Editors’ note: This year’s election season clearly revealed what many have long suspected: America is a deeply divided nation. What has caused this division? What is the way forward? How can evangelicals respond in a way that leads to healing and increased unity? The Gospel Coalition invited several writers and observers to explore those and related questions for an online symposium on the State of Evangelicalism.
Other articles in this series:
- #NeverTrumpers in the Age of Trump (Hunter Baker)
- What Persecuted Syrians Can Teach Us About American Politics (Mindy Belz)
- Powerful Witness from a Position of Weakness (Bruce Ashford)
- Hope for America Despite Signs of Death (Greg Forster)
- 4 Suggestions for Post-Election Listening (Eric Redmond)
- Caught Between Doomsday Rhetoric and Changing Demographics (Mark Tooley)
- Raise Up a Transcendent Voice in a Partisan World (K. A. Ellis)
In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, many Christians are wondering where we go from here. How can citizens of the heavenly kingdom distinctly witness to this earthly kingdom during such times?
Here are four ways we as Christians are called to be unique in the days following the 2016 presidential election.
1. Our Unique Governmental Perspective
Although elections are important, as believers we uniquely understand that elections are not ultimate. It’s crucial we remember this perspective, because we have all kinds of pressure to forget it. Psalm 118:8–9 says, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” The same idea is also repeated in other psalms (60, 108, 146).
It’s all too easy to forget where our protection, provision, and salvation truly derives. We are bombarded with messages aimed at trying to get citizens to trust a political leader to make our lives better and more secure. With all this messaging, it’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria and forget that we belong soul and body to our faithful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When campaigns, elected officials, and even our country has come and gone, his life-giving reign and eternal kingdom will stand. This eternal perspective should keep Christians from becoming overly optimistic or anxious about the results of any election.
These things matter deeply, but we go wrong when we think and behave as though the power of God unto salvation is the American government rather than the eternal gospel. Additionally, ever since sin entered the world, governments have never reflected the exact values of God’s kingdom. Until Christ returns, they never will. Much of the misplaced hope and angst in the evangelical world today is because so many Christians have forgotten that we are pilgrims. We will never have perfect candidates or perfect choices or a perfect platform—not even close. Yet we are still called to critically and redemptively engage this fallen world and its systems.
Much of the misplaced hope and angst in the evangelical world today is because so many Christians have forgotten that we are pilgrims.
2. Our Unique Moral Perspective
Through our union with Christ, Christians have a broader moral perspective than the worldly political parties do. Galatians 3:27–28 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This means when we were joined to Jesus by faith and marked by him in baptism, we were also joined to everyone else Jesus is joined to—a diverse people from every tribe, nation, and tongue.
United in Christ, others’ practical concerns become our practical concerns. Their wellbeing matters deeply to us. We should carry those interests and concerns into our civic life. That union broadens our moral perspective beyond the boundaries of our own ethnic, class, and gender group.
Wealthy business-owning American citizens baptized in Christ, for example, must deeply consider the practical wellbeing of the undocumented migrant worker and refugee also baptized in Christ. Christian civil engagement is not fundamentally self-interested. At every step Christians should think, How can I serve the diverse brothers and sisters who sit on the pews across the tracks or all around me every single Sunday? How can I engage in a way that I can look them in the eye and say I also served their interests rather than simply my own? When we consider the interests of the saints across the racial, class, and gender divide, we uniquely bear witness to the catholicity and unity of the kingdom of our Lord. That’s a powerful principle that should make a real difference in how we respond to the results of this most recent election.
Can you imagine how it would shake up the political system if Christians consistently voted according to the interest of believers across sociopolitical, class, and cultural tracks?
3. Our Unique Perspective on Pain
Now that we are on the other side of the election, our union in Christ leads us to consider the ongoing practical effect of the results on one another. Some of the most disastrous responses to the election have been marked by insensitivity to the vulnerabilities, fears, and hardships faced by other believers. There are many baptized, believing people of color, women, immigrants, refugees, and people with disabilities who are deeply distressed at the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, not because their respective political team lost but they fear for their personal safety and dignity.
How can we claim to be united with them as one body if we aren’t concerned for them at the most basic level? Certainly our unity in Christ means at least this much. How can we claim to be concerned with other believers’ spiritual wellbeing if we aren’t interested in their physical wellbeing? “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). When distressed persons of color come to places of worship, they are wondering, Is this a community of believers who care about my practical wellbeing?
We can love them in deed by demonstrating a practical concern for their distress, regardless of whether we agree with them politically. When Romans 12 calls us to “weep with those who weep” it remains remarkably unqualified. It doesn’t say weep with those with whom you agree. If you downplay, dismiss, or ignore this distress you send a message. Intended or not, you’re saying this place does not see your pain or care enough to comfort you.
One of the most significant distinctions we have as God’s people is our compassion for the distressed.
One of the most significant distinctions we have as God’s people is our compassion for the distressed. Deuteronomy 10:18 says God “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (see also Exod. 22:22–23; Deut. 27:19; 2 Chron. 19:7; Ps. 68:5; and Ps. 146:9). Throughout Scripture, the Lord makes himself known through his practical care and concern for the most vulnerable and distressed. We, as his people, must also reflect that concern. Whether or not we voted for President-elect Trump, we as God’s people must continue to care for the millions of minority sojourners in our society, the refugees, the voiceless, the weak, the weary, and the downtrodden. Proverbs 31:8–9 puts it this way: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
4. Our Unique Perspective on Power
Finally, as Christians we understand power in a completely different way than the world around us. When King Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” at the cross, he revealed what true strength looks like (Col. 2:15). That should change how we think of the outcome of this election. We know winning doesn’t always look like being on top. Often the church looks like the last, the least, the weakest. Yet through his resurrection Christ promises a great reversal.
When we are weak, we are in fact strong. Many times Christians looked like they were counted out. Yet during some the most difficult times in redemptive history, God still worked through pagan rulers and governments to fulfill his grand purposes for his glory and for our good. Today, the church remains in the place that it always has, as pilgrims looking toward the fulfillment of God’s promise. We recognize the hand that holds the scepter over history and government has a nail scar in it. That’s good news today, because it assures us that even though we dimly see God’s providential hand, we see clearly his compassionate heart.
The hand that holds the scepter over history and government has a nail scar in it.
Remember, believer, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6).