Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Contentment on Election Day...
I suppose all presidential elections stir strong convictions in us. As we all know, this year's decision process has been particularly intense.
I managed to make it almost through the entire campaign without getting drawn into a political disagreement. The other day, however, I was at a luncheon, and I went over to hug two friends. As I drew near, I realized that they were having an emotional exchange about the candidates.
Wouldn't you know it? I jumped in with my two cents. I spoke impulsively, without taking the time to pray or think about what I was going to say.
As soon as I opened my mouth, I regretted it. All three of us had already voted early, so it wasn't as if we were engaged in helping each other make a good decision. The conversation was going nowhere, and it wasn't bearing good fruit. My contribution only made one of the women feel ganged up on. We all love each other, and we resolved things quickly and peacefully. Still, I realized that of the "times to speak" and the "times to be silent" mentioned in Ecclesiastes, this would have been a great time for me to "be silent" -- or, even better, to have been a peacemaker.
Well, the campaign comes to an end today, and the time of debating is over. I'm glad. Aren't you? Isn't it great to know that no matter what happens today, it will be in alignment with God's direct or allowed will?
As the Bible tells us: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by the Lord." Romans 13:1 "...for dominion belongs to the Lord and He rules over the nations." Psalm 22:28. "..."He...sets up kings and deposes them." Daniel 2:21. "He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him." Acts 17:26-27.
When Jesus was on this earth, a crowd came to forcibly make him a political king. John 6:14-15. Jesus withdrew from them, because he knew they had misunderstood his mission. He had not come to take charge of the earthly government right then. He had come to die for us, to be raised to life again, and to offer us admittance into the eternal heavenly kingdom.
Later on, he told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." John 18:36. During his earthly ministry, Jesus spoke often of this kingdom. "Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." Matthew 9:35. There are roughly 116 references to this kingdom in the four gospels alone.
If we are disciples of Jesus, our true citizenship is in this heavenly kingdom. Phil. 3:20. As wonderful as our country is, our first and total allegiance is to the rule of God. Matthew 5:1-10, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 6:10.
So, what does our Heavenly King ask of us in terms of participation in our earthly government?
1) To submit to the governing authorities, unless they ask us to disobey the Lord. Romans 13:1-5, Acts 5:29.
2) To pay taxes. Romans 12:6-7
3) To give honor to whom honor is due. Romans 12:6-7
4) To pray for those in authority so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. I Timothy 2:1-3.
As far as I can tell, that's about it. This, of course, is in the context of loving our neighbors as ourselves, helping the poor and suffering among us among us, and spreading the good news of the eternal kingdom and of God's grace. God asks that we do these things personally and through the church. We impact hearts and lives one by one as we make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything. Matthew 28:18-28. We do this by depending wholly on the Lord and not on human wisdom or power.
The early church lived this way, and they revolutionized their world. Descriptions from early writings tell us that, among other things, the Christians of the first three centuries were known for adopting abandoned babies, for caring for the elderly, for being the only ones to take care of plague victims during a third-century epidemic, for founding the first hospitals, for forsaking ungodly entertainments, for sharing their possessions so that no one amongst them would go needy, and for loving those who persecuted them. They amazed others with their willingness to be martyred for their faith. They made an impact on their society even though the government and large segments of their society were antagonistic toward them. They changed the world not through politics, but through their devotion to the Lord.
Today, many people live in countries, such as the U.S., where we do have some say about how our government is run. This has not generally been the case in history, nor is it true for all people even now. So, it's a privilege to be able to cast our vote if it is our conviction to do so.
It's an even greater comfort to know that we can trust the Lord with the outcome. Christians rejoice, knowing that God works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his promise. We are grateful, because we know that no matter what happens in earthly politics, we are "receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." Hebrews 12:28. We do not let civilian affairs distract us from our desire to please our Lord. 2 Timothy 2:3-6
Because of this confidence, we can give our new president -- whomever he might be -- the honor that is due him. We can pray for him. We can do this even if he is not our personal choice. We can shine by keeping a contented spirit and by not complaining. Phil. 2:14-16.
Earthly regimes come and go; Christ is our Lord forever. That's good news!