Today is Election Day. Can you imagine the feeling for those who believe that their happiness, their well-being, their fulfillment somehow rests on this outcome? I don’t know about you, but if my hope were in this government fixing my problems and making this world better, I would be, as Paul says, “of all men, most to be pitied.”
Or maybe that’s how you’re feeling this morning?
Today, we are faced with the choice of picking one horrible option over another, and many have so invested themselves in the process that they’ve convinced themselves that one of those two actually is worthy of support. Even Christians!
Maybe it’s because we like taking sides and competing. Maybe it’s because deep down, we’re still convinced that the “American Way” is somehow tied to our relationship in Christ, and that the government has been put in place by God because it’s righteous, but that THIS candidate will be the one that finally makes it UN-righteous..
Or maybe we’ve forgotten where our home really is.
I think we often misunderstand scripture when it discusses the role of civil government:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” — Romans 13:1-4
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” — 1 Peter 2:13-17
Both Paul and Peter instruct us as Christians to submit to human rule, pointing out that God has put those power in place for a reason. But I think we misunderstand that purpose: it’s not so that Christians can have a world where the government supports them and helps them to build a righteous community. That’s never worked — even when God wrote the law, gave it to the people of Israel and literally chose a king to rule over them!
Think about the time during which the apostles wrote those letters. The “God-instituted” government of that day was in the process of slaughtering Christians, forcing them to renounce Jesus or face unspeakable torture. Do you think that government cared anything about “family values” or “protecting our children from bad influences?”
Christians have been trying since almost the beginning of the Lord’s church to co-opt the government as its right arm. But when Paul talked about the Roman government being in place to avenge wrongdoing, do we really think Paul meant that the Roman government was punishing sinners? Or maybe they were just creating a stable system of law and order, wherein a person who murdered or stole would be punished?
God calls His children to live “peaceful, quite lives” (1 Timothy 2:2), and you have to have civil order to do that. You have to live in a society where — at least for the most part — the government is working to maintain some semblance of a structured and orderly community with a code of conduct by which everyone has to live. I would submit to you that if that changes this week, it won’t be because of either of these candidates.
It will be because we chose chaos over peace. We chose conflict over kindness. We cared more about imposing our will on the world around us than we did about submitting our will to our one king, Jesus Christ.
Do we really believe that we’re citizens of the kingdom? Do we really believe, as Peter writes, that we’re submitting to the government of this world because God told us to do it, as opposed to believing we belong here? Have we forgotten who we are?
Let’s act like children of the kingdom today. And moving forward. No matter who wins this election, that new president won’t make any of our lives any better, and he/she certainly won’t be dedicated to doing God’s will. This election won’t further the cause of Christ one bit.
But if we let it, it could cost us our souls.