God's Election Advice

God's Election Advice

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

We are in the midst of a difficult time. Sickness, conflict, anger and fear are very real, and touch all of our lives. What are Christians to do?

Our mailboxes, inboxes, TV’s, and social media are filled with messages pulling us one way or the other, often by mischaracterizations and exaggeration. The political powers self-righteously demonize each other. We are dumbfounded when people we once respected support a different candidate, political system, or movement. Long-time friends, and even family members, “unfriend” and block each other. We rationalize this because of the enormity of what is at stake.

You might think I was talking about our country right now, and I am, but I am also talking about Israel in Jesus’ time. Foreign nations occupied and ruled Israel for hundreds of years. This was an indignity to the people who lived there, and in contradiction to their faith as children of Abraham in the promised land. In the midst of this, some people got on the gravy train with the Romans, others fought against the Romans, and most were caught in the middle.

Among those Jesus called to be disciples were Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. Tax collectors of Jesus’ time grew rich preying upon fellow Jews, and were part of any list of irredeemable sinners—consider the story of Zacchaeus. The title of Zealot is a little murky. It can refer to either a Jewish sect dedicated to overthrowing Roman rule or to a person zealous for Mosaic Law, think of Pharisees on steroids. In either case, Matthew and Simon the Zealot would be absolute enemies, if it wasn’t for Jesus. Both of them sinned boldly against God and their fellow Jews in pursuit of their goals. Jesus utterly and repeatedly condemned the values each of them represented. The success of the cause of one of them meant the defeat of the other.

Until Jesus showed up.

Following Jesus was far more radical than overthrowing Roman occupiers or profiting as a Roman collaborator. Jesus’ purposes are independent of any political party. In Jesus’ purposes, even the tax collector and zealot become so captivated by Jesus and the kingdom of God, that the profound differences and animosity they once had were abandoned as unnecessary burdens in the pursuit of the kingdom of God—that God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

As we approach this election, we can’t escape the pressure and necessity of choosing one candidate or the other, each of whom predicts doom if the other is elected. The candidates and parties are very different. Everyone I know strongly supports one candidate, or at least hates the other. I have never experienced such hatred and distain toward people who support the opposing candidate, overriding strong pre-election relationships. Because of these differences, there will be a season following this election when our nation will experience even greater pain, anger, and division. The question is, what does following Jesus look like in the midst of the difficult season ahead of us?

It is vital to remember that Jesus isn’t on the side of any presidential candidate, and never was. Matthew and Simon had to leave behind what they once thought was important in order to pursue different, greater and eternal value. Jesus recruited tax collectors and zealots together into the work of the kingdom, and continues to invite political enemies to lay aside their differences, not because the issues don’t matter, but because human wisdom and ability are not the ultimate solution for our problems. Jesus calls for us to follow him, and reveal God’s love, mercy, justice, peace and abundance.

Let us remember that it was while we were sinners that Jesus went to the cross, not because we were worth it, but because we needed it. Until we are ready to take up our cross for those in need, we ought to be slow to throw stones. Until we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we should not dare to judge them. Unless we stand on the side of those who face injustice and need, we shouldn’t assume we know God’s will. Like Matthew and Simon, we must leave behind our preconceptions if we are to be part of God’s purposes.

In 2nd Chronicles we find the familiar passage, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Let us remember that it begins with our own humility, prayer and repentance, not the humiliation and defeat of our enemies. Like Matthew and Simon, let us humble ourselves, pray, seek God's face, turn from our own wicked ways, follow Jesus and reveal God's love, mercy, and justice in a world desperate for hope.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35