The entire nation was stunned Tuesday night when we realized Donald Trump had won the Presidential Election. And by “stunned,” I mean that for both sides. Even Trump and his family as they watched seemed shocked.
Let’s be honest, no one was really expecting this. Some were hoping for it, some were afraid of it, but no one was expecting it. So now, the question becomes, “What next?”
As it happens, I have some suggestions:
We read in Romans 12:14-17, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Our nation is divided, there’s no question about it. Two hundred thousand votes currently separate the two frontrunners, and they aren’t even finished counting. The winner of the election did not win the popular vote. Before the election, both sides threatened to protest. Indeed, those who opposed Trump most strongly are protesting in the streets. Our workplaces, our families and our churches are divided. It’s important to realize that especially in this election, we all had to make an agonizing choice and vote our conscience. Everybody had a different line in the sand, a different issue they just couldn’t stomach. But we all also had to make some compromises to vote for any party or candidate. In general, most of us would have been a bit apprehensive no matter who won. These were two of the least liked candidates in recent history. We are advised by scripture to bless and not curse, live in harmony, not be prideful or conceited. As far as we can, we should try to live at peace with those we disagree.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. ‘
We may have been on one side or the other during the campaign, but we should now all be on the same side in hoping and praying that Trump is a successful president. I saw someone write today that it’s as if we’re all on a plane and Trump is flying it. If he doesn’t do a good job, we ALL go down. When Paul wrote his words to Timothy that he should instruct his church to pray for its leaders, it was a hard directive. They were in Rome, where Christians were being persecuted. Paul said that we should pray for our kings and those in authority, because their success is our success. Whether or not we agree with their politics, we pray for our leaders. We pray that they will be wise, that they will govern well. We pray that they make decisions that benefit the people most in need and that they honor God.
And in Mark 12:17, “Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”
The words of Jesus probably challenge us most of all. Render unto Caesar is about so much more than taxes. We are a people of the Cross before we are anything else. Before we are Americans, we are a people who gaze upon the broken and bleeding body of Christ. Before we are Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians or Independents or anything else, we must be Christians. We do not hang our hopes on elections or political parties. The Church will not rise or fall on the backs of elected officials or even governments themselves. The Church belongs to Jesus, and he is a jealous lover. Over the past several decades, we’ve watched as American Evangelicalism has become more and more intertwined with political issues. It’s time that we in the American church really begin to untangle ourselves from the political ideologies and examine what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar, and which is more important to us. That’s not to say we should disengage, but we must examine what it looks like to preach the Gospel in our context. In the divided climate we live in, the Gospel must not be laced with political speech. It must be filled with love and compassion as Jesus showed us. His good news wasn’t about the nation that the kings and authorities of his day were proclaiming. Instead, it was about a “now and not yet” Kingdom that turned everything upside down. Citizenship in that Kingdom should always be our first identity.
I told my soon to be nine year old yesterday morning, “Some of your friends will be scared or upset, some of them may be happy. Your job is the same as it always has been: Comfort people who are sad, be a friend to everyone, and stand up for people who are being bullied.”