Yesterday I tried to dissect the election results, offering along with those results a diagnosis of the malady we face as a nation. Today, I want to make it more personal. How should I, and how should all Christians who are disappointed with those results, respond?
Clichés run amok at times like this. There are two Christian clichés that I firmly reject: “This was God’s will” and “God is in control.” I know I risk alienating a portion of readers by calling these clichés, and certainly risk raising suspicions about my orthodoxy by rejecting these two tried-and-true comments. Let me explain why they are anathema to me.
Sin is never God’s will. Righteousness is always God’s will. If a decision made by the voters leads to greater sin, it is most assuredly not the will of God. By returning Obama and his minions to their offices, sin will abound. Abortion on demand will remain the goal of this administration; religious liberty will continue to be attacked via Obamacare; homosexuality will be celebrated and same-sex marriage promoted; the federal government will take over more of our lives, undermining the family, churches, and local control. I gladly admit I have no patience with the evangelical Left that sees no problem with this. I even have a profound disagreement with those who voted as I did coming out and offering their congratulations to the president for his victory. I would no sooner offer congratulations to Obama for his electoral success than I would offer congratulations to Hugo Chavez for winning the Venezuelan presidency. Both victories will lead to mass misery and greater acceptance for sinful policies. I must stand for righteousness.
Have you ever read the Lord’s Prayer with an eye to one particular sentence? “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to pray for His will to be done precisely because it usually is not being done. The normal mode for humanity is to do one’s own selfish will, not God’s. Only those who have come to terms with their sinfulness, repented of it, and received the forgiveness offered through the sacrifice of Christ are seeking to do God’s will on this earth. Most of what happens is contrary to God’s will; that is why we need to pray specifically that His ways will prevail.
That second cliché—God is in control—is not quite as bad, but it needs some context. If by that, we mean that ultimately He has the final say, I have no issue with it. He certainly can, at any time of His choosing, wipe out the ungodly or bring an end to human history. However, I think most people say this as a kind of narcotic applied to a bad situation. It makes them feel better to say it. It’s almost akin to “this was God’s will” in their minds. They rest in the assurance that somehow this will all turn out okay because “God is in control.” Look at history. Look around you. Most things do not turn out okay. Lives are destroyed every minute. Atrocities go unchecked. Selfishness, bitterness, and all evil attitudes wreak havoc on society. Retreating into a unthinking cliché may ease our anxieties, but it doesn’t change reality. Faith is one thing; delusion is another matter entirely. It’s dangerous to confuse the two.
I think the proper perspective is given to us in Romans 8:28:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
The promise is conditional. God will always be at work to bring good out of bad, to resurrect righteousness out of evil, but the promise is to those who are truly called by Him to carry out His will. It applies to those who are actively loving Him. The promise is personal; it applies to society at large only to the extent that it is fulfilled in our lives. This is not a blanket promise that everything is going to work out—don’t worry, be happy. No, it is a promise to those who are the redeemed who are living within His will and who are devoted to seeing that will being done on earth as it already is in heaven.
What does Romans 8:28 mean to me? It is a deep assurance from God’s Spirit that if I continue to love Him, I can depend on His blessing in my life and in the lives of those whom I touch. It comforts me to realize that no matter how surrounded I may be by evil, He is with me, encouraging me to be a light in the dark spiritual abyss that externally appears to be winning.
This deep assurance of His ongoing love and divine intervention in my life, despite the disturbances in the world, leads me away from bitterness, unrighteous anger [which is different than a righteous anger over how sin destroys everything that is godly], revenge, and despair. It tells me there is still hope because God has not abandoned me nor any of His true children. He seeks to work out His will on this earth through us.
On a practical level, this means I must continue to be engaged in the task He has given me. I am under obligation to speak, write, and act in ways that advance His kingdom. I have a responsibility to stay involved in the political/governmental sphere. I cannot cave when an election goes bad; neither can I wash my hands of the mess of politics and walk away. He has called me, and us, to be right there in the muck, doing all we can to clean it up. Isn’t that the essence of our calling as salt and light?
Some will say that what happened on Tuesday is God’s judgment for America’s sins. I won’t say I disagree. We are reaping the consequences of our ungodliness as a society. But until I know for certain that it is an ultimate judgment and that I am to shake the dust off my feet and allow it to fall without mercy, I will keep fighting for societal redemption. There may be a time when we will mirror the nation that the prophet Jeremiah addressed. America may, in effect, come to the point where it is in captivity to another nation—in submission to a stronger power and forced to do its will. It tears me up to consider this possibility, but with the current administration, we may be moving inexorably toward that end. Yet I will do all I can, under God, to forestall that nightmare.
There’s another factor that Christians must now take seriously. Throughout American history, Christians have either had the upper hand or have at least been protected and free to pursue their faith. That may change. Persecution may come. We have to prepare ourselves for that possibility. We have to come to grips with the fact that America today is not what America has been. Attacks on the faith may increase. We may be faced with hard decisions. Will we remain faithful or will we bow to the new caesar? Early Christians had to make that choice; we may soon join their ranks. Yet if that happens, we still have God’s many promises, not the least of which is Romans 8:28. We don’t have to worry about His faithfulness; the only question will be ours. Will we continue to love Him and carry out His purposes regardless of the circumstances?
Pray for one another, brethren, that our testimony will bring glory to His name.