This past Sunday I delivered a message to my flock before the election with no knowledge of the outcome, to prepare us to respond to the election whatever the outcome. Here were my points, and I stand by them—even as the vote count continues—in the face of all kinds of blaming, shaming, defaming, and verbal maiming; not to mention wildly inappropriate war and violence rhetoric. There is a way for those who love Jesus to build bridges even as the tide of disagreement rises.
1. If someone thinks and has voted differently than you, judge charitably.
Have enough reverent humility to know there is only one Lawgiver and Judge (James 4:12) who knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5), and that you are not he. You are not omniscient to prejudge all things—especially all things about others’ hearts. As for me, I refuse to believe on the one hand, that all those who voted for Joe Biden do not care about unborn babies, or biblical marriage issues; or on the other hand that all those who voted for Donald Trump don’t care about racism or refugees. Such prejudgment (i.e.-prejudice) simply has no place in a Christian’s heart.
We need to be humble enough to believe that there are reasons why people voted as they did that have nothing to do with alleged malice or racism or cowardice or compromise; reasons that made sense to them based on their personal experiences and upbringing, family traumas and narratives, real or perceived fears, present understanding of history, definitions of justice and what it means to be pro-life, information gathered from their varying trusted sources, and a whole lot more. To judge them as evil without first understanding their reasons and experiences, is to play God, and to invite similar judgment by God upon yourself (Matthew 7:1-2; Romans 2:1-2).
2. If someone is afraid and fainthearted in light of the election outcome, don’t correct them, comfort them.
1 Thessalonians 5:13-14 tells us to “…Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” You may feel like it’s your calling to address the “ignorance” of others and be the “prophetic” voice to set straight all the weak and wobbly folks out there; but resist the urge. Love will linger long in comforting the faint-hearted—even the fainthearted who have voted differently than us—before it moves to correction; if to correction at all.
3. If a brother or sister has offended you personally, or you know that you have offended them personally, go to them in humble, peace-seeking love.
This election season has produced many unkind words, harsh judgments, insensitive spirits, dismissive attitudes, profound misunderstandings, angry outbursts, ranting and sarcastic social media posts. Whether we are the offender or the offended, Jesus tells us to go and make peace (Matthew 18:15; 5:23-24). Has someone offended you? GO. Did you offend someone? GO. Via personal peace-making efforts, we need to serve eviction notices to our harbored resentments and unaddressed offences; and we need to do it now.
4. If someone comes to you to share how you have offended them, have the humility to receive it without arguing or self-defense.
Be slow to anger, quick to hear, and open to reason (James 1:19-21; 3:17). Be not wise in your own eyes. The wise person receives correction, believing that, if not in opinion, then at least in tone, timing, choice of words, or attitude he (she) is almost always at least partly wrong—and needs correction.
5. If your guy wins, don’t celebrate loudly and publicly.
Love is not boastful (1 Corinthians 13:4). You may not understand why it is, but I plead with you to realize that there are believers in the Church that see your victory as their defeat—and as a reason to be afraid. That goes both ways. Have the humility and grace to realize that what is a victory for you is perceived as a defeat and cause for alarm for others. Love conquers boastfulness and trash-talking—however Christianized they might be. Your celebration can feel very much like taunting relational indifference to those who feel personally threatened or imperiled by the outcome. Choose to mute.
6. If you are feeling isolated—Invite.
COVID has left many feeling isolated, and, as a brother said to me recently, even segregated. This will make relational healing in this election aftermath even more difficult. Isolation has depleted the affection and trust reservoir. 1 Peter 4:8-9 says “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Show hospitality. If you (or others) are isolated, then invite. And if you really want to be part of the wholeness that leads to shalom in the Church, invite people who look and think and vote radically different than you, not to argue your differences, but to unite in love at the foot of the cross. Humanize the people you disagree with by sharing food with them. Even in COVID season—find a way.
7. If you are tempted to quit, please don’t.
As 1 Thessalonians 5:13-14 has told us, “…Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Be patient with them all. Love endures all things—and never fails (1 Corinthians 13:7-8). Love doesn’t jump the unity ship or burn bridges between believers. There is something more precious than nearly every other treasure on earth: it is the unbreakable bond of Christ-like love that simply refuses to quit.
8. Finally, if you are tempted to despair, remember that God is on the way.
This is not a Jesus-juke—a God-reference meant to silence all sincere fear or angst in these troubling days. Rather, it is the truth of God that has sustained believers for millennia, in circumstances every bit as bad as ours; and even worse. We need to behold our God as he is—and know that he is coming to do his thing and make all things right.
And that’s why I’ll be preaching Isaiah 40—from start to finish—this Sunday.