I admit, this election season has exhausted me. Pastorally, socially, ethically, politically, theologically, and mentally. I’m exhausted.
Every four years brings the tough battle of conservatives sparring against liberals, but this election has produced a whole new kind of battle that’s way closer to home: conservatives against conservatives.
The candidacy of Donald Trump has caused some of the sharpest controversy I’ve personally experienced in my own circles. Trump’s Republican supporters say those who will not vote for him are handing Hillary Clinton the White House, thereby compromising their conservative values. The Republicans who will not vote for Trump say that his supporters are justifying a historical Democrat with a perverted sexual history, thereby compromising their conservative values. This has not been a simple matter of agreeing to disagree—it’s become a take-no-prisoners bloodbath.
I’ve experienced this tension in my friend groups, on social media, and even in our church (where it’s been the hardest for me). These have been difficult waters to wade through. Not just because of the wrestling I’ve done with others as we try to navigate this moral dilemma, but because of the wrestling I’ve done with myself. What is the right thing to do? How big of a deal should I make this? How tough of a stance should I take? Is this a gray area, or is it an essential matter of church purity? How do I engage the issue with that Christ-like balance of grace and truth?
Last night, as I was poring over the strongly-worded election-eve opinions of my Facebook friends, I came to a weary realization: I’m ready for this to be done.
I found myself fed up with politics. Fed up with Christians turning on each other. Fed up with asking the tough questions. Fed up with trying to answer them. I found myself ready to disengage from the whole process and just get back to Jesus. I was all prepared to write a piece today about how God is still on the throne regardless of who wins and the truly important thing is the gospel. After all, isn’t that all that matters?
Ultimately, yes. God is sovereign. The gospel of Christ is central. May we never forget that. Never. But as I dreamed of escaping the moral and political complications of the 2016 election, another thought flooded my senses: We aren’t called to escape the world, but to engage it. We aren’t called to sit back and wait for the kingdom, we’re called to advance it. We aren’t called to remove ourselves from the system, but to impact and change the system for the glory of God.
Isn’t that the nature of life itself? Isn’t it easy to get frustrated with the fallen systems of a fallen world? When school gets challenging, we want to drop out. When our jobs get tough, we want to quit. When our marriage gets difficult, we want a divorce. When church gets rocky, we seek a new local body or even a privatized spirituality free of establishment. There is no area of life untouched by the Fall, no area where Easy Street does not beckon us to retreat into the monastery of our own private world.
The same is true of politics, of culture, of morality, and even of those issues that we Christians just cannot seem to agree on. Don’t throw your sucker in the dirt and storm off the playground. It may sound super spiritual to say “It’s all about Jesus!” and ignore everything else, but that can quickly digress into spiritual laziness and escapism if we’re not careful. Of course it’s all about Jesus. But that doesn’t mean we sit back and disengage ourselves from the world He created and the world He’s made us stewards over.
Of course we always want to watch our conduct to ensure we’re acting in humility rather than pride, and exhibiting grace rather than self-righteousness. But that doesn’t mean we never approach the issues. We’re supposed to wrestle with the tough questions. We’re supposed to wrestle with the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the true and the false.
Yes, I’m tired. And I’m sure you are, too. But to stop caring or participating is the wrong choice because our task is not yet finished, and our Sabbath rest is not yet here. Until that Day arrives, let us keep thinking, asking, wrestling, and striving to actively and lovingly engage the issues of this fallen world. Let us seek to advance our true Ruler’s kingdom as faithfully as we can.
It’s not always easy. But of all the options voters might face today, that choice is always the right one.