Reflections on the Election
Dear City Church of Long Beach,
My son Timothy’s candidate did not win yesterday’s election. Here’s the text I got from him early today:
Psalm 46 was especially poignant this morning:
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.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall… Be still and know that I am God.
Pretty thoughtful for a 17-year-old kid. It was helpful for me to be reminded that God is God, and that I am not. And that God has a lot of experience dealing with nations that are in uproar. I want to accept His invitation to be still and trust Him to be God. Perhaps that will help me sleep better tonight.
I have friends who voted Republican, friends who voted Democrat, friends who voted Independent, and friends who chose not to vote. Some are celebrating. Many are grieving. All are my friends. I wonder, what does it look like for me to be their friend (and possibly pastor) today?
As I was praying about that question, I stumbled onto the Apostle Paul’s engagement with these issues. Immediately before Paul starts in on politics (“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities…” Romans 13:1), he lays the foundation for how to go about being political creatures. He writes,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Romans 12:14-16
I wonder what it would look like if those of us who followed Jesus took these words to heart. Paul assumes that it’s not always going to go well for us – that we are going to experience persecution. That means our enemies are going to exercise power over us for our harm. Can you imagine if, as a community, we responded to that harm with blessing instead of cursing? The watching world wouldn’t know what to do with us. I suspect that’s exactly what God would be saying to us as a church right now – what if we committed to blessing people today instead of cursing them? Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t protest or work for change. But how radically different would we look if we went about those activities with the attitude of Jesus?
I think Paul’s next words speak to those of us who did not vote for Mr. Trump. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice. That may seem impossible to you. I suppose that’s fitting since the One we follow loves the impossible. His call is to recognize not only the positive aspects of the people who voted for Mr. Trump, but also the positive aspects of what they voted for. Can you do that? Can you seek to understand them and value them and honor them?
Then I think Paul speaks to those of us who did vote for Mr. Trump: mourn with those who mourn. I’ve been in touch today with a number of friends who are hurt and fearful because as a woman, a queer person, or a person of color they experienced the election as a rejection of their worth as people. Many others feel a real sense of loss and anxiety because their values have not been validated. Jesus calls us to understand their pain and to actually enter into it. Can you do that? Can you see why this election result would be so painful for them, and can you grieve deeply with them?
Finally, Paul invites us all to live in harmony with one another. That’s just downright crazy. All of us, in harmony? Our nation is so divided, so full of anger and hatred and cursing and name calling – how in the world could we be united?
I’d like to suggest a very simple starting point. Would you come to the communion table on Sunday and participate by taking the bread, dipping it in the cup, and eating together with your church family? I would like to suggest that our deepest unity doesn’t rest in what we agree on, but in what has been done for us. Our unity is not ideological - it is sacramental. So come to the table of grace with the rest of us. That table is set for all of us who don’t have it together, for all of us who look to the One who gave himself freely so that we could experience grace. And I suspect we’ll find that we step towards each other by the simple fact that together we’re stepping towards Christ.
In him alone,