J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
DURHAM, N.C. (BP) – By all accounts, this has been a strange year. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that a presidential election has come (and gone) without us knowing the clear winner. In due time, we will learn the results of the vote. Until then, what should Christians do in the upcoming days and weeks?
At The Summit Church, we dedicated a lot of time in the last month to the difficult questions of politics. It’s not my intent to cover all of that ground again. But as we await election results, I wanted to offer three brief thoughts for my fellow Christians:
While this election is significant, it pales in the light of eternity. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are accounted as the dust on the scales …” (Isaiah 40:15 ESV). In other words, what seems so enormous to us is, from God’s perspective, remarkably small.
One day, the United States will be a footnote in history. But the kingdom of God, ruled by Jesus Christ, will last forever and ever. We cannot remind ourselves of this often enough. In Acts 17, the apostle Paul explained that God controls world politics so that the nations “would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (v. 27 NIV).
Things in our earthly kingdom may be in flux, but things in our heavenly one are right on schedule. Politics are not the end game; the completion of the Great Commission is. However God arranges the next political chapter of our country, my primary assignment is still crystal clear.
So, we can be patient – more than patient, calmly patient, even relaxed – knowing that God is in control. No political outcome can affect our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, where our primary allegiance lies.
Having trouble with this? Ask the Spirit of God for help. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit-filled life, an indication that God is at work within us (Galatians 5:22). As difficult as it is for us to wait (we’ve been waiting months for some resolution, after all), waiting is precisely what God has called us to right now.
- Show Empathy for the Concerned and Fearful.
Empathy means seeking to see situations through others’ eyes. In this situation, empathy means seeking to understand why someone who voted differently than you feels as they do, what motivates them, what animates their passions. What were they most concerned about in this election? What fears motivated them? What justice questions most concerned them?
In his recent book, Before You Vote, David Platt gave some tangible action steps toward political empathy. Try to find something you can legitimately praise in the other party. Name it.
So for sincere Christians who lean right, ask yourself: Why is it that a Trump presidency – or a second term – causes such anguish and fear among so many? And after you ask, listen.
For sincere Christians who lean left, ask yourself: What good and healthy motivations were there for people to vote for Trump? And after you ask, listen.
Seeking to understand this doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with their political calculus, but you can at least try to see it through their eyes – and give them the benefit of the doubt about what motivated their vote.
Regardless of the presidential winner, many of our fellow citizens are going to respond with legitimate concern, even fear, for what this election means for our country. Respond to them with empathy. Empathy doesn’t require that you agree with everything that troubles someone, but it does require that you value them highly enough to ask questions, to acknowledge their hurts and above all, to listen.
This has certainly not been a political season marked by empathetic understanding – in the church or otherwise. Based on what we see on social media, you’d think there were only two options: Marxist or racist; Communist or Fascist! In the church, we should be different. As much as we are able, we give each other the benefit of the doubt about motives.
There’s no reason empathy can’t begin now, with you and me in the body of Christ. Such gives off the fragrance of Christ.
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Source: Baptist Press