We are now just a couple of weeks away from the presidential election. It’s not far from the top of everyone’s minds, and for most of us, the election represents a lot of issues.
Depending on your political persuasion, it might represent an opportunity for corruption. Or gratification. Or self-expression. Or anger. Or retribution. Or validation. But here’s one more thing to consider if you’re a Christian:
Regardless of how you plan to cast your vote, this election represents an opportunity for discipleship. This should not surprise us, because every situation represents an opportunity for discipleship. When Jesus told us what is required in following Him, He painted the answer in very broad strokes:
“If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Taking up your cross and dying to self is not a one-time decision; it’s a daily decision. Every single day – including election day – we have the choice about whether we will take up our cross or not. Whether we will live for ourselves or not. Whether we will follow Jesus on the road of self-denial or not. That includes the election. Even more important than the vote itself is this truth – the election provides an opportunity for discipleship. Here are three specific reasons why:
1. The election provides an opportunity to love and pray for our enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mathew 5:43-46).
Here is one command that tends to sit on the shelf because most of us don’t think of ourselves as having enemies. Oh sure, there are people we don’t particularly care for, but enemies? Not really. So this opportunity to follow Jesus just sits on the shelf… until now.
Regardless of which way you intend to cast your vote, chances are you will cast it with a higher degree of passion than you have had for most of your life. And whenever we are passionate about something, that passion tends to bleed over into dislike, disrespect, and yes, even hatred toward those who disagree with our choice.
Here, then, is an opportunity to follow Jesus. To be unlike the rest of the world. To take the way of discipleship seriously, because “if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?”
2. The election provides an opportunity to not let sin reign.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
The disciple of Jesus is conscious of his or her sin, and is in battle against it. We know sin will take hold in all kinds of ways, but as followers of Jesus, we have the grace to deny that foothold and walk in peace and grace.
Here, then, we have a very practical opportunity to not let sin reign in any part of us. That includes our mouths as we choose not to spew anger and bitterness. That includes our fingertips as we refrain from tweets and posts and disparage and stir up controversy. As our blood is hot and the temptation is great, we can choose, by God’s grace, to once again walk the road of self-denial.
3. This election provides an opportunity for us to walk in faith.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
in all your ways know him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Don’t be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).
Some large group of people is going to be disappointed in a few weeks. Really disappointed. Here again we have another opportunity to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and to lean not on our own understanding. In the face of disappointment, walking in faith will be difficult. It will have to be intentional. And it’s in that intentionality we find the opportunity for spiritual growth.
Friends, we are Christians. And we cannot place our faith in a political party at the detriment of placing our faith in the Lord. We must trust that God sets up kings and deposes them; that He directs the hearts of rulers like watercourses; that all of creation bends ultimately to His sovereign will.
Whether your candidate wins or loses, we will have the opportunity when the vote doesn’t go as we think it should, when people don’t behave like we think they should, when we don’t understand much that is happening to reaffirm our trust in God.
Now we should also be careful here, because trusting in the Lord does not mean forgoing our passion. It also does not mean being inactive. Our faith is not an excuse for laziness and lethargy. But it does color all those activities, and even more, the attitudes we bring to them. The Christian who is trusting in the Lord lives above the sense of desperation that has pervaded society on both sides of the political aisle.
This election means many things. It’s important for many reasons. But let us not neglect the impact this election might have on our soul. Let us not neglect the opportunity for discipleship that is now looming ahead of us.