Today, Americans will go to the polls to decide the fate of all 435 U.S. House seats, one-third of the U.S. Senate seats, 36 state governorships, three U.S. territory governorships, and more than 300 mayoral races.
Tomorrow, Americans will express jubilation and disappointment over our choices. We’ll call our relatives to gloat or to commiserate. We troll the losing side on social media while journalists write stories about “what it all means.” We’ll sigh with relief and moan in despair. In other words, on the day after Election Day we’ll continue our partisan conflicts in much the same way we did on the day before the election.
Fortunately, there are a few more things we Christians can do, small steps we can take to make things better for ourselves and our country.
1. Pray for our new authorities.
Paul tells us to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). I’ve often been guilty of following this command in a perfunctory way, with my prayers being as generic as possible. But the election gives me—and you—an opportunity to be more specific in our intercessions and supplications.
After the election there will be dozens of people who will be in “high positions” for the first time. Let’s take the time to learn their names and pray for them directly, asking that God will give them courage and wisdom. We should also pray for leaders in other areas of the United States. For example, we can pray for the Congressional representatives of the hometown we left long ago, or pray for the new governor in the state where we went to college or visited on vacation.
2. Heal partisan-inflicted wounds.
Throughout our country’s history, there has always been a partisan divide among Americans. But over the past few years the rift has been growing wider and deeper. For example, in 2004, 68 percent of Democrats were more consistently liberal than the median Republican, and 70 percent of Republicans were more consistently conservative than the median Democrat. But according to Pew Research, today almost all Democrats (97 percent) are more liberal than the median Republican, and almost all Republicans (95 percent) are more conservative than the median Democrat.
We also have more venues, such as social media, which allow us to express partisan opinions both vocally and also (for too many of us) incessantly. The result is that we Christians are frequently highlighting our partisan differences and downplaying how much we share in common with our brothers and sisters across the political aisle.
If your partisanship has wounded others, whether intentionally or inadvertently, take some time this week to apologize and make amends. You don’t have to agree with your conspiracy-minded uncle who thinks Congress has been taken over by interstellar lizards in people suits. But you can do your part to follow Paul’s admonition that, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).
3. Trade in the pundits for the prophets.
The theologian Karl Barth once said he advised young theologians “to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” Unfortunately, many Christians today are more likely to take up their newspaper than take up their Bible. Less than half (49 percent) of evangelicals read even a little bit of the Bible each day, yet almost all have consumed some form of news or punditry.
Scripture makes us wise, while the news makes us dumb. So why not reverse the time we spend on each? For instance, this post-election season is an opportune time to trade in Sean Hannity, Don Lemon, and Rachel Maddow for Isaiah, Jonah, and Daniel. You’ll learn more about the state of the world from ten minutes with the prophets than you will an hour watching cable news.
As Nancy Guthrie says, we should read the prophets because we “struggle with the same sins: idolatry, disregard for God’s law, empty religiosity, being in love with the world, hard-heartedness, greed, lack of concern for the poor, and presumption as members of the covenant community.” The men chosen by God to talk on his behalf have much more to teach us about topics, such as social justice, than do all the talking head on cable news.
4. Prepare for future action.
Our obligations as citizens don’t stop in the voting booth. We cast our ballot to help determine who will represent us. But we also need to let those leaders know how to represent us.
Take some time today to identify your elected officials and how you can contact them. While such information is always easily accessible on the internet, having it readily at hand will help you overcome the inertia that will stop you from actually contacting them. You might also want to flag future dates on your calendar (such as 60, 90, or 120 days from now) to remind yourself to discuss important issues with your representatives.
5. Then take a break from partisan activities
As soon as the polls close, the 2018 will be over—and the 2020 election race will begin. Politicians will begin fundraising, and pollsters will begin taking the nation’s political pulse. But while everyone else scrambles for the next thing, you can rest knowing that God is in control (Col. 1:17).
Take a break from partisan activities and channel your political energy into your family, your church, and your community. Seek the welfare of the city (Jer. 29:7) in ways that are more direct and more practical. Find ways to serve your neighbor that require more sacrifice and less opining on Twitter.
As Christians and Americans we have dual citizenship, and dual obligations. We are exiles, strangers in a strange land, who have duties to both our country and also our Lord’s kingdom. By taking a temporary sabbatical from partisanship we can free up time and attention that can be spent learning from God’s Word and from God’s people. By taking a break to refocus and realign our priorities we can ultimately become both better partisans and better ambassadors of Christ.