Jesus and Politics (and the 2016 presidential election)
Tomorrow is the big day. The final votes will be cast and we will find out who our next president will be. Some will be ecstatic, while others completely devastated. Through it all, it can be easy to ignore Jesus. But he's here and wants our attention.
As a Jesus-follower, a pastor, an immigrant, a married man and father, this election has created a barrage of ripples in my social spheres. There are people on every side of the issues, opinions and ideas held onto tightly, defensive and angry postures taken, demonizations of the 'other' side, and a ton of emotional energy spent thoughtlessly. As a pastor at a multi-generational and multi-racial church, I talk to people who are democrats and republicans, conservatives and liberals, big government supporters and small government die-hards. There are perspectives on why things are the way they are, what needs to be done to fix the problems we face, and how government should be involved or uninvolved in the process.
There’s an emotion and fervor attached to a political party or candidate or platform, that reaches fever pitch every four years during a presidential election. And it seems like the 2016 presidential election cycle has brought out the worst. If we’re not careful, we might be following someone or something other than Jesus in this messy political climate. We may even ignorantly be putting our hope in a political party or a person. When our candidate wins or loses, our hopes and emotions go along for the ride. And yet I believe, there is a way for us to keep our perspective and focus in on Jesus through it all.
Whichever party or candidate wins tomorrow, I know Jesus would want us to keep a few things clear...
Keep Our Hope In Jesus, Not A Party Or Person
We don't follow a person or a party or a platform. We follow Jesus. We are first Christians, before we are Americans. We are citizens of the kingdom of God, before we are ever citizens of the United States. We were meant to be more connected to a fellow Jesus-follower in Pakistan or China, than we are to a national flag or patriotic pride. Being a patriot, caring for our country, protecting our national interests, all of that is good and fine. But what matters most is our first allegiance to Jesus and his kingdom. Jesus isn't for America or against America. Jesus is for people and he is against sin. He loves the rich and the poor, the well-known and unknown, the haves and have-notes. His kingdom is about more than what we're about. If we ever put our hope in something or someone other than Jesus, we have made that thing or that person Lord over our lives. Jesus isn't our personal, private religion. He isn't a genie in a bottle or divine vending machine. As a Christian, we let Jesus run our lives. We follow his lead as we trust and obey. In a hotly contested election, whoever ends up winning at the end of the day, doesn't matter. That person or party or platform, is not what will change your life or the life of someone you know. The only person who can do that is Jesus. So let's put our hope in the One who deserves our hope.
Don't Demonize Fellow Brothers & Sisters
Whatever your political bent, don't be surprised when a fellow Jesus-follower doesn't agree with you. Every person's experience and opinions of life have to be respected. It can be easy to point fingers and demonize the other, because they don't agree with you. Jesus doesn't let us do this. He stops us in our tracks and encourages us to view each other with the love of God. Don't let how you voted stop you from relating to a fellow Christian who didn't vote like you. The other person is as confident about their perspective as you are about yours. It's important to not dehumanize people when they disagree with you. Seek to understand like Jesus. Recognize that while it's easy to scapegoat and ostracize someone who doesn't vote like you, that's not what Jesus would ever ask you to do. It's important to listen, accept, and learn from those who don't think like you do.
Stop Submitting To A Victim Mentality
Political candidates and parties always get people to think like victims. It's always the other party's fault, never their own. No political candidate will tell you that it was their party's fault for why something happened the way it did (if they did, they wouldn't get elected), even if it might have been. There's always someone or something to be scared of. There's always someone else to blame for why things aren't right. The truth about following Jesus, is that he calls us to be victors not victims. In Christ, we have won not lost. In Christ, we have a future and a hope. We have so much to look forward to. You don't have to blame anyone for why your life isn't what you want it to be. Sure politics plays a part, but I know that Jesus is greater and his kingdom is stronger. We have to believe that God is on the throne, and that He is the Lord. We don't have to let a political climate dictate our spiritual atmosphere. We can walk in faith and confidence that God is leading and directing our lives, as we submit to him.
Pray More, Not Less For Our Nation
As much your vote counts, your prayer will go further still. God asks us to pray for the leaders in authority over us. If Paul could tell this to Christians under a brutal dictator like Nero, then we've got to believe that it would apply to whoever is in office in our present day. We must pray for God's kingdom to advance, for brokenness to be made whole, for an increase in moral purity, for the sanctity of life from womb to tomb, for transformation in our families and businesses. If we worried less and prayed more, I believe we would see so much more transformation in our society. When we pray, we grow our love for people, and usher in the reality of heaven. Regardless of our politics, the more we pray, the more we will see God's kingdom become a reality now.
Look For Opportunities To Embody Change
Too often, we can wait for a party or a person to fix our problems. We think that if the party in power changed, it the president were a better person, or if certain laws are passed, that somehow that will fix everything. As Jesus-followers, we aren't waiting for the government to change our country. God asks us to be the change we wish to see. We aren't just called to pray for revival or a moral reformation; we are given the divine task of carrying revival and embodying the love and justice of God. Christianity has flourished in worse political climates, horrific human oppression, and religious persecution. As Jesus-followers, we aren't waiting for a magical political miracle, we are called to embody the compassion and kindness of God everywhere we go. There is no atmosphere you walk into, where the Spirit of God in you can't change it. You walk in the authority and power of Jesus. We were meant embody change, not simply wait for it to happen. Your vote matters, but what you do with your life matters more.
Take This Further
Here are some additional resources to help you process and pray through Jesus and politics. These have helped me greatly...
- Jesus For President (book by Shane Claiborne)
- The Politics Of Jesus (book by John Howard Yoder)
- Faith & Politics (video by Timothy Keller)
- Good Faith (book by Dave Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons)
- 7 Things Christians Need To Remember About Politics (Relevant Magazine)