For many, today is disappointing. For Christians who supported Trump or are at least wary of Biden, losing an election is never easy. With the peaceful transfer of power complete, much of their disappointment rises out of concern for the future of religious liberty and abortion in this administration.
For many, today is exciting. There are a significant portion of Christians who supported Biden and worked hard for his campaign. Motivated by their faith on issues of immigration, race, or criminal justice, these Christians are celebrating today in hopes that the next four years will mark significant political and social progress.
For many, today is cathartic. The past four years have been a marathon that appears to finally be over. Within a culture that was already polarized, the past four years have exacted a significant toll mentally and relationally. For a substantial group of Christians, the hope of today is that some semblance of civility can be reclaimed.
The challenge of pastors and church leaders is to encourage the good in these reactions and caution against the temptation to make politics our idol. Pastors should share the excitement, disappointment, and catharsis of their people but always within the backdrop of God’s kingdom.
Critically, not all political engagement is idolatry. The emotions of fear or joy, disappointment or excitement, optimism or pessimism in the aftermath of an election are not inherently signs of creeping political idolatry. Rather, they can be the natural result of faithful application of the Christian faith to society.
Political idolatry begins, in contrast, when we begin to place our final hope in politicians or political parties. When these emotions betray our belief that political victory lies at the heart of God’s will and the purpose of the Church. Discerning the difference is incredibly challenging for pastors who live amongst their people; it is nearly impossible across the divide of social media. During this season of intense politicization and polarization, Christians need to be wary of accusing others of idolatry and avoiding examination of our own hearts. Pastors can aid in this effort by helping their people identify idols, repent, and set their vision back upon the mission of God’s kingdom. This may seem insignificant and small when our cultural problems appear immense and widespread. Yet as Tish Warren had observed, the difficult task of “re-forming our churches around the deep, unchanging truths of the light of Christ” is inherently “frustratingly small and local.”
This week is likely to provoke many emotions but it necessitates at least one action: prayer.
Friends, regardless of who you voted for, remember we are citizens of two kingdoms; the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. Jesus clearly taught, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” You don’t have to agree with our new President’s policies to pray for him. If you are practicing responsible Christian citizenship, you will soon realize when you pray for our new administration, you are praying for the country you live in. This should be something, we as Christians, want to do. I hope you will understand you don’t have to agree with someone totally to get along with them. Take the high road. Do the right thing. Bury the axe of political disgruntledness. Pray for our leadership both nationally, on a state level and local level. You will be blessed it you do. –—-David