We approach a national election where so much that was previously unthinkable or hidden under layers of history and good manners has been normalized. If you’re like me, you’ve paid more attention to polls and prognostications about the outcome and the timeline of the outcome than you have in previous election cycles. If you’re going to vote, my prayer for you is that you don’t feel the need to check your faith at the voting booth door, that you vote in a way that you feel leads to the most flourishing for the most people, and that you understand that a vote is but a small signal of faithfulness. The harder questions of following Jesus we answer every day with an accumulation of decisions that seem inconsequential but in the grand scheme of things do much more to shape our character and bear witness to the world than pulling a lever once every couple of years.
Where do we spend our money? What does it look like to stand in solidarity with sisters and brothers in Christ who have been marginalized due to race, geography, or socio-economic status? How do we fight for justice with more than a social media post? How do we pray big prayers for God to change lives, change neighborhoods, and to help the church live up to the heights of our calling?
These are the questions we will answer on the other side of the election. And it’s these questions I want to give you a vision for moving forward. As Ecclesia, I want to call us to these habits as a people:
Come What May, We Will Be A People Who Are:
1. Listening: Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the moral arc of the universe "bends toward justice." How could he believe that when it seemed all the evidence would suggest the contrary? Well, Dr. King knew the big story of the Bible. It was his listening to the Lord that gave a plausibility and framework for his work for justice in the world. We have to be a people who hold onto our story, for out of it all beauty, justice, and peace flow. 2020 has exposed many deep fissures in the fabric of our society, many of which (to the great sadness of God) deeply implicate the church. The pleas for racial justice have gone up from the depths of sorrow and long years of crying “how long, Lord?” And these pleas stand at the center of many of our political divisions. Ecclesia, we can must continue to listen to our sisters and brothers who are narrating their experiences of suffering on account of the color of their skin. Whiteness (https://www.missioalliance.org/telling-the-truth-about-white-privilege/) is a principality and power in America that has insidiously infused itself into our way of life. Only by listening to those in our midst can this demonic force be named and cast out.
2. Peace-Making: The normalization of demonizing those who think about politics differently with contempt is not far from moving to violence (https://preemptivelove.org/blog/us-election-seeds-of-war/?fbclid=IwAR32o4BtIx1hF2cpGo65wEIQT8NQX4KMCyM8AZ8pUC4WxoDInD7jEns3LrE). Jesus makes peace by his blood shed on the cross (Eph. 2/Rom. 5v8). We make peace not by demanding our rights or seeking to be right but by trusting in the power of the cross—which will often look like foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1v18). This does not demand that we be passive about injustice; rather God’s grace is the most active resistance to injustice the world has ever known. Jesus gives us his words and life in order to make peace. They are not easy to live out but they are the only way to freedom:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’r and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
3. Fighting For Unity: You will no doubt hear many people calling for unity over the coming days. But to those who have long endured injustice, these calls to unity sound like the pleas of the false prophets in Jeremiah 6:
Prophets and priests and everyone in between
twist words and doctor truth.
My people are broken—shattered!—
and they put on Band-Aids,
Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’
But things are not ‘just fine’! (The Message)
Unity without confession and repentance is not a unity that leads to peace. It is a false unity where lip-service is paid to wounds but no change results. Jesus certainly prays that his church would be “one” (John 17v21) but that oneness is not a banal tolerance it is the harmony of life shared between Father and Son. Elsewhere, Jesus spells out this unity as Jesus says he does nothing but the will of his Father (John 5v19). Unity is only found in pursuing the will of God, in laying down our lives for one another (Phil. 2) and being fiercely devoted to one another. In other words, unity is not something we can say, “let’s be unified” but has to be fought for; meanwhile, things that are not reflective of the character and will of God do not make for unity. We can not hold a politic that ignores the plight of our sisters and brothers in our hands and call for unity with our mouths. To be one as Jesus is one with the Father is to be a harmony of word and deed.
4. Praying: If 2020 has taught us no other lessons, it has certainly taught us that we are not in control. God’s control does not mean that he is dictating every outcome but rather is an invitation to partner with him in prayer. As our political climate grows ever graver and the realities of the on-going pandemic limit our mission in certain facets, we are called to be a people of intercessory prayer, praying on behalf of our neighbors, neighborhoods, and nation. We’ve seen throughout our teaching series in Revelation that our prayers are literally poured out at the feet of Jesus. Let us be a people who pray fervently because we know our father loves us and it his profound joy to supply our needs and to bring the kingdom near (Luke 12v32).
I don’t know what the next days or weeks hold. But I do know that a commitment to God’s story, a commitment to one another, and a fervent belief in his power to heal and transform will sustain us and conform us more to the image of Jesus. The glorious gospel that Jesus announced to his disciples on that Easter morning 2,000 years ago is as true now as it has ever been:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28v18)
And just as the proclamation is true, so the purpose of our life together remains:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28vv19-20a)
And it all rests upon the promise of his never-failing presence:
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28v19b).