The morning after the seismic announcement of Donald Trump as the new President-Elect of America, I woke up with the verse, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn," running around in my head. (Romans 12:15) My dialogue with God around that verse has been, "Lord, but there are people rejoicing and weeping in the same place! How do we respond to this?" I suspect this is exactly God's point. Presidential elections are always contentious, but I've never witnessed such venomous divisiveness as this one. I appreciated the conciliatory nature of Trump, Clinton and Obama's post-election speeches, but they seem to have done little to smooth over the yawning ravine in our nation. The damage has been done. The wounds are gaping and septic.
I gathered with 5 friends in my back yard to pray at 7am that morning. We do this every month, chatting over coffee through a chapter of Tim Keller's book on prayer, and then, well, praying. This morning though, just 8 hours after the announcement, was quite different. We were candid about how we felt and who we voted for. This may be a uniquely American phenomena, and I like it. Political opinion is a public thing.
We were all surprised by the results, some pleasantly and with hope, others with an element of shock, and some with grief. None of us expected a Trump win, and especially not a Republican sweep of the House and the Senate. It seemed like small-town, blue-collar America had silently flexed its voting muscle, sending shock waves of change through Washington and the nation. There was a general sense of gladness that the liberal agenda, strutting with such confidence, had been given a bloody nose. But we were not all in agreement about the actual President-Elect. A number of us had deep concerns about his moral integrity, his ability to listen to wise counsel, and his treatment of minority groups and immigrants who now feel fearful and vulnerable.
I was fascinated to discover that of the 6 of us, there had been 5 different votes. Only one man had voted for Trump and one for Clinton. The rest wrote in. We were men from three different cultures, in fact 3 different nationalities, ranging from our 30's to our 50's in age. In that circle the guy who voted for Trump and the guy who voted for Clinton spoke up last, possibly for fear of being judged. Writing in was in some ways the easy answer. Everyone had voted with a sense of conflict, and everyone, in differing degrees, had a mix of hope and trepidation about the next four years under Trump's leadership.
Why do I include these personal details when everyone is making global predictions of the situation? Because I am a pastor, and while I care about global trends, I care more about how people respond to them. I'm also tired of trying to predict what the outcome of such decisions are. Some are confidently predicting the end of American Evangelicalism as we know it. Some insist on the demise of the Democratic party. Others the unravelling of the Republican party. Some have pronounced the onset of Armageddon, while still others the birth of a Great American Resurgence. And all these predictions are from Christian leaders! No wonder the Church is so divided and confused. While I can understand the temptation to make such certain statements, I believe a healthy, humble sense of uncertainty around global forecasts is what God requires right now. I care about a circle of 6 men in my back yard, and how they walk out Jesus' one-anothers together in the midst of political disagreement, in a way that mends fractures and heals wounds.
This nation is divided. Who will make the two halves whole? We will, and we must. We are called to be reconcilers and peacemakers. How now shall we heal, in the light of this seismic event?
1. Live with God's Sovereignty as our sanity
"At the end of time, I Nebuchadnezzar, raised my head to heaven and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High, I honored and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion, his kingdom endures from generation to generation."
These are the words of the pagan king who turned to God after denying him and persecuting His people. God's sovereignty enables us to honor a human leader we may not have voted in, knowing that he or she will ultimately answer to God. It also enables us to speak truth to power, because we do not walk in the fear of man but of God. If we are hopeful, God's sovereignty keeps us from triumphalism reminding us that no human leader can be the King that we need. If we are despairing, this verse reminds us of the Sovereign power of God to change a leader's heart, no matter how hard it is, and to restore sanity to anyone who looks to Him.
God's sovereignty means that he can change a man like Trump and also use a man like Trump. He may be used in the hand of God to stem the liberal tide and restore robust nationhood. If this is the case I will rejoice, but have concern for the rising tide of cultural Christianity that confuses the kingdom with patriotism. Trump may be used in the hand of a Sovereign God as an instrument of judgment upon this nation. If that is the case, then the Church will be tested and will come out purer and stronger. If God is Sovereign, then no politician is Satan and no politician is Savior. Let's live that way, knowing that God ultimately raises kings and brings them down.
2. Live with God's incarnation as our mandate
God is on His throne. But God got off his throne and came to earth, to love unlovely people who were different from Him. This is an equally important truth to remember. In the Church, because the Cross of Christ has reconciled us in our diversity, we need to give each other space to rejoice and mourn this decision without judgment. Remember that if the Roman government had been overthrown in Jesus time, Simon the Zealot would have rejoiced, and Matthew the tax collector would have mourned. Jesus seemed to be okay with having both guys as his disciples. So should we. Towards outsiders, to be like Christ is to walk towards those who think differently from us and love them. We can be larger than our own political opinions. There is a larger call to love not just our neighbor but our enemies. Are you delighted with our new President-Elect? Go and love someone who is devastated. There are many women, people in the LGBTQ community, racial minorities and immigrants who feel incredibly vulnerable. Go and empathize. Are you fearful of our new President-Elect? Go and love someone who is excited. There are many who have felt judged and condemned for holding conservative opinions these past 8 years who are now glad to have a strong leader pushing against the liberal agenda. Go and listen to them. Let's all climb off the throne of our water-tight opinions, and humble ourselves as peacemakers.
3. Stand on the common ground of Biblical Unity.
As Christians, we will disagree politically until Christ returns. The solution is not to stand on our opposing political platforms and reach towards each other across the ravine. It's to go and stand together on an older, more solid platform. "On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!" This doesn't mean we drop our political convictions. It just means we hold them more lightly than our Biblical creeds. The fact is that political parties and platforms are fickle. They will shift, shake and crumble under our feet, but Christ's kingdom will never be shaken. A Biblical faith empowers us to stand with the political stranger on the solid platform of Christ.
So the 6 of us shared earnestly and honestly, with freedom to disagree on what we hoped and feared about our new President -Elect. Then we prayed through the Lord's prayer, standing upon the truths that bound us together eternally. We are adopted sons of the same Father. Our true country is in heaven. And our great desire is for His eternal kingdom to come here on earth.
It was Christian Citizenship at its best.