GROWING IN GRACE
Well, it’s that time again. Election Day is upon us. It’s time to be bombarded by numerous campaign commercials, too many automated phone calls, and enough negative news commentary to make you begin to question the very meaning of our election process. Candidates want to appeal to our sense of duty and compassion. They spend loads of money to play on our fears and hope to somehow inspire us along the way.
It’s probably a good thing every two years for Christians to ask ourselves: What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in an election cycle?
The reason I say it’s a good thing is because if we’re not careful we can begin to believe some very wrong things about our discipleship in an election cycle. For example, if we’re not careful we might begin to believe that our votes in a ballot box count as the important act of discipleship we can offer. We might begin to believe that our being against this issue or that issue, and thus also being against every person who disagrees with us, is what it means to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. We might even begin to believe that the political party we support is the best embodiment of the gospel in our lives. And we would be totally wrong.
There is no partisan political platform or candidate for office who can truly embody the gospel of Jesus Christ - if that were so Jesus might have come as a politician and not as a servant. And the church needs to do a better job of holding one another accountable in love to live as disciples of Jesus the servant, and not as disciples of a political affiliation. Below are some things to remember and some suggestions for how to live as a disciple in the coming days, as Election Day arrives, as the run-offs follow, and as the aftermath of it all is sorted out.
Remember people who support both political parties go to church. Don’t assume your party has a monopoly on God’s agenda. The truth is that neither party can faithfully speak for God’s mission in the world.
Take a sabbatical from talk radio and the news if you find it only serves to get you all worked up about politics. Don’t do things that make you mad or get you upset just for the sport of it. God calls us to live graciously and generously, not bitterly.
Pray for our leaders and candidates on both sides of the aisle and ballot. We are called to pray for our leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-4). Maybe you should name your local, state, and national leaders as well as the candidates you’re choosing between in your morning prayer before you head out to vote on Election Day?
Speak up and politely call for an end to negative or heated political discussion in your Sunday school class or small group. Church small groups can notoriously get lost in the weeds of politics while discussing a lesson or sharing prayer concerns. Be the voice in the room that politely reminds everyone you are gathered to learn and experience God, not vent your latest political gripes.
Go vote. Then go serve. Voting is a civic duty and we should appreciate the freedom given to us to participate openly in the election process. But your vote is certainly not the final word on your life as a disciple. Find a way to also serve during the week of Election Day. Participate in a church activity. Give an hour to a local shelter helping those who are poor and hungry. Get out of your comfort zone and be reminded that no matter how this Election Day ends, your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ is still the most central thing to who you are.
I am convinced that if our churches decide to truly live as the disciples we claim to be the news in our communities might just have a story to share besides the results of the election. We could only hope...
The Rev. Ben Gosden is the senior pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.