12 Thoughts for Election Day 2012
The following are some thoughts that I have had meditating on various Scriptures in light of this election season in our nation. They do not represent a comprehensive biblical statement on politics. Rather, they reflect ways that I have been pastoring my own heart over the days leading up to November 6. My purpose in sharing them with you is to encourage you to draw out further implications for our response to this election – regardless of its outcome. And to encourage us in the place of prayer for our own hearts, our church, and our nation.
1. Biblically, “elections” (kings coming to power) are signs either: 1. of God’s grace in giving the people what they do not deserve (ie. David), 2. of God’s handing them over by giving the people what they want (ie. Saul), or 3. of God’s judgment in giving the people what they do not want but deserve (ie. Nebuchadnezzar).
Therefore while we should be sobered that either candidate coming into office represents various stages of #2, we can be thankful that He has not yet introduced the full dimension of #3 in this nation. And this election, like every election, is cause once again to joyfully anticipate the Day when God releases the fullness of #1 in the Person of His Son.
2. In Jeremiah, God calls Nebuchadnezzar, “my servant.” In Isaiah, God calls Cyrus, “my anointed.” Both the king that took Judah into exile and the king who released them to return home as designated servants of God.
Therefore we see that neither one of these candidates is our hope. They are both to be understood as servants of the God who is our hope. Our hope is that God will use either man to accomplish His purpose for His people in His-story.
3. Nebuchadnezzar is termed God’s “servant” whom He “calls” from the north to accomplish His purpose. He is then disciplined and devoted to everlasting destruction by God for what he does.
Therefore we see that just because a king is raised up to accomplish God’s purpose does not mean everything this king does is in accordance with the will (of command) of God. We must be able to distinguish between affirming the sovereignty of God and endorsing the position/action of leaders He has brought to power.
4. God spoke to Judah as a distinct nation both before and after they had been taken into exile. He did not only address them spiritually (with calls to repentance or promises of return) while they maintained their political sovereignty.
Therefore we see that the people of God (now the church) is a kingdom that transcends all national and political boundaries. Our ultimate allegiance, regardless of which ruler we live under, is to King Jesus and He will address us (call us to walk certain ways) regardless of our political situation.
5. Similarly, Paul speaks to believers as living both “in Colossae” and “in Christ.” Likewise, John identifies himself as “on Patmos” but “in the Spirit.”
Therefore we see that in this time between the ages, we live with two identities. They are both valid and carry real responsibilities, but they are not equal in their importance. There is an ultimate, primary allegiance to the rule of Christ, and a secondary allegiance to the nation we inhabit.
6. Throughout the OT we hear God call His people to live a certain way during their time of exile. In the NT, we hear believers summoned to live a certain way during their time of “exile” or even persecution.
Therefore we see that the church can be the church without the blessing of the state, or even with its persecution. To say it another way, our primary identity influences the way we comport ourselves in our secondary identity, but not the other way around. Our political circumstance does not determine (either enabling or preventing) our obedience to God.
7. After showing Daniel the future judgment of the Babylonian empire, God then calls him to continue his service of the doomed and disobedient king.
Therefore we see that political life, including elections, has implications for the church. A “prophet” can serve as a president. Thus it is right to participate in the political process of secular nations, whether as voter or office holder.
8. At the same time, when Daniel perceived in God’s word that the time for the return from exile had come, he did not address this political decision as a president, but as a prayer warrior. In fact, he proved willing to forfeit his political position rather than sacrifice his habit of prayer.
Therefore we see that true effectiveness, even in the things of “this world”, lies not in the ways of this world, but in our access before the throne of grace. Thus while it is right to be involved in the political process, our hope for effecting God-honoring policy rests not in political action but in persistent petition.
9. God attached His Name to His people, Israel. In an even stronger sense, He attached His Name (and His promised plan) to the house of David. In the strongest sense, He attached His Name to His House in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the house of David was punished by the Lord with the sword, the nation of Israel was punished by the Lord with disbursement and exile, and He brought pagan idolaters in to desecrate His sanctuary.
Therefore we see that no person (pastor or president), no nation, and no institution is too big to fail. God will not preserve anyone or anything ahead of His righteousness. For all the good that America can do through her power and status, the success of God’s mission on the earth does not require her strength and ability. America’s strength is expendable in the economy of heaven. Thus when policies weaken our country, our trust in God and hope for His kingdom is not likewise weakened. In some ways, God’s upholding His righteousness even unto America’s punishment, should strengthen our trust in the faithful God.
10. Scripture continually directs our hope to the soon coming Day of the Lord, when all people (from presidents to voters) will give an account of their lives before the righteous Judge.
Therefore we see that at this Day all the righteous acts that have been minimized or scorned will be rewarded and all the wicked acts that have been spun and indulged will be punished. Election day will never bring God’s justice. But Christ’s Coronation Day has guaranteed it. And His Wedding Day (which is also Judgment Day) will release it.
11. It was while John was in prison on Patmos that he saw the Lord. It was as Stephen was being stoned that the heavens opened. It was as Paul was breathing out threats and murder against the church that numbers were being added daily to those who were being saved. It was as Joseph was imprisoned that his pride was broken. It was while Judah was in exile that her heart was moved to return to the Lord.
Therefore we see that God’s goal for our life neither consists in nor requires our economic, political, or physical comfort. Rather, He pursues our sanctification and the spread of His kingdom. The power of both of these miracles is often released through suffering. It is not that we are sanctified and the gospel is spread in spite of suffering. Most often in Scripture is spread precisely through and because of trial, ridicule, and deprivation. Thus the downward trajectory of our nation is inversely proportionate to the progress of His program in us!
12. As a thought experiment, it may be helpful to think of the relationship between the church and the state like we think of the relationship between the spirit and the body. Some people hold that the body is bad and only the spirit matters. This approach leads you to withdraw either into asceticism (since the world is all and only bad), or indulgence (since sins in the body don’t effect the state of the spirit). Christians, however, must affirm that the body is good. What we do with our bodies matters to God! We can glorify God, or dishonor Him, in our body.
But this affirmation that the body matters does not mean that we have today the same body we will have forever. This is why Paul tells Timothy that physical training is of some, but not ultimate, value. The way we take care of our bodies (and our environment, and our houses) matters, but care for our bodies (environment etc) must not become our idol – our answer – because they will not last forever like they are. Instead, they part of the “all things” that will be made new.
Comparing our political systems to the body, we must affirm that what we do in our society matters. There is no dualistic divide between “sacred” life in the church and “secular” life in the marketplace or voting booth. Jesus is King of it all. Voting matters. Policy matters. Platforms matter. We must not retreat out of any and all engagement with politics. However, neither can we idolize the political process (or political power) as the end and answer to all our needs. It, like our body, is imperfect and destined to pass away when the perfect (King of Christ) comes in all its fullness.
The issue in both cases is one of stewardship. We steward our bodies now in preparation for a greater stewardship later. Likewise, we steward our political systems now, in preparation for ruling the earth with King Jesus in the age to come.