I know we’re obsessed with the who of this election, but I’m just as interested in the how.
I have never had more people asking that I use my voice to tell people who to vote for. It’s not that this election doesn’t matter; God knows it does. But not as much as following Jesus. How we navigate an election like this one speaks louder than we realize.
And yes, I’ve been reminded that this is “the most important election of our lifetime.” I’m really not trying to be contrary, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that line too many times to take it as seriously as you might want. May I suggest that every election is the most important, just as today is your most important day? It is the only one you are guaranteed. Please don’t think I’m minimizing the importance of this election or racism or the unborn or immigration or the economy or the Supreme Court. I literally just came from an event mobilizing thousands of people to vote. I’m just concerned about people acting like their cultural duty ends when they walk out of the election booth. God expects so much more.
So what does God expect? The prophet Micah was succinct: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.”
What is justice?
Justice is that which is right in the eyes of the Lord. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that a just law is a man-made code that squares with a God-made law. Chew on that for a moment.
How should we vote? If you follow Jesus, you vote with a mind for justice. Which candidate is going to contribute toward a nation that enacts codes on earth that square with the laws of heaven? Before you assume this to be a no-brainer, consider the earliest Christians. They publicly attached their political positions on earth to the revealed laws of heaven, which left them with no political pillow to lay their head upon. They stood out from the rest of their culture in such radical ways that they were virtually impossible to ignore. Consider this short list of political positions that the original followers of Jesus were known for:
- Uncommon compassion and generosity with the poor.
- Unprecedented empowerment of women.
- Opposition to all sex outside of marriage.
- Unsupportive of Roman military conquest.
- Opposition to same-sex relations.
- Unprecedented unity in the midst of radically diverse ethnic groups and social classes.
- Absolute opposition to abortion and infanticide.
- Total opposition to entertainment by blood sport.
- Christ-supremacy and exclusivity. They claimed Jesus was the only way to God.
Political positions were easy for the first Christians. Having received their instructions from Jesus Himself, the apostles led a movement that was truly counter-cultural. They used words like justice and righteousness to identify real-world activities that lined up Jesus’ model prayer. May God’s will would be done on the earth as it is in heaven.
Today’s Christians seem to be significantly more confused. 2000 years of world history, plus several hundred years of American history, unresolved racial inequities, a worldwide pandemic, and a polarized political climate has left many unclear about the justice our spiritual forefathers and mothers were clear about. The troubling thing about God’s justice of course, is that it is far too liberal for conservatives and far too conservative for liberals. It truly is another option altogether.
But when Christians will not boldly sow the seeds of God’s justice, destructive forces are always on standby ready to provide a counterfeit.
We seem to act like mercy is an elective, when God calls it a core requirement. This word mercy usually refers to the goodness and kindness and love of God. It is something like the New Testament word for grace – an unearned and undeserved gift. It is what should come to mind when we hear Jesus teaching us to “Judge not,”, for with the measure that we use it will be measured back to us (Matthew 7:2). Justice without mercy nearly always becomes vengeance. And vengeance belongs to God alone.
When I consider the list of early Christian convictions referenced above, I can’t help but notice how selective we are in our words of cultural correction. Beware of boldly shouting against the sins on the other side of the aisle, while minimizing and whispering against the sins on your own.
To which I regularly hear people say, “I’m just trying to stay in my lane.” I’m hearing so much about this “lane” you’d think it’s in the Bible. The ironic thing, of course, is that, while we fight for our own right to focus on our specific lane, we tend to functionally write off anybody that doesn’t come out of their lane and join us. Yet when I take Jesus seriously, I realize that following Him means that His lane becomes my lane, whether it lines up to my culture and personality or not.
I don’t get to choose to advocate for some oppressed people while ignoring others. I don’t get to choose to stand for some of His ethics but not others. If I follow Jesus, I stand up for oppressed Americans and Asians and women and children and homosexuals and unborn and prisoners and immigrants. I contend for a faith that denounces all greed and all sexual immorality. And then I turn around and show patient mercy to people who don’t get in my lane and join my cause.
In a ruthless culture, mercy is one of the signs and wonders of heaven.
Justice and mercy always lead to humility. I am deeply concerned at the levels of arrogance that I’m hearing from both sides of the aisle. Evangelical mega-teacher John Piper made waves earlier this week when he lumped Republican Trump-pride in the same category as Democrat Biden-abortion. “I think Roe is an evil decision. I think Planned Parenthood is a code name for baby-killing … And I think it is baffling and presumptuous to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride.” Nothing attracts destruction upon a nation like pride.
I do care who you vote for, but I deeply care how you vote for who you vote for.
This means that we need to do more than cast a ballot; we need to embrace our prophetic call to shine bright truth in a dark culture. Through our words and deeds we are living epistles that remind our culture about the truth and justice of heaven, not just the opinions and judgments of earth. But when we speak our truth, we do it with a mercy that would make CNN and Fox News blush. And when it’s all said and done, we do it all with the humility of the kind of King who gave His life for His enemies and turned them into sons and daughters.