but God’s kingdom certainly won’t unravel. People of the world don't need America; they need Jesus. So, sure, do what you can for your earthly country, but realize it’s not the source of your true identity.
The key to influence and change in this world is not, and never has been, politics. It is faithfulness to Jesus. In the end, which will never end, acts of faithfulness—many of them quiet, some seen only by God—are the votes that will count, bringing the eternal results that will matter. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Whether it’s coaching a team, mentoring young people, mowing a widow’s lawn, standing up for unborn children, working for racial reconciliation, going on short-term missions trips, or giving a large portion of your income to missions or inner-city work—If we’re doing it through Christ’s power we’re bringing a foretaste of the coming New Earth to this current, hurting Earth.
As Romans 8 tells us, this world under the curse groans as in the pains of childbirth, awaiting our Redeemer and our resurrection, on the coattails of which it too will rise. Meanwhile, nations will rise and fall, but through it all, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2). “The LORD foils the plans of the nations....But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:10-11).
The knowledge that a New Earth is coming should reassure us and give us perspective. It means that though injustice, corruption, deception, and ungodliness may be widespread, they will not last. God will make all things right, rewarding His people for trusting Him. He’ll turn this upside-down world right side up, placing it in the care of His beloved children. “To him be honor and eternal dominion” (1 Timothy 6:16).
Everlasting justice, peace, and righteousness are certainly coming, personally delivered by the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Meanwhile, may we be on their side, and His side, before they arrive.
“…until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed [makarios, happy] and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:14-16)
This article originally appeared on EPM.org, Eternal Perspective Ministries. Used with permission.
Publication date: November 9, 2016
Image courtesy: Unsplash.com