Well, it’s that special season once again. Every four years in the United States, it seems citizens from all backgrounds and walks of life get caught up in that frenzy known as the presidential election. While the faces and issues may change, one thing remains certain: The loudest voices at both ends of the political spectrum know that their candidate is absolutely right, the other is dead wrong and the world’s only hope is for their man to get into office.
To be sure, the people who govern over us deserve our respect and even our honor. Passages of scripture like 1 Peter 2:13-17 make it clear that God desires for us to obey, support and pray for our earthly leaders, even in situations when we might not agree with them. Furthermore, in countries like the U.S., where citizens have the opportunity to be significantly involved in the political process, it is right and good for us to be informed and active.
The problem arises when we place our highest hope for the improvement or, perhaps more accurately, the redemption of our society in fallen man. As a result, disagreement with a group’s response to an issue can become hatred for the members of that group. Even worse, for many Christians, religious beliefs become a means to the end of political prowess. We allow our political affiliations to outshine our allegiance to Christ.
What is essential for us to remember is that our ultimate hope is in the one true king, Jesus Christ, and the perfect kingdom he is establishing. As Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, put it in a McClatchy Newspapers report: “We’re not married to the donkey or the elephant. We’re married to the Lamb.”
While God is gracious enough to allow the actions of sinful politicians to result in positive societal change, the Bible is clear that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring about the deep change necessary to transform the human heart. Until people seek to honor God and serve others instead of clawing for their own needs and desires, we should not expect a shift toward sustainable and lasting good.
So what does this mean for how Christians approach elections? We must start by bathing the situation in prayer, lifting up candidates and communities to the Lord. He truly is our first and only hope. Second, we should be involved in the conversation in a way that reflects the love and compassion of Christ, along with his truthfulness and holiness. As Ephesians 4:15 says, we ought to speak the truth in love.
Perhaps most importantly, we should stop expecting the government to do something that is primarily the job of the church. The body of Christ should be so committed to proclaiming and portraying the gospel to the world that the government has a hard time finding people in need. Certainly, there’s an important place for government bodies in the world, but the church is the institution God will use to bring about eternal change.
Finally, don’t let cynicism or fanaticism discourage you. Get out there and vote, and get excited about seeing God work through, and even in spite of, worldly circumstances.
(Trip Smith is the web and social media strategist for TWR. From time to time, he’ll blog his reflections on current events and how they connect to biblical truth. Check back soon for more posts like this one.)