Over the past several weeks, social media has started to feel like a minefield. Each of us take on the role of the reactor – through every comment, post, and share we have developed the knee-jerk reaction of reacting. As the 2016 election inches ever closer, the anxiety that we have as a nation, as a church, and as individuals swells and threatens to undo us. And it is coming out in the unseemliness of ways. I have seen comment sections on Facebook filled with hateful language, I have watched dear friends trying to navigate these thorny spaces and to parse out the spiteful rhetoric. I have seen friends attack dear friends on political topics, I have read words that draw lines in the sand, and I have questioned every word that I have thought to post online. And I have become increasingly aware that there is no space left for civil discourse.
This election has brought out the best in some, and the worst in most of us.
But this kind of public dialogue does not have a place among believers. It seems we (including myself) have forgotten that Jesus gave the world a key indicator to identify His disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Believers on every side the current political conversation are drawing spiritual, theological, and, yes, even soteriological lines in the sand.
“Please explain to me how you can support someone who murders babies and still be a Christian!”
“I just don’t understand how you can support someone who sexually assaults women and confidently call yourself a Christian!”
“Please tell me how you can justify not voting in this election and say that you obey God’s command to seek the good of the world!”
It’s a mess. It’s a hot mess. And it is so utterly devoid of love.
In our public conversations, it would seem that we have more readily believed “they will know you by your vote,” or “they will know you by your candidate”; the language of love, the God-given identification for His people, has entirely left the conversation.
As followers of Jesus, our neglect to love one another as we dialogue about the 2016 election tells a half-truth about our God. It proclaims that all our lives hinge on the candidate elected. It tells the world that if the Supreme Court doesn’t vote conservatively that the hope of the Christian community is lost, that if a harsh and unstable leader is in power that our God won’t be able to accomplish His purposes through us. Our inability to make peace with one another and our inability to dialogue in a meaningful and peace-producing ways betrays our professed faith in the Kingdom of God, and proclaims that we place our hope squarely on the kingdom of this world.
We must relearn our way to being peacemakers. In the love that Christ commanded, in the love that God insisted would identify His people, we must relearn rhetoric of peace. We must do the hard work of making our way back to love, back to peace. And this work starts with us placing our hope in the reality that no matter what the election’s outcome, no matter what the result on November 8th, that God will sustain His people.
The election will pass and there are not many who will be pleased with the result, regardless of who is elected. But here is what we can absolutely count on: we will still be the church. Each of us as believers will gather in our local worship services. We will shake hands and embrace those who voted for Trump, those who voted for Hillary, and those who abstained. And we will, in the presence of God, eat the Supper around the same table. Together we will confess our sins and hear that they are forgiven because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We will, with the historical and global church, proclaim that the creeds of generations past are our creeds today as well. As the Church as done throughout time and place and expression, Christians will gather under the banner of our one true King. We will proclaim that He has come and established His Kingdom, and that one day He will return. Together, regardless of the election results or outcome, we will worship together the only King to whom we pledge our allegiance: Jesus Christ.
With this great promise in mind, let us be peacemakers. Might we use the next several days to invite others into the fold, not push them out of the conversation. Might we see the older generation teaching the younger, not shaming them for their perspectives. Might we learn from one another, might we bless one another, might we be people of the Word of God who hold onto those promises with all our might and hope. Might we relearn our way to peacemaking.
Because the promise we cling to is that our Prince of Peace is coming for us. He has not forgotten us. He will not leave us alone. And He welcomes us to take up His yoke, and learn from Him in humility of heart. Today, we have the distinct opportunity to learn to be peaceful people by blood of Christ and Spirit of God.
Might it be true of me. Might it be true of us. Until our King comes.