It’s been nearly 8 months now since I made the move back from China to the US. In some ways, it seems like my life in China is a distant dream. But in many other ways, it feels like the adjustment is far from over. It didn’t take long after arriving on American soil that I began to question the wisdom of moving back to the US during an election year. Election years tend to bring out the worst in people – and 2016 has been far from the exception.
There are many things to be discouraged or disturbed about during this election season. From the candidates we’ve seen scandals, dishonesty, racism, sexism, and lack of integrity. From the American public we’ve seen many lose the ability to engage in civil discourse and resort to bitter and nasty conversations – both on and offline. Yet in spite of all of these discouraging things (and many more!), that is not what bothers me most. What continually troubles me is when I see Christians, people that should be the forerunners of life, love, and hope, instead being the forerunners in anger, hatred, and despair.
In too many conversations and Facebook posts, I see Christians sounding so much like the rest of the world as they lament the future of America (and often falling into an even greater level of despair). While I agree there are things to be concerned about, I wonder if we’ve forgotten our role as the church to be agents of change in our communities – not through political arguments, but rather through sacrificial service and love, even in the midst of persecution. I wonder if in our desperate fear for the future of America, we’ve forgotten that we serve a God who is far bigger than any presidential candidate’s ego.
I’ve travelled and lived in places around the world where governments are far more corrupt than ours is, where Christian liberty is unheard of, and where people have little to no say in what their government does or does not do. While I’m certainly not saying that I hope our government becomes more like theirs, I would like to see our church learn from theirs – because in these places where Christians have all of the reasons in the world to fall into despair, they often have so much more joy and hope than we see within the walls of our churches.
Over and over again in the Bible, we are admonished not to put our trust “in princes, in human beings, who cannot save” (Ps. 146:3). We are also reminded that God’s purposes are accomplished through even the most wicked rulers – and yet so often God’s people would forget this and once again turn to earthly rulers for their salvation. Sound a little familiar?!
There can be many good arguments against either candidate of the two major parties’ candidates for president. I’m not addressing those here. But what I hope for each of us, regardless of whom we cast our votes for, is that we realize God’s purposes and plans will not be thwarted by the outcome of this election. I also hope that we realize in the midst of a nation divided, a time where this is so much darkness and despair, that instead of joining that chorus, we can sing a new song celebrating our hope is in something far greater.