Recently, I walked behind an SUV that had chalked onto their rear windshield in bold lettering “Vote Trump or USA is done.”   While undoubtedly, the slogan provoked agreement among many casual passersby, an equal number of voters probably would have reworded it to say Vote Trump and USA is done! In an election year marked by ever-emerging scandals, hyperboles, and continuous drama, believers on both sides of the aisle find that their choices are ambiguous at best, offensive at worst, and that the anticipated ramifications of the options are ominous.  A heightened sense of anxiety over the outcome of the election appears a reasonable response given the high stakes involved.

As American believers, we have long enjoyed the privilege of power and influence, a rare opportunity afforded to Christians throughout history. While these blessings are important to the quality of life we lead, Jesus’ teaching makes clear that

political power is not essential for the Kingdom of God to prevail, or for God’s people to make a profound difference in the world around them.

Because Jesus lived during the era of Roman domination of his native land, Israel, He knew well the experience of oppression and political powerlessness. Along with His countrymen, He understood the regrets and sense of loss attended by a rich history of God’s direction and blessing. This covenant blessing was commonly followed by correction, and ultimate loss of control and power over the heritage God had given them because of their idolatry of following other gods. His way of being in that world is instructive regarding how we can face the uncertainty of the future in the US political landscape.

In John 14:27 as he is anticipating his departure from this world, he says to his disciples:

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

The world gives us peace when our political party is in office, when the stock market rallies, when people we admire and agree with are in control of the environments we inhabit. In contrast,

Jesus bequeaths to his followers His own hard won peace.

A peace that has already been tested in the fires of misunderstanding, false accusation and persecution from the religious hierarchy of his day; one that will face execution at the hand of a corrupt religious system and the Roman government. We often hear the adage that “you can’t give what you don’t have.” Jesus owns this! He offers His followers His own inheritance as the Father’s beloved Son, knowing fully that they will face persecution at the hands of both religious and political powers. Three times he speaks the words over them, ensuring that there would be no confusion over what He had “willed” to them. His intention to bestow on them His own prized possession, inner peace, would not be subject to dispute.

Jesus’ teaching and way of being makes it clear that He is unconcerned with who is in power here on earth. His primary focus is on the kingdom of God. To the government official with power to execute him, he says “you would have no power at all over me unless it had been given you from above,” (John 19:11) suggesting that even unjust power has only the authority that has been granted by God.

Timothy Keller notes, “It is the settled tendency of human societies to turn good political causes into counterfeit gods.” (2009, p. 98)[1]. He observes that the inclination for many of us to react to political trends with great fear and agitation belies a type of idolatry in which we believe, that when our own political party is not in power all is lost. Our unwillingness to accept our own powerlessness and dependence causes us to despair when our illusion of control over our lives, and our futures is shattered. In this season of heightened anxiety,

might God be challenging us to confront the false idols of our culture and to find our sense of safety in Him?

I have a sand blasted sign in my office that declares “God has everything under control.” As cliché as that sounds, it is a constant reminder to me that it’s not all up to me, and that no matter how frenzied and chaotic my world may feel, God is still on the throne. We can undermine our human predilection towards idolatry and illusion by reminding ourselves daily that the God who loves us dearly is still in control of the universe.  It is safe to trust even when the boxes that we imagine God lives in are broken!

Psalms 46 is a beautiful reminder:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1,2,7)

Friends, no matter what upheavals the political landscape threatens to bring our way, let us encourage one another that one truth stands unchangeable, and that is the love of God for His people expressed in Jesus Christ. Let us learn anew to “Be still, and know that [He] is God! (Psalm 46: 10).

[1] Keller, T. (2009). Counterfeit gods: the empty promises of money, sex, and power, and the only hope that matters. New York: Dutton.