Some say the election on November 8 will be the most significant American election since 1860. I’ve listened to the stilted media coverage favoring or decrying candidates from all sides. Major newspapers, like USA Today, have departed from their neutrality policies and have decided for the first time in history to speak out for or, in this case, against a particular candidate. No doubt you’ve been inundated with the same rhetoric; and when this article arrives at your doorstep you’ll still have a few days to make your choice on the ballot.
Yet I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. Right now I’m more interested in the rest of the month, the rest of the year, and the rest of the term! I honestly believe that has more of an impact than even how you vote in this particular election. How you respond after the election has a rippling effect on everyone around you.
So, once the election is over, what then? Really, what then? What’s a Christian to do?
Let’s just assume the worst. Be pessimistic with me for a moment. Let’s say the candidate you did NOT want to get into office will soon be sworn in. (Perhaps you are one of the many Americans who doesn’t like any of the candidates, in which case you don’t have to assume here. Regardless of who wins you’ll face this dilemma.) Now what? What is a Christian to do?
If you are struggling to find an answer to that, the Apostle Peter wants to help. Honestly, even if you already have an answer to that, Peter’s words are worth listening too. After all, this is from the Bible so it’s not just Peter’s words. This is what God has to say about it.
“I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh…. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to the emperor as supreme, or to the governors as sent by him... For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:11-17).
You say, “Well, Peter didn’t know when he wrote this that Donald Trump would be elected Commander in Chief.” Or, “Peter never had to live under Hillary Clinton as a President.”
True, but do you know who was emperor when Peter did write that epistle? Ascending to the throne in 54 AD upon the death of his great uncle and adoptive father Claudius Caesar, the Emperor was none other than Nero. Nero, the ancient Roman historian Tacitus tells us, had the widespread reputation of being compulsive and corrupt even in his own day. No one liked the guy. This same Nero began widespread persecution and mass killing of Christians in 64 AD, a situation that was already developing as Peter penned this letter. That’s why Peter includes recurring themes about enduring suffering for the sake of Christ such as: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you” (1 Peter 4:12) and “If anyone suffers as a Christian, do not let him be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16). This is also the letter in which Peter tells us to, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15-16). What if our adversaries are not gentle or respectful about it? Peter says, “do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary bless, for to this you were called” (1 Peter 3:9).
If, in Peter’s situation, he can have that attitude though the love of Christ, how much more can we? Hopefully a bit of historical context for Peter’s words puts our own circumstance into perspective, regardless of who gets elected. So, back to the question. The election is over; now what do we do?
- “Live as servants of God”—Regardless of who’s in power, it’s the Lord Christ that we serve.
- “Honor everyone”—Even people on the opposite end of the political spectrum? Even people who disagree with me on immigration, military, taxes, Medicare, marriage law, and abortion? Yep, honor everyone.
- “Love the brotherhood”—That is: love the church. Invest yourself among God’s people.
- “Fear God”—Don’t fear the president, the congressional majority, or the newly appointed justices. Fear God.
- “Honor the Emperor”—Sow honor, not disrespect, for our future leader. How’s that for being countercultural?
If you don’t like what you’re hearing in today’s media or in the political climate, if you wish you could silence the foolish talk, the Lord is clear: this is how to do it. May God grant us the faith, discipline, and patience to do so.
In Jesus’ Name,