We are just weeks away from Election 2016, and evangelicals are conflicted about their choices.
- Some will vote for Donald Trump. They consider him the lesser of two evils and hope he will nominate a Supreme Court justice who will protect religious liberty and the rights of the unborn.
- A few will vote for Hillary Clinton. They judge her to be the lesser of two evils because of a wider range of issues.
- Some will vote for a third-party candidate or write in someone’s name. They refuse to vote for Trump or Clinton out of principle or due to their consciences.
Election 2016 is weird.
A friend recently told me that he’s voting for Trump because he assumes the man will die in office or be assassinated, and then we’d have Pence. No joke. A guy voting for Trump, hoping he won’t serve his term. We’re not in Kansas anymore, y’all.
The choice of candidates is depressing. So are the online wars between Christians over how to vote this year.
Christians, of all people, should remember that politics is not ultimate. There are more important things in life, truths that unite us across party lines into one body of Christ. Most of the issues we debate at the dinner table must fade away at the Table of our Lord.
So should we resort to publicly shaming people who decide to vote for one of these candidates? Twist the arms of those who, out of conscience, withhold their vote? Pounce on people when something happens you think makes them regret the decision they’ve made?
When we blast people who have come to a different ethical conclusion about the best way forward this election cycle, we give the impression that this year’s choice is ultimate. We look just like people on the Right and Left who live and breathe politics because they don’t see anything higher.
This won’t do. I have too many friends and family members and fellow church members on all sides of Election 2016 to let their choice in the voting booth affect my affection for them.
So, I’m trying to do two things, and I hope you’ll join me.
1. GIVE SPACE
First, I want to give space for people to come to different conclusions.
Can we all agree that this year’s election options are less than ideal?
Can we agree that there are multiple factors in play? Can we acknowledge faults and problems in every candidate and every course of action?
Can we agree that the ethical considerations are complicated?
I’m not saying all options are equal, valid, and right. By all means, we should deliberate, and yes, even debate.
But let’s put buffers around that deliberation and debate. Let’s give space for people to disagree and recognize that people may arrive at their choice in a reasonable way, even if ultimately, we think they’re dead wrong.
2. SHOW GRACE
Second, I want to show grace to people who take a different approach to this election than I do. I don’t want them to impugn my motives even if they question my wisdom, and so I will try to refrain from doing the same to them.
Can we extend grace to people who disappoint us with their political choices—whether they’re voting Clinton, Trump, or refraining from either?
But the person making that choice doesn’t deserve grace! you might say. Especially because of how they treat me for disagreeing!
To which I respond: Of course, they don’t deserve grace. That would defeat the whole point. Grace means you extend favor to a person who has done nothing to deserve it. You show grace to the person who annoys you, infuriates you, and disappoints you.
Grace is powerful precisely when it is least expected.
This is where the church comes in. Before we can share the message of grace, we ought to show people what grace looks like.
What if the world saw Christians debate the merits of different choices this election, but then arm in arm, move forward with brotherly love—not because we agree, but precisely because we know how to show grace when we don’t?
In January 2017, we will most likely see the inauguration of President Trump or President Clinton. And God will still be on his throne.
Come January, God’s people won’t have a choice; we’ll have a command—to pray for whomever walks into the Oval Office. We must “honor the emperor” as Peter said and “pray for those in authority,” as Paul said.
Peter says to “honor everyone,” and that includes the fellow church member who sits across the aisle from you and votes differently.
So, during this election season: Give space. Show grace.