a week ago we reached the end of a difficult and particularly toxic election for the united states. we were hoping to move on. however, when the results were called we woke up to a different reality. for some it was triumph and feeling emboldened for others disbelief and dissent. for many anger…at “the other” side (i for one experienced more anger before the election then after). we didn’t know our divisions could actually get worse.
(WARNING: this is a long read so feel free to read in parts.)
WHY ARE PEOPLE (AM I) HAVING SUCH STRONG REACTIONS TO THIS ELECTION AND ITS RESULTS?
there’s all sorts of craziness happening. there is so much division, even amongst believers. but, I know that no matter what, we as the people of God’s Kingdom know that only His Kingdom lasts so we must be the people in this world that hold the tension of not giving into despair (whether that’s giving up on people we disagree with or giving up hope of any kind) but not dismissing pain. it is the pain however that is getting us most riled up. pain dismissed is what got us here. there must be space to deal with the pain if we are ever to move to a place of healing. there are 4 thoughts we’re tempted to have but we must not give in to.
1. we ought not be so upset, we shouldn’t be crybabies.
yes, we don’t despair because God is in control. but why shouldn’t we cry? where does this stoicism come from? not from God. the people of Israel were familiar with lament and maybe we can learn something from them. Job asked God questions in his pain. Jesus wept (even when He knew it was going to work out for good). The early church was familiar with tears. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
yes, we may not need to cry over some things that can be better said in words. but sometimes we may need to cry because that expresses more than our words could ever say. the hand of God responds to the cries of his people. we need space to grieve or else our pain will harden into something worse.
2. but Romans 13:1 says we should submit to governing authorities God has put in place so we should just accept it
yes, we ought to submit to the government for they have been put in place by God. however, there is ONE case that trumps that verse, which is when the law of the land goes against the law of God who is the ultimate law giver (i.e. in our president-elects case, the need to love the most vulnerable of our neighbors as opposed to insulting them and proposing laws against them. if he has changed, awesome! let him apologize and set things right). by dissent, i do not mean violent resistance but civil protest (the early church was not a stranger to civil disobedience, when it went against God’s conscience, as many were willingly arrested and even killed for their stances. Jesus himself confronted the establishment of the temple authorities by overturning the corruption of money-changer tables).
when God appoints a leader that DOES NOT always mean God anoints a leader. let us remember God appointed pharaoh with a hard heart to oppress the israelites, nebuchadnezzar with an arrogant heart to kidnap daniel and his people, and will appoint the anti-christ (i’m not saying we know who the anti-christ is) with a defiant heart to persecute his saints. but again we are not hopeless because he always has and always will work things out for the good of those who love him.
3. none of these policies have been put into place yet, and it’s not such a big deal as there are people in the world with greater suffering.
yes, there is a scale of pain but that doesn’t mean that we must then disregard the lesser pain. yes, the suffering of others gives us invaluable perspective and we are poorer without it but that is the very thing i am appealing to: perspective. you may not be strongly affected by things that were said but that doesn’t mean others can’t be strongly affected, especially those who are dealing with a real history of real pain. there is real pain for them, not so much because of legitimate results of our electing system, not because laws have come into effect already, but because the election results can be read as an approval of a president, by this united states, that thinks it’s okay to dismiss many who live in them – a realization of fears these very people have worked so hard to overcome. in fact, if we pivot perspectives, many were surprised in this election precisely because they did not take into account the pain of working class / poor whites in the rust belt states that swung the vote. yes, we can not make everyone happy, nor should we, but telling someone their pain does not matter is certainly not a solution.
4. sometimes God subjects people to pain that they deserve…they have brought it upon themselves.
this may be, but this is the judgement for God to make not ours. even such pain is not pointless. this side of heaven and hell there is still hope of redemption. we are ALL made in image of God and we ALL fall short. once we begin to demonize the other side as ignorant, insane, and/or irreversibly immoral we’ve put them in the category of beyond redemption. we do not know that. secondly, there are real beliefs and values at play on both sides, to ignore that is for us to be stuck in an endless cycle of greater division. we may not agree with the beliefs and values of the “other” but they are motivated by what they think is right as we are motivated by what we think is right. we may not all be right but let us work this out and not give up on each other.
to my fellow christians in particular, let us keep in mind that neither political party is the party of God. God is not left or right, liberal or conservative. both sides, all sides, must answer to Him. both sides have faults. both sides also have some truth and issues that align with what God cares for – here are just a few (please keep in mind that i’m not saying either side doesn’t care for these issues or that the application of these values in terms of policy is the best way, but i’m talking more about emphasis of platform as it relates to biblical principles):
- care for the unborn child
- care for the sanctity of marriage
- care for personal responsibility over relegating responsibility to government
- care for freedom over force with use of our resources
- care for the stranger, foreigner, and refugee.
- care for those who are hurting and do not have the means to help themselves (healthcare is one major application).
- care for the environment (this is a creation mandate and our original job description).
- care for the poor that values generosity over conditions.
i long for the Bride of Christ, not to be beholden to either political party but to hold ourselves and our institutions accountable to a more holistic Kingdom vision. for the time being though, inevitably, with the way our secular party system is currently formed and our tendency toward tribalism, someone is bound to lose. there are costs to be paid. this leads to the next big question.
GOD, WHY WOULD YOU ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN?
whatever “this” is for you, we are faced with this question in the face of real evil and suffering that we witness not just on a personal level but on a systemic level. as i’ve wrestled with these questions with God in the past week this is what i’ve sensed.
1. suffering reveals his saints
- in trial, it shows what/who we really trust in.
- in this past week, God’s been causing me to appeal to and put my real hope in his eternal character and kingdom more than before.
2. suffering refines his saints
- in trial, it makes us focus on what’s really important.
- In this past week, i’ve been driven to prayer and prayer with more of my heart than i have in a long while.
3. suffering tests his saints
- in trial it’s an opportunity to continue to do what we know is true, just, and good.
- in this past week, God has stretched my perspective and reminded me that the work of the Kingdom is all the more important now.
His Bride shines brightest in suffering not in comfortability.
So then, this leads to the final big question
HOW THEN DO WE MOVE FORWARD?
1. let us take our pain to God first.
- let us make space to lament. maybe it is high time for some ugly crying (i know i have). God can take it. this has been a helpful template for me (from my friend Lisa E.).
- if we are angry (although God gets angry, this should be our most mistrusted emotion because it is the one most prone to abuse. we can express our anger to God but let us not blame God. we can be angry at injustice but let us take a good hard look at any logs in our eyes.) let us ask God “why am I so angry? what is at the root of this anger?” this can really help us in the healing and growing process.
2. let us seek God for what’s important.
- let us ask God what do we need to let go?
- let us ask God what we must not compromise?
- let us allow liberal/conservative adorations and divisions to die. there are three things that are eternal: God, people, and His Word. all our answers to what is important must be measured by scripture. we need a deeper theology of orthodoxy and orthopraxy of what it means to love God with all that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
3. let us walk the walk not only talk the talk.
- let us commit ourselves to unceasing prayer because the power of a right life in Christ comes from prayer, not people pleasing. daniel, even under threat of the lion’s den in a broken government, never forgot who he was and continued to do his thing, as was his usual practice for decades, of seeking after God and His Kingdom. prayer to the Father was the God-given private nexus behind Jesus’ public authority and power that he modeled for us.
- let us not be afraid to enter into the suffering of others unlike ourselves, without which there is no resurrection. Jesus tells us that if we are to follow him, we must take up our cross (instruments of death) and follow him. we are saved by faith alone but a faith without works is dead.
- let us first be faithful to what God has put before us before we engage the broader discussion. this one is such a challenge for me because, if i am honest with myself, sometimes the work right before me of loving my own family, my own ministry, my own community is harder then to engage in larger scale dialogues and policies. not that we ought to neglect the latter but that we must not lose sense of our God given responsibility before us. as we do that better we are better equipped to have something of more substance to offer to the broader conversation.
we don’t always understand why there is suffering when God is a good God. but just because we don’t see a reason for the suffering doesn’t mean there is no good reason. we don’t know the full story, no one does except God. but in humility let us trust in His goodness because His goodness will always win. let’s not give in to despair or hate. let’s keep on doing good because He is good, He gives us power to do good, and good WILL win. so no matter what we’re facing let’s persevere in Jesus because HIS Kingdom is already being unleashed and it is indestructible.