With the turn of the calendar to October we can expect the already lengthy and cantankerous election season to grow still more prominent in our public consciousness. Presidential debates will soon ensue. Mailings and negative commercials will increase. And the news coverage will be exhaustive—and exhausting. But as followers of Jesus Christ, there are a few things we should remember so that we are not swept up in the cultural upheaval of the political process.
First, it is God who ordains kings and kingdoms. As Paul urges the church at Rome, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1). Your preferred candidate may win—or they may not. Regardless, it is God who sovereignly orchestrates the course of human history. God ordains the ends (the final outcomes) and the means by which these results will come to pass. And the outcome is sure: “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14). Of course, the delicate interplay of divine sovereignty and human responsibility is at work here. God’s sovereignty doesn’t excuse Christians from being active participants in society, but compels it. I certainly urge believers to vote their biblical convictions on human life, sexuality, and other issues. However, regardless of our satisfaction with the political process, our obligation is not only to submit to the governing authorities, but to give what is owed to them: “taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom 13:7). Peter’s admonition to “honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17) applies even to those leaders with whom we strongly disagree.
Second, the aftermath of elections generally elicits one of two reactions: either exuberance and optimism or despair and doomsaying. But we must again call to mind who is really on the throne: our great God and Savior. As Pilate championed his authority, Jesus coolly responded, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). God grants every human power. And no matter how despotic the dictator or extreme their reign, their power is limited, temporary, and awaiting that time when they will serve as the footstool for the true King’s feet (Heb 13:13).
This brings us to our final, hopeful point. There is but one true King, and one day soon he will reign in splendor and majesty. In that day, at long last, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). The floodgates will be opened and the perfect rule of God will extend over all the earth—and with it, knowledge of his glory. Until that day, dear church, as we politic and vote and struggle, remember that our “citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20). No matter the outcome of this November’s election, be hopeful, confident, and eager, because, indeed, “our (final) salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:12).