All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (1 Pet. 5:5)
2020 has been a year like few others in my lifetime. The trifecta of medical, social and political “pandemics” divided our country, fractured our communities and tested the trust of our congregations. The pressures of leading in the present environment have forced me to engage with a whole new level of personal spiritual disciplines and Holy Spirit-empowered grit to handle the daily challenges of ministry. My learning curve has been high and my perseverance tried as each day seems to bring another significant adjustment to tackle, major decision to make or huge obstacle to overcome.
And Tuesday is Election Day.
There is a lot at stake at the local, state and national level in every election year. Political parties have done their best to craft their messages, communicate their positions and empower their supporters to recruit others to buy into their platform. It is a beautiful thing.
I appreciate the freedoms we have in this country to express our opinions, leverage our influence and make our vote count. I am grateful for the opportunity to effect change. I hope you are, too.
Regardless, every election has winners and losers. Rarely do either respond well.
From my leadership position, I have found that while my confidence in God’s sovereignty remains firm, my concern for how the church responds to this election is deep. In my opinion, churches often miss the moments that God gives us to stand up and stand out in winsome ways around major events in society.
I sense that the church's response to this election will set a tone of opportunity or challenge that will ripple into 2021 and beyond.
Learning to submit our political leanings to our biblical callings is essential for every believer, church and movement.
I have found that 1 Peter gives us a particularly helpful framework as we discern God’s leading to our present scenario. Peter writes to the church scattered across Asia, which was experiencing great difficulty. The government challenged, tried and persecuted believers for their faith. Life had been hard and leaders had been hard to follow. Christians were wondering how to respond.
In this context, Peter reminds the church to live in hope and holiness and in genuineness and generosity. He calls them to live distinctly in and distinguished from the world. In chapters 1-3, we see consistent themes of response to their circumstance. Peter’s words to them are great reminders to us.
Beyond the major themes, I am choosing to limit my comments on the application of these eternal truths. My hope is that Scripture will speak to your heart more than my commentary.
1. Win or lose, we are called to demonstrate the character of Christ.
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:14-16)
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. (1 Pet. 2:1)
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1 Pet. 3:8)
Character matters. Our priorities are perfectly displayed under pressure and our character cries out in a crisis.
Jesus is our utmost model of how to respond in difficulty, and this text reminds us that he left his example for us to follow in his footsteps:
We are not to revert to the tactics of the world or give in to the evil desires of our sinful nature.
Instead, we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be displayed in us.
We are to love, forgive, care and encourage.
We are to be holy because he is holy.
2. Win or lose, we are called to treat all people with dignity.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Pet. 1:22)
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (1 Pet. 2:17)
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Pet. 3:9)
Regardless of color or culture, background or bank account, personal priorities or political persuasion, every person is made in the image of God and deserves honor and respect. Those who vote differently are not the enemy. Satan is.
Our response to those who disagree or see differently is not to dismiss or disparage, but to respond with humility and courtesy. We’ve got to reestablish the priority of civility — showing honor, respect, patience and sincere care that have been so scarce in this season.
3. Win or lose, we are called to do good.
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. (1 Pet. 1:17)
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Pet. 2:12)
For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet. 3:10-12)
While elections focus on rights, God calls the church to focus on responsibilities. The church is called to do good in such a way that the world sees our good deeds and glorifies our Father in heaven (Mt. 5:16), knowing that we will give account to God for how we lived on this earth. We are called to be peacemakers (Mt. 5:9) and bridge builders (2 Cor. 5:18).
God is a redeemer that has broken down the dividing walls of hostility and calls us to step into the gap and find our way forward together (Eph. 2:11-22, 4:1-3). Reconciling people to God and each other is at the core of gospel ministry. They are a fulfillment of the command to love God and our neighbor (Mt. 22:37-40).
My alignment with other evangelical leaders calling for personal repentance, renewal of civic engagement and resolve to live in Christian witness as part of the National Association of Evangelicals’ For the Health of the Nation statement is a good starting point. But it is not enough. We all must learn to love our enemy, serve our neighbor, speak out for the oppressed, address ethnic injustices and engage more meaningfully in our communities, all in an effort to minister, show compassion and advance the gospel.
4. Win or lose, we are called to put our hope in Christ and the gospel.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Pet. 1:3-5)
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (1 Pet. 1:13)
Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Pet. 1:21)
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Pet. 3:15)
We all tend to put hope in outcomes, whether it be sports teams, systems, ideologies or elections. Peter reminds us that hope in the gospel is more powerful than any proposition, amendment or measure. Putting hope in God is wiser than placing it in any president, political party or platform.
God is all-knowing and all-powerful — he will be neither pleased, surprised nor disappointed by this year’s election results. No matter who is in control in the Supreme Court, White House, House of Representatives or U.S. Senate, God is in supreme control in this world. Our hope must be in him. We need to settle down our emotions and settle into our faith.
A call to Christian maturity
I am confident that we can respond to this season — win or lose — with Christian maturity. Christian maturity is:
The ability to live out the priorities of God in the character of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Focused on God’s priorities, not our political preferences.
Based on Christ’s character, not on our comfort.
Lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit, not positions, platforms or politics.
In God’s strength and for his glory, we can do this. We must do this! While we most often cannot choose our circumstances, we can choose our response.
My prayer is that we will be joyful, gracious and generous. We will walk humbly, act redemptively and live in hope. We will honor God, love our neighbor, serve our communities, pray for our leaders and advance the gospel.
May God continue to lead you into greater personal joy and ministry impact as we walk together in this next season.
Scott Ridout, Converge President
Scott Ridout has served as the President of Converge since November 2014. Prior to that he was the Director of Generosity for Converge from 2007-2014, concurrently with his time pastoring at Sun Valley in Gilbert, AZ for 22 years. He also serves on the Board of Church Multiplication Partners, GACX and The Timothy Initiative, all of which focus on starting churches and multiplying disciples. He loves God, the local church and simply wants to help people meet, know and follow Jesus.