By Pastor Joshua Pendergrass
Bethany Baptist Church, Crane Hill
The 2016 election cycle has been one of the wildest ever. I have been watching and observing politics since grade school. I have worked on campaigns all the way from school board to Congress. From my perspective this election is one for the history books.
How should we respond to what has proven to be an unpredictable and never-before-seen election? How should we react to our changing political climate?
Answering these questions is as an important a quest for Christians as is determining which candidate is worthy of our support. There are six main ways we as Christians generally, and we as evangelicals specifically, ought to respond.
1. With conviction
As the world, and thus politics, grows increasingly hostile to our faith, we must resolve to stick to our convictions. We must not succumb to the temptation to change what we believe. Nor should we avoid allowing our religious convictions to come to bear on our political decisions.
Exchanging the truth for human favor is wrong.
The Bible speaks to many of the social and moral issues we face today. For those issues that the Bible is not so clear on, we can draw out certain principles from Scripture which can be applied. The test for us is not finding what the Bible says on something (most evangelicals know that), the true test comes for us in whether we live out what the Bible says.
We must use our convictions to change the world, not let the world change our convictions.
2. With grace and love
As Christians, while we must adhere to the truth of our convictions, we must temper our convictions with grace and love.
Certainly we may condemn a political candidate’s personal actions or disagree with certain policies. But we must be clear that those same actions or policies, though not in accord with the will of God, are not unforgiveable.
As Christians it is easy for us to remember that we are made in the image of God Himself. At times it is a lot harder for us to remember that those who don’t believe like us — even politicians — also are made in His image.
We can disagree with a candidate. We can pledge not to vote for him or her. But the moment we fail to offer grace and love is the moment we become hypocrites and lose any chance of nonbelievers seeing that we take our faith seriously.
3. With humility
I am thankful God has given us the gift of His special revelation through Scripture. I also am thankful those same words teach us that human beings don’t and can’t know everything. We are finite creatures and there are some things we cannot understand. We should avoid acting as if we know everything and that if everyone would just listen to us all would be better. Yes what we believe comes from God. But if we fail to act out of humility we will make the situation worse and we might actually be pushing people away from God.
4. With submission to authority
In less than two weeks this election will be over. Unless Christ returns before then, the sun will go down Nov. 8 and it will rise again Nov. 9. No matter who wins the election, unless God decides otherwise, life will go on.
No matter who wins, Christians will be faced with political and social policies that do not align with our values. If anything, this election makes clear that the age of casual Christianity is over. Being a Christian in America is only going to get harder.
If we act foolish and become angry because our candidate didn’t win, that doesn’t reflect well on God. The same is true if our candidate wins and we lord that over those on the other side.
We should never fail to advocate for policies that reflect a Christian worldview, but when we lose the argument we must accept it and ask for God’s help in doing so. The best way to silence those who don’t agree with us it to do what is good (1 Pet. 2:15).
5. With prayer
Now, more than ever, we must cry out to God. We need to beseech our Heavenly Father to raise up a new generation of leaders who are more committed to doing what is right than to doing what feels right.
We need to ask God to stir in the hearts of our countrymen a desire to seek Him and to retreat from the course we have embarked on of making sin the norm and righteous living the exception. We must, with sincerity and passion, cry out to God to return our nation to the God-fearing land it once was. And, once a new president is elected, we must commit daily to praying for him or her.
6. With hope
No matter who wakes up Nov. 9 as the president-elect of the United States, there will still be problems in our nation because there will still be sin.
No matter who wins the presidency, they will ultimately make mistakes and, in one way or another, disappoint the American people. This realization must cause us to hope in the Lord, not a candidate or party.
I suspect that in the years to come there will be much investment in chronicling what exactly happened as the American people chose their 45th president. My prayer is that reflections made about how the Church of Jesus Christ responded would simply be that it did what it was supposed to do — be the Church.
EDITOR’S NOTE — An expanded version of this post can be found at www.joshuapendergrass.com.