We are in the most engaging midterm elections in recent memory. People, on all sides, seem more energized than ever before. There are a few things we know for sure about this election (because they are true of every election): (1) you will win some and lose some; (2) you will be either elated or depressed; (3) life will go on. What are some healthy things you can do after you vote?
Jesus and Politics
Jesus never voted. There were no elections where he lived. He was raised in what sociologists call an “advanced agrarian society under oppressive rule.” There are certain sociological structures that develop in this type of sociological framework (see Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification, by Gerhard E. Lenski).
The group that suffers most under the oppressive rule, the peasant class, develops ways to cope and survive (this would have included Jesus and all his friends, although he encountered many from other classes). Alas, voting was not one of them. It simply was not an option.
Four Things to Do After Election Day
However, Jesus and his earliest followers did teach us how to deal with those in power and the disappointment that often follows elections. Jesus left us some general values to guide us forward after the election is over.
1. Pray for your new leaders.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom. 13:1).
This is a much-misunderstood passage. Paul is not advocating for the wholesale subjection to the ruling authority on all matters, no matter how corrupt or unjust they may be. In fact, he was always getting in trouble with the authorities, both within his own people (the synagogue), and the rulers at large (the Romans).
There is room for conscientious objection to unjust laws enacted by any ruling authority (as Paul and the early Christians modeled in their refusal to proclaim Caesar “Lord.” There are always little “Caesars” popping up in the world).
Having said that – Paul was recommending that the conscientious objection should be the exception to the rule. On the whole, each Christian should follow the laws of the land. Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).
This means that after the election, we come to terms with the fact that “our candidate” didn’t win, and we find a way to work in peace with the candidate who did win.
If nothing else, we can pray for the newly elected official. Jesus said, “… love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …” (Matt. 5:44).
If you feel persecuted by the new political official – you’re not. You really need to get out more. Go visit a country where dictatorial rule is baked into the DNA, and where people are really being persecuted. Then take a deep breath and be thankful that you don’t live there.
So – Pray for all our elected leaders (especially if you didn’t vote for them). Pray that God will bring something good out of what you consider to be a bad situation.
2. Stay alert and informed on your new leaders.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour …” (1 Peter 5:8).
Peter was most likely writing his letter during a period of intense religious persecution. His recommendation – Keep your eyes open! Watch your back! Stay informed on everything that is going on around you! The enemy is always looking for someone to devour.
Peter said, “Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray …” (1 Peter 4:7).
You need to know how to pray. So, you need to stay informed.
Learn who your elected officials are, how to contact them, and how best to influence them.
CLICK HERE to find your U.S. Representatives.
CLICK HERE to find your representatives, how to contact them, bills they’ve introduced, committees they serve on, and political contributions they’ve received.
3. Get more involved with the political process.
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Rom. 15:1-2).
Paul was always dealing with a contentious political issue within his communities: the cultural differences between Jew and Gentile. This is part of what he addressed in his letter to the Romans. His general solution was to get involved and stay involved with each other. Those who are stronger should always think of those who are weaker. And, everything we do should be with the larger community in mind.
You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem” — Eldridge Cleaver
The best way forward is to get involved (if you are not already so) and stay involved in the political process from the ground up.
CLICK HERE for a great (bipartisan) article on 25 ways to be politically engaged!
4. Keep politics in perspective.
Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ …” (Matt. 28:18)
Political involvement is extremely important because our collective actions impact millions of people, many of whom have no political voice.
Political involvement is extremely important because Jesus is Lord over all the earth and we are commanded to let his light shine (Matt. 5:14).
Political action is important. However, we must always keep it in perspective. Political action does not have an eternal impact. Our nation, as great as it is, will one day be no more.
The Eternal One is Jesus. The only eternal impact on this earth is found in Jesus Christ.
One day nations will be no more and God will exalt Jesus to the highest place. As Paul sings,
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
So, after the election is over – take a deep breath. Relax. Find peace in Jesus.
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul to his young mentee, Timothy: “… for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7, NRSV).
We are strong and bold because we know that God is in control and nothing can separate us from his love (Rom. 8:39)!