The central illusion of modern politics is that if only people as virtuous as “us” had power, then things would be better.”
~Political Commentator David Brooks
We are on the verge of another rather contentious election. Indeed, there may be many real and serious things at stake. In light of this, I encourage you to go to the polls and vote. And as you do, thank God for the freedom (and responsibility) that you have to vote your conscience. Remember this is a relatively new “gift” in the long history of human society.
At the same time, I encourage you to consider this: Not only do we have the freedom and responsibility to vote, but also, as Christians, we have the freedom to not put our hope in our vote or in human political systems. We are free to trust God with the outcome in the “affairs of mankind.”
Am I suggesting some sort of detachment from the world, a sort of Christian isolationism? No. Far from it! Historically, Christians, having their hope fixed on heaven, have been able to have the biggest impact on their earthly society. Why? The reason is simple. It is love that really liberates us. It is love that really changes us, not having the right politician or policy. The “right” politician or policy without love is in the words of the Apostle Paul “nothing…a noisy gong” (1 Cor. 13). Unlike our non-Christian neighbors we have been uniquely empowered to engage in our earthly society in a humble and loving manner. Certainly, this begins with love towards God and then to our fellow believers (as we are learning in 1 John, this is mark of the authentic faith). But this love also spills over into the way that we interact with our non-Christian neighbors, even those with whom you may deeply disagree, and (according to Jesus) even those that may count you as their enemy (Matt. 5:43-46).
Now, how in the world are we able to do this? This is more than a tall task; it is an impossible task. It is for this reason that, even in this, we must look to the Gospel.
Over a year ago at the beginning of presidential election cycle David Brooks writing in the New York Times said:
“…over the past few decades, people have lost a sense of their own sinfulness. Children are raised amid a chorus of applause. Politics has become less about institutional restraint and more about giving voters whatever they want at that second…”
So, of course, you get narcissists who believe they or members of their party possess direct access to the truth. Of course you get people who prefer monologue to dialogue. Of course you get people who detest politics because it frustrates their ability to get 100 percent of what they want. Of course you get people who gravitate toward the like-minded and loathe their political opponents.”
Brooks (not a Christian believer) sees a problem that we as followers of Christ should be experts in—knowledge of our own sinfulness. If we are truly imbibing the Gospel message, we should know one thing for sure: we are sinners saved only by God’s miraculous grace. The Gospel message tells us: firstly, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all; secondly, if we say that have no sin, we are liars; and thirdly, if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, because Jesus Christ, the righteous, was brutally executed by the political powers of His day for us. Yes, our self-obsession is that bad that it required the death of God. But His love for us is so robust that He was glad to do it. This truth, when it truly hits our hearts, softens us and enables us to engage with one another in love and not with enmity. Christ died for us when we were His enemies. He loved us even in our hostility toward Him.
Moreover, this knowledge provides ballast to our listing selves, by giving us an eternal hope—one that goes way beyond the present election, by reminding us of God’s election of us from all eternity. Our hope is not ultimately dependent upon whether “our guy” (whoever that may be) is in the White House. When we understand the Gospel, we realize that we ultimately don’t need a President in the Oval Office; we need a Crucified King on the Eternal Throne. And, indeed, we have that! Christ crucified for us! Everything else pales in comparison…and it is this that pushes us toward love in the here and now.
For the King,