This article is a partial transcript from a recent episode of The GoodLion Podcast, a product of Calvary Global Network. Listen to the full episode below or subscribe.
The 2020 presidential election has been the capstone of a remarkably bad year, the only cherry fitting for ice cream sundae of horrors that this year has served us. Things have been tense, to put it mildly. Partisan Facebook posts, one-sided conversations, and harsh accusations abound.
For followers of Jesus, this moment presents a very important choice. We can contribute to the noise in a remarkably noisy season, or we can be messengers of peace in a country that desperately needs it.
The purpose of this article is not to outline who I think you should vote for. Instead, what I want to highlight are four ways we can live like Jesus in the midst of a contentious election.
1. Make Prayer Your Top Priority
It is so easy to talk about how important prayer is. We all bring up how much we value the idea of praying. We all say that what we need to do most is pray for our country, but let me ask this: Are you actually doing that? Are you actually consistently praying that God would have his way in America?
Sometimes in praying for our country, we only pray the big picture prayers. We often ask God to have His way in America, but we don’t ask how we can most effectively influence Americans. In an anxious moment, we should consistently pray for God to make us a non-anxious presence in an anxious moment so that others can see that following Jesus is worthwhile. If ultimately we're going to say that our first allegiance is to God's kingdom, then our primary action should focus on that kingdom.
Let me not mince words: I do not believe that voting is the most important thing you can do in this election. I believe that praying is the most important thing you can do in this election.
I'm not saying you shouldn't vote. I'm not saying that you should give up on every other thing that you do, you should do. But if we give up on prayer, we are giving up the most important thing that we can do. We're giving up the most influential tool we have at our disposal.
Jesus calls us to pray. He asks us to pray for leaders. He asks us to pray for the well-being of wherever we happen to live. Let's make sure that we're focused on prayer.
2. Be Gracious When Everyone Else is Being Vicious
How many posts have you seen where somebody has said, “If you don't vote for the candidate of my choice, you can just unfollow/unfriend me?” More than a few, right? Whenever I see those posts, I can't help but feel that, “Vote my way, or get out of my life,” is a fragile form of friendship. How sad to have relationships that are entirely built on political agreement.
Well, let’s think about it this way. What message do we communicate when we post, “if you don’t vote a certain way, you can’t be a Christian?” Statements like that add a condition to the Gospel that Jesus never included.
When we hear the gospel shared in church, holding the right political view is never mentioned. When you meet with a friend that doesn't believe in Jesus and you try to walk them through the process of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, you don't bring up voting at all.
So why are we going to add voting a certain way to what counts as being a follower of Jesus? I don't think we can do that. People do things from all different kinds of motivations. I don't think it's our job to judge the motives of other believers. I don't think it should affect the way that we love other people.
Think about all the encounters you see between Jesus and people that were very anti-Jesus. What was he doing? He was listening. He was asking questions. He was sidestepping hot button issues from time to time so that he could focus on the issue that he really cared about: establishing the kingdom of God and inviting everyone to join it.
3. Follow Your Conscience and the Holy Spirit
I believe that Jesus will lead his followers to do different things this election season. There may not be one “Christian” way to vote. Instead, Jesus may lead some of His people to vote a certain way so they can influence their communities and other followers of His to vote another way. I think it's very possible that as a Christian, you can be led to vote for one candidate or another, or to vote for a third party candidate or to not vote at all.
Maybe this idea sounds shocking to you, particularly if you are accustomed to the idea that Christians are searching for the “right way” to vote. But if we really believe that God’s main goal is not political, then God is guiding us with His kingdom in mind, not just with a political candidate in mind. His plans are bigger than we know, so let’s believe that He can accomplish His purposes even if we don’t all agree on one candidate.
I hope that each of us prayerfully arrive at our convictions. Don’t let news outlets or media sources make your mind up for you; let Jesus show you what to do. And once you receive that from Jesus, you run with that. Really hang on to Romans 14:23 which tells us, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
That means that what you do might put you out of step with other people around you. That's okay. Followers of Jesus throughout history have always been out of step with society. They have always been the outcasts. If you're following your conscience and the Holy spirit, you're doing exactly what God wants you to do. Even if it leads to feeling like an outcast.
4. Prepare Yourself to Take The Humble Seat in Society
God's kingdom is not about political power. God's people have been in exile under the fist of oppressive systems, and they've been most influential when they've been most marginalized.
As we hear all of the claims of “taking our country back,” Christians can find confidence that we don't need to take back anything. The world is already God's. God will work everything out in his timing. God's goals have not and cannot be stopped by any particular election result. Your real King has no chance of being voted out. And if the election result leaves you feeling like you lost or leaves you feeling like your voice wasn't heard, remember that that has been the standard political position for the church throughout human history.
Hebrews 11:36-37 describes a number of faithful followers of Jesus by saying that, “Some faced jeers and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning. They were sodden too. They were killed by the sword they went about in sheepskins and goatskins destitute, persecuted and mistreated.”
But in verse 38, it says, “The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. They were all commended for their faith yet. None of them received what had been promised.”
When we think about following Jesus, we should rather live on the outskirts with Jesus than establish political power without Him. While we have the incredible privilege to influence our nation through voting, it’s worth remembering that God has consistently used people without political influence to demonstrate the kind of life he offers. Jesus is the ultimate power; He's already welcomed us onto His side, and He is in the process of establishing His kingdom.
This is a crazy moment in history. It is a scary season. It is moment where I completely understand why so many people are freaking out. But that freak out is the perfect opportunity to remind people the presence of God provides peace and healing, even while chaos like this is going on.
This is our chance to show people that following Jesus genuinely makes things different. Let's be committed to showing people that following Jesus brings peace and hope and makes you generous and gracious. We don't need to join the thousands of shouting voices. Instead, we can act as heralds of a greater kingdom to come.
Psalm 146:3-4 says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.” God’s desire is not to create a community around a man running for office. God’s desire is to create a family around a man who gave His life for ours. Christians can stand firm in unity built on Jesus regardless of what we do with our ballots. That’s the kind of unity our country needs, and only Christians can offer that.
The GoodLion podcast is a show by Aaron Salvato and Brian Higgins, the founders of CGN’s GoodLion Podcast Network. Each episode, their goal is to ask hard questions, push past easy answers and always look to Jesus, the God who is not safe but is very good. Visit GoodLion.io.