Dear fellow Christians,
The two week countdown to the 2020 US Presidential Election is in full swing. Emotions are flying high, votes are being cast, and all sorts of nasty and hopeful posts are taking over our social media feeds (with even greater force and fervor than we’ve witnessed over the last year). It is a season of anticipation, excitement, and, for many, anxiety.
In these times, people of faith are attempting to turn our eyes upward and remind ourselves that November 3rd is neither our end nor our beginning. That our promises for this life are much greater and more deeply rooted than any temporary governing body on Earth. For many of us, we are trying to keep our perspective where it matters most—on God, Christ, Kingdom, hope, truth, and love.
I see many posts and stories on social media touting these eyes-on-the-cross messages. Most commonly, some form of, “Whatever happens in two weeks, Jesus will still be on the throne.” As a fellow Christian, I too, believe this to be true.
However, I can’t help but cringe a bit when I see these statements slapped around for all the world to see. Not because of any lack of truth in the words themselves. But because of what they unintentionally communicate to millions of our fellow Americans, and to our world at large.
Our “no matter what happens” statements can, all-too-easily, sound like churchy, quick-fix platitudes that, in reality, do little more than relieve us of some amount of personal discomfort with the heated election season.
In fact, to some onlookers, these quickly-typed-out and posted proclamations resound of privilege and a lack of empathy. They can reek of a reality that is incredibly distanced from the pain and brokenness existing in our nation. They often communicate complacency and apathy—setting us apart not as agents of love and grace and transformative power, but as disillusioned and detached followers of a faith that (seemingly) fails to bring the hope, justice, and love it promises.
Whether or not this is what was intended.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in John 11—the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. To me, the beauty of the incident isn’t solely found in the power to raise a dead man back to life. Rather, it is the heart and emotional stance Jesus—the was and would-be King of the cosmos—took as He gathered with His friends who were deeply mourning. Although the entire chapter is padded with proclamations of faith and belief and power, Jesus, in that moment, places those faith-filled proclamations to the side and chooses to join His friends in their great sadness. He meets them in the midst of their fear, their imperfect understanding, and their “where were You when this happened” frustration. Verse 33 says that, watching Mary weep, Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (New International Version). This is closely followed by the famously-short verse: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
From the surrounding verses, I assume Jesus already knew how this chapter of the story was going to end. Or, at least, that He had a full and complete belief and hope in the fact that the mourning would cease and Lazarus would breathe once more. That the end was good. And yet, in that moment, He chose to enter into the pain of those around Him. He chose to be moved by the reality of that circumstance, and what it meant to those on earth. He chose compassion, empathy, and humility. He was available and relevant to those in pain.
For some of us—if we’re being completely honest—our daily lives will not be too greatly altered depending on who arises as the next presidential victor. Yes, most of us have, to varying degrees, been upended in 2020 because of COVID-19. And whoever is president over the next four years will determine how our nation proceeds in this pandemic. No matter who that man is and what plan he adopts, it will most assuredly bring a certain amount of change, hardship, and frustration for some portion of our country. And this is no small thing.
But there is more than COVID-19 happening in America. Masses of people have vocalized their firm belief that the next president of the United States will directly affect the extent of freedom and equality experienced by millions of Americans across our nation. The president—whoever he ends up being—won’t have all the answers or the perfect strategy for change. Nor will he be the sole hindrance to a nation trying to uproot hundreds of years of bondage preventing true equality. However, the voices that are heard, the extent to which they are considered, and the way in which they are responded to greatly depends on who sits in the Oval Office over the next four years.
The fact is, not all of our friends, family, and neighbors have the margin to say, “No matter who wins, yada yada yada.” (You can fill in the blank.) And let us not assume it is from a lack of faith. It is very much rooted in a current lived and experienced reality. From pain and brokenness that exists in our country right now.
Whether Trump or Biden, we will all have plenty with which to disagree in the next four years. Plenty to roll our eyes at and say, “Well, if it had been so-or-so, life would have been so much better.” Taxes. Masks. Quarantines. Re-openings. Trade. Russia. China. Supreme Court Justices. Etc. And no matter who takes office, we will, as Christians, continue to put our trust in the Lord and intercede for real and lasting justice and mercy on Earth.
But the reality of this moment, this day… it matters, too. It matters how we, as Christians (and maybe especially for those of us who are white, middle-class-and-up Christians), communicate with the world around us. How far we’re willing to stretch ourselves to peer into someone else’s life and see that their reality might be very different from what we have lived and known. It matters whether or not we choose to take on the practices and example set before us by Christ Himself—a real, lived-out compassion, empathy, and humility. It matters how we allow our belief about the end of the story—that it is good—to influence the way we tend to the matters and people of today. It matters that we love in a way that bears witness to our belief that the world is reconciling itself to its King.
Because it mattered to Him. Enough to be moved. To be troubled. To weep.
No matter what color t-shirt we’re donning, what side of the aisle draws our eye, what box we’re checking, we each have a choice about how we will vocalize our faith and the Man we represent as the heat of the next two weeks intensifies.
May you feel Him near, sense His kindness, and be a light to the world around you—in word, in deed, and in social media posts. May we all find unity in our desire to exemplify the glory and wonder of that final chapter of His story, and the hope it means for our world today.