In a recent sermon, John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, told the following joke: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are stranded in the middle of the ocean in a small boat. Suddenly, the boat springs a leak. Who is saved? America.
In light of how many of us feel about this election, that is the very definition of gallows humor. We laugh to keep from crying (or throwing a brick through your TV screen, depending on your personality). I am not here to offer an endorsement. Many thoughtful people who are more politically astute than I have written about which way Christians should vote (Here’s a series of short articles that argue for three possibilities). Either way, and I cannot sugar-coat this, it’s hard to be excited or optimistic about the next four years of our nation’s political life.
However, I still say it is the responsibility of all Americans–especially we Christians–to vote. Whether you choose one of the two major candidates, or a third option, don’t waste your opportunity. Besides, the down-ballot races will affect our lives in more direct ways than the presidential race, so don’t miss the chance to vote in those. But what is the good news that the title of this post promises? There are three reasons I am hopeful about this election:
1. Our political system. Thanks to the genius of our founding fathers, we are electing a president, not a dictator. He or she will oversee one of three branches of our government. That means that even if our next president is the worst person we’ve ever elected, the damage to our nation will be limited. Another great thing about our political system is that it is adaptable. The current primary system is less than a century old. Now that it has produced arguably the two most uninspiring, untrustworthy candidates in our nation’s history, I have hope that the process will be amended to produce better, more qualified nominees for our highest office. I am not a political scientist, so I don’t know what a better process would look like. But I have faith in this country’s ability to make positive change for the future. In other words, I am looking forward to better options in 2020.
2. The renewal of God’s people. Many of us have been praying for a revival of the American Church for many years. Wouldn’t it be just like God to use an event like this election to spur that long-awaited revival? If it happens, I believe it will be because this election will finally wean us away from our idolatrous relationship with politics. Please understand, I believe Christians should be involved in the political process, particularly in a democratic republic like ours. But when the Church becomes just another political voting bloc, whose loyalty to one particular party is unquestioned, it loses its prophetic voice. In my experience as a pastor, too many evangelical Christians are more likely to memorize the words of Hannity and O’ Reilly than the words of our Savior; too many of us are quick to jump into a political debate, but slow to share the Gospel that can change a person’s eternity. Perhaps an election like this will finally show us that our nation’s hope is not in electing the “right” candidate; it’s in people coming to know the One who loved them enough to die for them…and our job as Christians is to help make that happen. If we repent of our political idolatry and take responsibility for our true mission, I believe God will do amazing things.
3. Our Amazing God. Earlier, I referenced a joke in a sermon by John Ortberg (Click here to watch the entire sermon. It is well worth your time). In that same sermon, Ortberg pointed out that the most important election in human history took place over 2000 years ago. In that election, the people of God chose between two candidates: On the one hand, there was Jesus of Nazareth, who had spent three years feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and helping the poor, while also sharing the most beautiful platform for peace and justice the world has ever known. In addition, He was the absolute fulfillment of the Scriptures they revered and had memorized. On the other hand, there was Barabbas, a murderous thief and assassin. The people of God chose Barabbas; they called for Jesus to be crucified. Yet God took their wrong choice and turned it into the greatest event in human history, an event that led to our eternal redemption.
Many of us feel a strong sense of fear regarding this election. I hear Christians say, “This is the most important election in our history.” We seem certain that if the wrong candidate wins, it could lead to the speedy downfall of our nation. But God is not bound by our electoral choices. God is not the least bit worried about who will win on election day. The outcome of our decision will not affect His ability to accomplish what He desires. That doesn’t mean that everything is going to be okay in the short term. Our next president is certain to make some decisions that make life harder for us, and others that history will judge to be huge mistakes. But guess what? That would be true even if we were electing a candidate who embodied all the best qualities of Washington, Lincoln, Reagan and both Roosevelts. That candidate would still be human. But God is not. And no matter what happens on election day, His primary occupation is still the redemption of human beings, and we are still His primary tools to accomplish that. So whatever happens, ask Him to use you, to use our church, to use all His churches to be the light this nation needs.
And say hallelujah for this: The people of God chose wrong on Good Friday…but three days later, there was a divine recall election that changed everything.