Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Christians: I choose making disciples for Jesus over electioneering

Let's be honest. This election campaign, which began sixteen months ago, has been, no matter what your party or philosophy, depressing.

The ugliness exhibited not just by candidates, but by voters, has made the whole thing a wretched exercise. There have been media reports of a significant number of Americans ending their friendships over this campaign.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds fairly explode with attacks not just on other candidates, but on "friends" who support other candidates. One person I know has decided, because it's all become so hateful, to just stop looking at Facebook until after the election.

I'd like to say just a few things. And they're directed at my fellow Christians.

First, I've personally made it a habit for some years now not to make any comments about my preferred politician or party.* Not even my family knows for sure how I will vote on November 8.

Both as a Christian and as a pastor, I have bigger fish to fry than to tell you who my (probably inadequate) judgment tells me to vote for.

Back in the mid-first century, the apostle Paul told the Christians at Corinth: "...I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).

The mission of every Christian--not just pastors--is to make disciples of the God Who lived a perfect human life and bore our sins on a cross to set us free from sin, death, and darkness.

Personally, I don't want to dilute or diminish the message of new and everlasting life through Jesus by self-indulgently peppering you with my political opinions.

If I have to choose between electioneering, on the one hand, and making disciples of Jesus Christ, on the other, I will choose discipling every single time. No contest. No second thoughts. Who wins an election is far less important than sharing Jesus so that people can know Him, follow Him, receive His grace, get His power for living, be filled with the hope that only He can give! I'd rather seek to make disciples than get someone to vote for one political candidate or another.

This isn't to say that that's the right course for you. But, I can tell you that it works for me.

Second, no candidate--not Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, not Gary Johnson, not Jill Stein, not Evan McMullin--is worth destroying any Christian's witness for Christ or decimating our friendships.

Candidates, presidents, prime ministers, kings, and dictators will come and go. But God and the life that He offers to all of us through Jesus Christ, endures forever.

With the psalmist, I can say of this God revealed in Jesus: "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Psalm 90:2).

Besides, candidates and presidents are only mortal people like you and me: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9). Princes and other people, generally, will let us down. (I let people down.) To expect people to be some kind of foundation on which we can build our lives is absolute foolishness.

Third, if we feel we have to speak up politically, as I frequently do with members of my family, we who seek to follow Jesus need to do it with civility.

Proverbs 15:1 makes the common sense observation: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

The simple fact of the matter is that if we press our views with harshness, insisting on stereotyping our opponents as "devils" or "deplorables"--to cite terms used by Trump and Clinton, respectively--we aren't going to win anybody over.

Fourth, after this election is over, we will have a new President-Elect. Whether we voted for the winning candidate or not, that person will be the president of all Americans.

Opposing presidents' programs is fine. But the same need for civility that is so apparent during this campaign will be needed after the new president's inauguration on January 20.

So will our prayers. Writing to the young pastor Timothy in the midst of both shunning and persecution of Christians by governmental authorities, the apostle Paul gave this directive: "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. This is good, and pleases God our Savior..." (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Of course, there are times when Christians must speak up: when lives are threatened, when injustices are done. But even then, our witness should be civil and loving. I daily pray that God will help me to get out of His way so that I can exhibit these traits, so foreign to my nature.

*What about that post from yesterday? That was about what how a Christian pastor mischaracterized and effectively excused the sinful objectification of women, not about politics. I acknowledged in the post that Donald Trump had apologized for his 2005 comments and that it was up to God and to voters to decide whether it was genuine. I refuse to give a public opinion on that question.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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