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I remember sitting in my office on a Wednesday morning in 1992, totally shocked. I could not believe what just happened. It was the day after Bill Clinton won the presidential election. The American people had spoken, and he became our next president. I was a young man with significant hope in the American public and the political process. I also followed the Lord and knew that He would swing the election to my preference.
It reminds me of two Christians on opposing sport’s teams. Both are praying for a victory, but only one will win. I needed to rethink whose side the Lord was on (Exodus 32:26), His mysterious purposes for all of humanity (Deuteronomy 29:29), and how there are times that He will raise a political authority that transcends my prayers and preferences (Exodus 9:16).
I am no longer a young man, and my confidence in the American electorate has shrunk to what I believe to be more reasonable expectations. Governing my optimism with contoured biblical wisdom brings more comfort to me now than my youthful idealism did back in the day. You know you have biblical rest when you can juxtapose “His ways over your ways” when a political outcome is not to your liking. Are you at peace despite our current political climate? See Isaiah 55:8-9.
Back in the day, it was surreal that Bill Clinton would govern our country. It was almost depressing. Because my faith was in God then (and now), I did not drown in despair, though I was closer to it than I care to be. It took several days to shake the funk from my soul. What was our country coming to with that kind of election outcome? What were we in for with that president? Would we ever recover from what was clearly a political mistake?
Today, I think about these things as our country is speeding toward another tumultuous election with an uncertain outcome. This time the difference is not about a poor candidate versus a better candidate. It’s about which flawed person do you want to be our next President. Hopefully, my post-election blues this November won’t be as disturbing since I have been here before, I’m older now, and I should be wiser.
The crucial reaction this time around is to take my thoughts captive proactively. I don’t need to wait until the morning after, when my mind might spin out of control. There is wisdom in being more preventative about a possible adverse outcome than waiting until the crisis is here and scrambling to reorient yourself.
In addition to proactive thought captivity, I have been prayerfully considering how to think about what the Lord is allowing our country to go through, which brought me to a significant question: how much does it matter who becomes our next President? I mean, really? This question brings you to two proverbial ditches that could prove to be a trap.
Somewhere between these two ditches is the “not so easy to locate ground” where you have to figure out how much it matters versus how much it does not. After living through the administrations of nearly a dozen presidents, I know that the president is not as crucial as some over-stressed and over-angry Christians believe.
The president is merely a man (or woman) who embodies most of the country who supports him. We tend to target him as though he were a king when the real problems and solutions are more within our power to change. These two quotes speak to placing too much importance on the person in the office, which will turn you into a ranter rather than a problem-solver.
Well, I really believe that the president isn’t as significant as we imagine him or her to be. We think of the president as having great power to fix the economy for example, or fix international conflicts, and to some extent, the President has the persuasive authority to do things like that. But the president really can’t just turn around and fix the economy within two years for example. —Bernadette Meyler
When we think of our earliest presidents and the great heroes that we have as presidents, most of them are remembered not so much for their governances as they are for their leadership. If you think about George Washington, few people can mention any of the laws that were passed under his time as president, but they know what he stood for and the kind of moral tone that he brought to America. —John Ashcroft
I realize there is tension here. I’m not saying that the president does not matter, but I am talking to the person who makes the president matter too much. It’s easier to complain about him than it is to actively engage your sphere of influence, helping one person at a time to change, which will impact the collective and potentially bring the best kind of president to lead the majority.
Of course, it matters who will be our next president. Though he can’t change things as a king can, he mirrors the majority and represents the people’s will. If the people continue down an immoral path, that kind of person will always be our figurehead—our reflection. But to sit back as though the president is the be-all, end-all is wrongheaded and will reduce to you a despairing complainer, not an active transformer.
Somewhere between over-inflating the position and lowering the bar to the ground is wisdom. If you’re passive or unconcerned about political matters, you’re part of the problem. If you’re grumbling about the state of the union, you’re part of the problem, too. These two attitudes are like children who check out from the family or complain about it. Neither one will cooperate with the Lord in the betterment of the whole.
The one right answer is to examine your heart to see who controls it. If the Lord is pulling your heartstrings, then you are experiencing happiness, joy, rest, peace, and contentment. If these traits are not how someone would characterize you, there is work that must happen. From your heart flows all your attitudes, words, and actions. As the Lord is stabilizing your heart, you’re in the right spot to activate your faith to help change those within your sphere of influence. As you do that, perhaps you will get a president who represents the things you cherish.
I have three couplets of questions for your reflection. The three categories are sovereignty, responsibility, and speech. Will you take some time in prayer and conversation with a friend to discuss your answers to these questions?
Sovereignty – God is in charge. There is no discussion or further argument needed. I’m a sovereigntist most of all. God mocks all rulers who go against Him (Psalm 2:4). In God I trust.
Responsibility – One of the ways God works out His plans in our lives and the world is through the agency of humans (Matthew 28:19-20). A passive Christian, when it comes to cultural engagement, is an oxymoron.
Speech – A Christian’s word choices build up others, not lead people into more negativity, cynicism, and sinful anger (Psalm 19:14; Ephesians 4:29). Ranting with no redemptive purpose does not accomplish Christlike goals.