• ericleerisner

It's Almost November


 

We are approaching the end of the year 2020. Before we know it, we will be exchanging presents and sipping eggnog. I can’t really tell if this year has flown by or if it has felt like time has been standing still. It’s just been that strange of a year. We have experienced a virus that brought about worldwide lockdowns, a shaky economy, job loss, civil unrest, and overall, a major disruption to our lives and routines. If all that weren’t enough, we are rapidly coming up on an election that will take place in a deeply divided America. We have seen the news stories, social media posts, and campaign narratives. This one is going to be turbulent (to say the least). And that’s fine. For followers of Christ, our hope doesn’t hang on the White House and who resides there. Nor does it hang on how our culture perceives and responds to the world. Our hope lies in the rock-solid truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hope and healing are not unrealistic or unattainable ideals for us. Hope and healing have a name—Jesus Christ.


But this year has primed us to be drawn into some of the nonsense that our culture is currently engaging in. And I’m not talking about which side of the political aisle you walk on. Pick a side and stick to it. Be informed and strive to be a good steward of your American citizenship. Rather, I am referring to how each side has demonized the other. We have declared war on the other “team” and seem willing to do anything to slander, malign, and discredit them. Both sides are guilty of this. Our nation seems extremely volatile right now, and maybe that explains why the Church has tragically joined in and taken part in some of the nonsense we are observing. Maybe it’s why many in the Church have given in to the temptation of wrongly valuing political power and leaders. Maybe that volatility has caused us to forget what we should be focused on and committed to.


I don’t know what will happen this November (it’s honestly hard to tell). But I do know this. Whatever happens should not change the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ should walk away from this election in unity and love. Our culture is trying to tear us apart. We cannot give ground to this destructive ideology.

We have a more important mission—to advance the Kingdom of God.

And we can’t do that by ourselves; we need the family of God. But if we are at odds with our brothers and sisters, with bitterness filling our hearts, because of their political views, we will have trouble carrying out the mission of God. It’s that concern that has prompted me to help prepare us for what we are experiencing and what we will experience. So, as November approaches, please consider the following points.


Where Identity Comes From


It is increasingly common for our culture to form their personal identity based on their political affiliation and/or views. It has shaped what we watch on TV, where we shop, and the people we support. Now, more than ever, Americans seem to identify themselves by their political perspective. While it’s true that our political views do contribute to our personal identities, followers of Christ should not find themselves chiefly defined by their partisan identity. If we form our identity on this fact, the Church will end up just as divided, upset, and suspicious as the world around us.


Our identity should be formed through the person and work of Christ. Belonging to Jesus, and being brought into the family of God, is the most important truth about us. Being accepted and loved by Christ is the defining factor of our lives—not how we are voting. I’m proud to be an American. I’m sure you are too. But we must remember, we are first and foremost followers of Jesus.

Our most important affiliation is with the body of Christ.

When we draw our identity from Jesus, it paves the way for us to view others in a loving manner (especially those we disagree with). But if we are defined primarily by our politics, it sets the stage for division and arguments.


Where Hope Comes From


I have already mentioned this, but I want to elaborate on this point. I would argue that elections are primarily about hope. We vote for the platform and candidate that we hope will bring about the changes we desire to see in our nation. Elections represent promises and the possibility of a tomorrow that is better than the present. As Americans, we have been taught and believe that we can solve any problem we are faced with. I’m not saying this is negative, but it’s not entirely true. There are problems we can’t solve. No matter what a particular candidate promises to do. Placing all our hope in the power of the state will leave us frustrated and let down. Many people even turned away from Christ during His earthly ministry for this reason. If Jesus couldn’t deliver political or military power, He wasn’t worth following. After all, that is the hope of the world isn’t it? Wrong. Jesus offers the world a hope that even the finest government is unable to. He offers us a hope that it is lasting and that isn’t determined by who is in office and wielding the power of the state.

Our hope is rooted in the eternal life that was freely given to us by Christ.

And He doesn’t make promises simply to get votes. He calls us home and delivers hope because of His character. He is perfect, loving, merciful, gracious, kind, sinless, and all-powerful. His Kingdom will come and our hope should firmly rest in the One whose character is holy and unlike any candidate that has ever been presented to us.


Where We’re Headed


Both political parties base their campaigns on where they plan to take our nation and the American people. Both sides would also have you fear the direction the opposing side would lead us in. Some of those claims are right and some are wrong. Some of the directions we hear candidates proclaiming do overlap with biblical values and principles. But that does not mean the mission of the Church is the same as the mission of a specific political party. God is not a tool of any political party. Nor is His mission dependent on the success of any political party. Quite frankly, there is no partisan agenda, ideology, or human political system that perfectly reflects the message of the gospel or the mission of the Church.


As believers, we must be careful to distinguish between the mission of God and the mission of partisan politics. We cannot allow the mission of a political party to replace the mission of the Church. I’m not trying to downplay the importance of politics or shame anyone for involving themselves in political matters. Proper engagement is healthy and necessary. But we cannot confuse the mission of a political party and the mission of the Church. The former is important, while the latter is essential.

The mission of God is essential, and we should understand that it will carry on despite who is elected.

The Church is called to exalt Christ, preach the gospel, and make disciples no matter what our nation and government looks like. So, where is America headed? I don’t know. And I would be wary of anyone who claims they do. Now, where is the Church of Jesus Christ headed? Hopefully towards revival. At least that’s what we should be praying for. Friends, don’t be more committed to the mission of a political party than you are to the mission of God.