I realized yesterday the unease I've been feeling isn't new. It is fear I am well acquainted with--a fear that I first felt as a little girl living in Arizona when Barry Goldwater ran for president. I saw him in person and thought he was nice and I was excited someone from Arizona was in the race. I happened to tell my my great aunt that I wish I could vote for him. She told me if he won we would go to war and my Dad would be drafted and killed. She triggered both fear and shame in me that I didn't know how to express. So I learned to keep my mouth shut during election years.
Then when I got married a lot of churches were teaching out of Revelation and I was feeling very uneasy. In addition, my in-laws happened to be very legalistic and my father-in-law very free with opinions and judgments. Many candidates were demonized by him or someone like him and the chief insult at the time was to label a candidate as the "anti-christ." I remember walking away from those conversations full of fear and dread and expecting a catastrophe to follow elections. Yet surprisingly the sun rose and I went to work the next day and no horns grew out of the presidents's heads. I doubt that this is what our founding fathers had in mind.
I want to say I have some very wise friends who do a lot of research on current events and laws and have felt safe asking some of them questions. Some told me nicely who they were voting for and why. Some have simply conveyed all the options there are without revealing their candidate of choice to me. I knew these friends will value me both as a person and a believer regardless of how I voted. Today, I am mostly wondering how we as a nation begin to heal from all the craziness and hate-filled speech that has transpired in the name of elections.
Last night as I was praying several things came to mind. First, the church is still going to be the church tomorrow, no matter who wins. The true church is a body of believers that knows no borders. The church is not, nor ever has it been the USA. I think some of the frustration I've felt is because I forget that and I begin to expect non-believers to think like I do. I don't have a right to expect that. I have also realized I was looking for a president like I would look for a godly pastor and maybe next time I will approach it differently. I have four years to pray about that.
Second, I desire my religious freedoms to be both respected and protected. But if they aren't that doesn't end my witness and my responsibility. If persecution comes and religious freedoms are threatened, I don't want to cower in fear or be driven by bitter anger. I want to live godly just like Daniel. Just like Joseph. Just like Esther. Just like the Apostles. And just like the cloud of witnesses found in Hebrews 11, who both lived and died by faith in God who is good both in life and in death.
I can't be like them if I respond to the world with ungodly tactics. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." Though that verse was written to Israel, not to the USA, I believe we, as a church, can apply it. God wants us, as a church, to be humble, to pray, to seek His face, and to turn away from sinful patterns. We don't have to think exactly alike to be unified around our mission. We can't carry out our mission if we hurl insults and hateful words at each other and those to whom we are called to go. We certainly can't expect a non-believing culture to respond to Christ unless we love like He loves and live in a way that draws people to Him.
I wonder what will happen if we respond to the election, no matter how it turns out, by putting on humility and confessing our sins both individually and corporately. What if our men become known for their godly behavior in the church, in the work place, and in the home. What if their tongues show honor to their wives and other women in their lives. What if our women become known for respecting their spouses and showing strength, modesty, and integrity in the workplace. What if those who are parents and grandparents raise children who walk with integrity, strength, and passion about God and people? And what if every church acknowledged and confronted its own sin, and did its best to mend relationships harmed in the fallout of such sin. What if we extend both grace and truth to those who are really out there searching so hard for answers that really won't be found in any other than God?
Third, maybe we need to get more comfortable with the concept of loving enemies. We are all feeling like we've made a few enemies both in the church and definitely outside the church during this election season. I used to think I was good at loving people--that is until September of 2011. I remember right after 9/11 watching the news and seeing people scream, "Death to America," while facing an enemy much more personal here at home. I was at our church when some of the conflict rose its ugly head and I stepped outside to just breathe. I looked up to the sky and cried out from the depth of my heart, "You say to love our enemies, Lord, and I really want to do that. I just don't know what love looks like in the face of hatred! And it hurts so much to be hated! Please help me!"
The Lord brought to mind Jesus, and how He wrestled with the Father's will in the Garden and how HE determined to do His Father's will. And in that will He heard the words, "Crucify Him!" chanted in the same way I heard "Death to America." He faced false accusations repeatedly just as I had and then He laid down His life, was beaten, was humiliated, and was nailed to a cross with all of our shame and guilt placed upon Him...and the cry of His heart in the middle of it all, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." For me that became the first step in learning to love my enemies.
Loving enemies may also mean we forgive believers who've bullied and insulted us in their zeal to get their candidate elected, which, to be honest, is hard this survivor to do. It means we let go of our unreasonable expectations of non-believers and love them where they are at and treat them with the respect that any human created by God should be treated. It means putting on humility and honoring the leader God chooses for us today. It means praying for them and living above reproof and doing our best to be at peace with all men. Maybe if I, if we, do our part it will open doors for conversations the Holy Spirit might use to turn people's hearts towards the God who created them and loved them enough to die for them. We need to remember hatred will never bring about repentance. It is the goodness of God that does. I just want to make sure that His goodness is visible in and through me. Maybe, just maybe if it is, it will begin a movement back to church unity and the healing of the hatred that flowed in the name of the elections.
So, now what? Maybe it is as simple as keeping our eyes are on Jesus even in election years and maybe it is as simple as making sure our hearts are seeking His so our Words reflect His Words and our actions reflect His heart to a world in need of a Savior.