by Grace Outlaw
Congratulations! We have almost made it to the end of the election season – an election made much more difficult and contemptuous by the absolute chaos that has been 2020.
Can I be honest for a minute? For me, this election cycle has felt like being the child in the middle of a brutal custody battle between two contemptuous parents.
How many social media posts have you seen this year that went something along the lines of “If you vote for 'insert candidate of choice here' go ahead and unfriend me.” Or “If you believe 'insert single issue belief here' go ahead and unfriend me.”? I have friends and family – people I love and respect – on both sides of the political aisle, and what makes this ongoing incivility even more difficult to witness is that a lot of these people profess to be followers of Jesus.
I have seen the religious vote (and the moral high ground) claimed by both the left and the right. Members from each party claim Jesus – and his teachings - as their own, but no political party has the market cornered on Christian ideals. Despite both parties' efforts to secure the Christian vote with religious rhetoric or faith-based endorsements, both the Republican and Democratic parties fall incredibly, painfully short of the gospel.
And why shouldn't they? Both parties are flawed organizations that are not tasked with carrying out the gospel. And therein lies the problem: our identities have become more wrapped up in our political affiliation than in our identity in Jesus.
This election cycle I've frequently heard statements thrown out like:
"You can't be a Christian and vote for Trump.”
“You can't be a Christian and vote for Biden.”
“If you vote Democrat it means you don't value human life.”
“If you vote Republican you don't care about marginalized groups of people.”
"If you vote 3rd party you're wasting your vote and letting ___ win"
This shouldn't need to be said, but Jesus was neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Likewise, our salvation does not hinge on a vote - it depends solely on Jesus. We cannot vote our way into (or out of) the Kingdom of God. Since our salvation is not dependent on any political stance, that means that our belief on tax policy, education, energy policy, immigration, LGBT rights, the military, or 'insert whichever hot button issue here' does not make or break our identity in Christ. What Jesus did for us was SO much bigger than that.
It is incredibly dangerous to assert our worldview as the only legitimate Christian view. It makes me think of the Pharisees and religious leaders who expected Jesus to come and overthrow Rome, and to show them that THEIR way was the true, right way. But Jesus didn't do that – in fact, he often did the opposite much to the dismay of the religious leaders.
In Luke 6 we are told to 'love our enemies'. That seems easy at first, because hey... I don't have any enemies, right? I'm just a normal person with normal people in my life. But that person that you HAD to unfriend because they made a post about 'Black Lives Matter' or 'Blue Lives Matter'? That family member you dread talking to at Thanksgiving because you don't agree with their political stance? When you bristle because you see a 'Trump 2020' or 'Biden 2020' sign? Check. Your. Heart.
“If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get? Even sinners love the people who love them.” If your facebook feed is filled only with people who are voting like you, or who think just like you, I want to challenge you to change that. If you know all of your friends will be voting for the same candidate as you, I want to challenge you to make a connection with someone different than you.
When Paul wrote to the Galatians he said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female – for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I can't help but imagine if he had been writing to modern day Americans instead of the Galatians that he would have included “Republican or Democrat” in that list. After all, whether we are left wing or right wing, we belong to the same bird.
We talk about bringing 'Heaven Here NOW' a lot. According to Jesus, the Kingdom he talked about was not a partisan wing of government - his paradigm was so SO much bigger than the 'Babylon' that is the United States. The Kingdom of God wasn't something we simply hope for when we die – It is something we are to make here NOW – 'on earth as it is in heaven.' We are called to join a revolution that transforms the world from the divisive, hateful, sinful mess that it is into what God plans for it to be, but as Christ-followers we must realize that the Kingdom of God will never (ever ever ever) be fully realized through worldly governments or corrupt politicians. It will only be realized through the radical love of Christ.
This week we are starting a new sermon series called The Table, and I am super excited about it. We have been sold fear for so long, that we are all afraid of anyone that is 'other' than us. Our identities have become so wrapped up in who we vote for that we have dehumanized those across the political aisle. But we are supposed to be the people that welcome EVERYONE to the table. And we don't get the 'benefit' of claiming we don't know how to do this. Because the only reason you're a Jesus follower in the first place is because someone did this for YOU.