Dear Post-Election Self,
Reading this letter, you know which man will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years. But I don’t. I’m waiting for the election results to pour in from Cuyahoga and Waukesha and Arapahoe. Eerie calm awaits the coming political storm. But by the time you wake up, one party or the other will be apoplectic. Tens of millions of Americans will be devastated, following a cutthroat campaign that convinced them the other guy seeks this nation’s doom. Millions more around the world know the outcome affects them, too, but they can’t even vote to do anything about it. Literally billions of dollars have been spent by powerful men and women who believe their riches can dictate the course of human events. When you read this letter, about half of them will be demanding answers from ruined politicos for why their money failed to do the deed.
No matter what happens, I want you to remember how encouraged you were yesterday to see so many Christians testify to their faith in God alone. Today will be an especially good day to read 1 Peter. By professing trust in the God who makes rulers rise and fall, whether we understand his purposes or not, we “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Gentleness and respect have been almost totally absent from the campaign. Slander begat slander. Evil has been celebrated as freedom. But you can in good conscience put to shame even the vile by doing good in Christ. You must not, under any circumstances, return evil for evil. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:17).
Nothing you will endure under the leadership of either leader—-who both thumb their nose at God’s Word in many respects—-can compare with the hardships faced by the elect exiles of the dispersion. Yet the chastened, impassioned apostle Peter told these harried believers, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17). You may be rightly concerned that President Obama, if re-elected, will continue to restrict religious freedoms that, while protected by the Constitution, conflict with progressive priorities to redefine marriage and fund abortion. But not even your worst-case scenario can compare to what Jesus Christ has already endured. In fact, all who have been called to Christ have been called to suffer, “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). Unlike you, “he committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:22).
If we suffer political defeat like those who have no hope but politics, we do not even commend ourselves, let alone the God who hung the moon and stars. But if we grieve as those who hope in the return of the King, those who trust in flawed politicians may one day see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. Jesus did not give his life so we could watch cable news as if our lives depended on it. Jesus submitted to death ordered by rulers so we might never fear them. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24.)
You know that either way, you will not wake up tomorrow half as excited as you did on November 3, 2004. You feel rather foolish now, looking back. Leading up to the election, you seethed as spiteful critics castigated a good Christian man trying to lead the country in the tumultuous times of your formative years. You tried to pray for these powerful critics, who truly felt like enemies (of yours? of God’s?). But mostly you awaited election results that would vindicate your way of life and silence these venomous voices. That evening concluded better than you could have hoped, or so you thought at the time. Marriage prevailed on many state ballots. Your home-state hero, a sincere evangelical, won the most expensive Senate campaign per capita in history. The President, who had earned his position in bizarre circumstances, won a governing mandate. The next morning, sensible commentators vowed they could not live under four more years of such tyranny. Other sensible commentators reveled in the promise of perpetual one-party, exurban rule. Never forget: sensible people say stupid things in the immediate aftermath of an emotional election.
Within two years that one party had fallen apart under the weight of administrative incompetence and the unpredictability of the seas and the sects. Within four years those exurbs began to sprout what seemed like a endless supply of foreclosure signs. Marriage continued to lose esteem among the nation’s working classes even as media elites escalated their campaign to ostracize anyone who believes what the Bible teaches about sexuality. Years after the President left office, his chief second-term legacy on the Supreme Court cast the deciding vote to uphold a massive healthcare overhaul so unpopular that New Jersey elected a blustering Republican governor and Massachusetts replaced Teddy Kennedy with a GOP senator. Still stunning, this far-reaching decision only continued the trend of conservative appointments betraying the principles of their elected advocates. Remember: even when you vote and your candidate wins, you have little idea what will happen.
There’s only one thing predictable about democratic politics: no one gets everything he wants. President Obama’s supporters know this from 2008. But you may need to remind friends tomorrow if you have opportunity to encourage them to trust in the One who changes all who hope in him. Governor Romney’s supporters know this from 2004. But you may need to remind friends tomorrow that real recovery starts only when we confess that we are the biggest problem with the world.
You believe that politics matters. Deeply. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have invested time in serving on Capitol Hill. You believe a good politician can be a conduit of blessing from God to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of true and lasting happiness. But you don’t believe God was surprised by yesterday’s outcome. You don’t believe his plans have been thwarted, even though right now you don’t even know those plans. The sun will rise tomorrow. And the risen Son will return soon.
Election Day Self
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