While the 2016 presidential campaign has been an overall mess, it’s been a particularly disastrous affair for many professing Christians, who’ve debated and divided and rationalized in an attempt to justify a vote for either of the two worst candidates in American history.
The outrage many feel about our country’s present is real and understandable, much like the fear many have about the future. But Christians should not approach Election Day joyless or hopeless or with a sense of fear.
Despite the unease across America and in many churches as Tuesday approaches, Christians can rest in knowing that nothing takes God by surprise and nothing is beyond His control. Of course, we already know that. We’ve probably heard or said some version of that 1,000 times as the ugly campaign season dragged on. But it’s still good to be reminded. It’s also good to be reminded of other truths that remain unchanged regardless of the political climate.
So here are seven things that will still be true for Christians no matter what happens Tuesday.
1. God is still sovereign.
The Bible has a lot to say about God’s sovereignty. Daniel 2:21 tells us that God “removes kings” and “sets up kings.” This means his sovereignty even covers elections. To say it another way, nobody gets to live in the White House without God’s permission. However, it’s important to not confuse God’s permission with God’s endorsement. His will is not always obvious because His ways are not our ways. This goes for whoever wins in 2016. Neither side has the right to claim knowledge of God’s intentions based on election results.
2. Our mission won’t change.
Even if the worst fears of some came true and the result of the election somehow, inexplicably, led to Christianity being declared illegal in the United States, nothing about our mission would change. We’re called to spread the Gospel and make disciples no matter what. Likewise, if it remains easy to preach the Gospel in the United States — and, yes, it’s actually pretty easy right now — that’s not permission to fall into laziness and assume other people will do the Gospel work for you. If you profess to be a Christian, you’re called to spread the Good News of what Jesus has done in your life. The Bible offers no model of Christianity that’s free from evangelizing.
3. We’re still called to love our neighbor as ourself.
Even if your neighbor is an obnoxious redneck who voted for Donald Trump, or an arrogant liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton, or any other kind of person who voted for any other kind of candidate, we’re still called to love them. This means we shouldn’t greet or treat them after the election with disrespect, anger, hate, gloating, sarcasm or anything else that would reflect poorly on our witness. Even if your neighbor is racist, gay, Communist, Muslim, atheist or anything else that differs from your beliefs, they are still made in the image of God and the ol’ Golden Rule is still in effect. The Bible offers no exceptions for when it doesn’t apply, so, yes, it’s binding after Tuesday.
4. We’re still called to pray for our leaders.
If Trump gets elected, we should pray for him. If Hillary gets elected, we should pray for her. This isn’t optional, according to Scripture. But, for some reason, we like to treat it that way. We’re all guilty, and it’s a big reason why we’ve landed in such a pathetic state ahead of the election. The Bible says a lot about prayer. Prayer is powerful, so we should use that power to pray for our next president. Even if we don’t like him/her. Heck, especially if we don’t like him/her. Tip: Prayer is a better change agent than even your most scathing social media meme.
5. Our hope is still in Jesus.
It ultimately doesn’t matter whether our preferred candidate wins or loses on Election Day. Our fight is not against flesh and blood and our hope is not in tolerance or unity or the Supreme Court. Our only hope for salvation, our only hope for a better America, is Jesus. This is why we should be anxious for nothing. Whatever change we hope to see in the country — fighting/ending racism, lowering crime, increasing religious liberty, etc. — all starts with the Gospel. True change won’t happen outside of the Gospel, which is why it’s so important for professing Christians to spread it. And to be clear, the Gospel says that God is holy, man is sinful and in need of a savior, and that savior is Jesus. Everything else flows from that knowledge and from that change.
6. We’re still called to glorify God in all we do.
This ties in nicely with No. 3. For professing Christians, our first allegiance is to Jesus. When Jesus is your first allegiance, it’s a lot harder for other allegiances to control you. With that in mind, there is no election outcome that makes it OK for Christians to forsake the Bible with our words or our behavior. 1 Corinthians 10:31 makes it clear that “whatever you do” should be done for the glory of God. This is always important, but it’s especially important given the rancor we’ve heard for the past year. Don’t ruin your witness because of election results.
7. The power of the Gospel can still save anyone.
Salvation is available to all who believe, but people can’t believe the Gospel unless they hear the Gospel, and they can’t hear the Gospel if Christians don’t proclaim the Gospel. That’s why Christians should not view any person or people as the enemy. Trump won’t be the enemy if he wins. Clinton won’t be the enemy if she wins. If you believe either or both of them to be evil, Jesus has already overcome evil and His saving grace can change anyone. With a changed heart eventually comes changed beliefs, priorities and behaviors. That’s a big reason why we should pray for the lost, and it’s a big reason why we should pray for our leaders. No matter how hard someone’s heart seems now, no heart is outside the reach of Christ, and no heart is too hard to be redeemed.
My prayer for Election Day and after is that professing Christians won’t let anger, fear, pride or laziness lead to more divisive talk or finger-pointing or anything else that gets us off mission and gives the church a bad name.
Let’s continue to pray for one another, forgive one another, speak the truth in love and point others to the biblical Jesus.
Take a deep breath. Say a prayer. It’ll all be over soon.
To paraphrase an old hymn, no matter the outcome on Election Day, let it be well with our souls.