Post Election Wisdom | Wisdom Wednesday
Now that the 2014 midterm elections are over, there can be two temptations:
- the temptation to triumphalism
- the temptation to despair
It's true that since government serves the people, so it's reasonable and right for us to advocate for what we think is best for the people. Government is an institution humans have developed to steward God's creation. It's a human tool, so it's normal for us to want it to work a certain way, and to be disappointed when it doesn't work the way we wanted. I think, though, as Christians we need to be careful how we view politics and how invested we get in elections such as these. Instead, we should keep in mind a few things.
1. We can't serve two masters.
No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. -Luke 16:13
Human leadership is fallible. Divine leadership is not. When we find ourselves putting our hope in human leaders, thinking that they can solve all our problems and achieve some kind of utopia because they have all the right answers, we need to take a step back. Respecting and praying for our political leaders is one thing, but it's quite another to forget that they are human. The leaders we elect will never have all the answers because of one big reason -
2. We are fallen.
All human institutions are fallen, because human nature is fallen. Things like government are human projects. We can ask for God's help in these human projects, but ultimately they are fallen. Only the Kingdom of God will bring us the peace that we crave. I think that in the mania of elections, the constant debate between pundits, the intensity of the race, we become distracted from what really matters. We not only put our faith in human beings, as I mentioned above; we also put our faith in human institutions. That faith often turns into nationalism, bitterness toward our fellow human beings (who may have different political persuasions), and a certainty that we have all the right answers. Now that the election is over, we might feel really haughty or really down in the dumps, but is that appropriate? Should we let ourselves be so affected by a human institution? I think it's right for us to feel joys and disappointments when it comes to justice. When the poor are not fed we should feel grief, and when they are we should feel celebration. But that is distinct from our extreme identification with national ties, party identities, and candidate allegiances.
3. We might be guilty of idolatry.
In a reading from the Letter to the Ephesians last week, Paul said,
our struggle is...with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness.
We think of idolatry as worshipping graven images - and in today's day and age we particularly identity "graven images" with money. But is placing all our hope in a human being we hardly know anything other than a form of idolatry? Is nasty debate with friends and family because of the love of a political label anything other than idolatry? As Christians we should advocate for justice and make our voices known in the public square. But in the midst of that, we also need to remember that these people we are rallying behind aren't Jesus, that only Jesus has all the answers, and that our worship of Jesus bears fruits of gentleness, fellowship and communion.
When we consider Paul's statement above, does anything come to mind? Certainly we think of demons, and particularly Satan. But principalities? powers? world rulers? I think we'd be remiss not to consider the possibility that these words refer in part to our human leaders. Ultimately we seek to unify under one leader: our Lord. Anything that distracts from that could be a form of idolatry, and that means that we need to be vigilant. We should be a part of the electoral process, but we shouldn't allow it to rob us of the peace we have in Christ.