by: Kyle McClendon
Today is November 3, 2020. It is a Tuesday. It’s election day. This means many of us woke up with a different feeling in our hearts, stomachs, and minds than a typical Tuesday morning. That feeling may be anxiety; it may be fear; it may be excitement; and it may be hope. In America we are often raised to believe that the weight of the world rests in days like today and that the outcomes of elections like this one will decide the fate of the church and of Christians in America for the rest of time. We hear things like, “If this person wins, we can kiss religious freedom goodbye” or often you get told “The choice is crystal clear if you want any hope of the American church growing and thriving,” and those ideas have been ingrained into our minds and even into our hearts and our souls. This can often distort our sense of identity and, in turn, result in a hope that is flimsy and life-draining rather than life-giving.
The hope of the Christian does not come from days like today or from people in office. That means that if we find ourselves getting more excited, passionate, or invested in the politics of a country than we do the Gospel of Jesus, we have more than likely forgotten our identity and have forgotten the true, living hope we have in the Gospel.
Our hope is not in the outcome of the election, the direction of a country, or the state of the economy; because our identity is not American, Canadian, English, Mexican, Nigerian, or any other country. Our identity is first and foremost a child of God and a co-heir with Christ. As children of God, our hope is in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross, and through the Spirit our lives should reflect that hope.
IDENTITY DRIVES HOPE
Our hope is not in the direction of the country or in the results of the election--why not? Because we are not simply Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or even Americans; we are Christians first and foremost. Our citizenship is not one of any country or party, but rather in heaven with our Lord and Savior.
Who we are is the driving factor in what we hope in. This means if I see myself as an American before I see myself as a son of the Most High, my hope is drastically misplaced. If I see myself as a member of a particular party rather than as a Co-Heir with Christ, the results of the election will severely alter my mood and my outlook, depending on the outcome.
This is because when our identity is in something temporary rather than the eternal work of Christ, our hope becomes finite and fickle rather than everlasting and consistent.
“HOPE THAT IS SEEN IS NOT HOPE”
We see the Apostle Paul talk about this in Romans 8: 23-25 when he says:
“23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Verses 24 and 25 drive the point home for us in any circumstance but especially on a day like today. We do not hope in what we see. This means we don’t hope in a politician, a party, a country, a spouse, a parent, a friend, or even a pastor. To hope in those things is to say that God is big enough to handle eternity but he is not big enough to handle this present moment; it’s to say that my life is in better hands if it is led by someone with a “R” or a “D” next to their name rather than the creator and sustainer of the universe; it is to take God off of his throne and replace him with a flawed, sinful, imperfect human being just like you and me. Doesn’t that sound crazy? The psalmist echoes this sentiment in Psalm 146 when he says, “Put not your trust in princes. . .” (Psalm 146:3)
What do we hope in, then? Paul makes it clear in verse 23: we hope in “the redemption of our bodies” as a result of our adoption into the family of God. Instead of walking around with a weight of worldly circumstances on your shoulders and seeking to win arguments with those around you about temporary conditions, Jesus calls us to something better. He calls us to remember our eternal citizenship. To remember our identity in Jesus and to rest in the fact that the work he accomplished on the Cross is enough and that no matter who is in office, that person cannot and will not ever accomplish more than what Christ has already done.
“NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD”
If we keep reading in Romans 8 we will see why Paul tells us not to place our hope in worldly things:
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Let’s look at a quick reminder here: right before this passage, Paul makes the claim that if God is for us, no one can be against us. The “us” he is speaking to here is not only Republican Christians. It is not only Progressive Christians. It is not only politically active or apolitical Christians. God is for his entire family and the defining trait of God’s children is that they are called by His name--not by the name Trump or Biden or Bush or Obama. We do not march under the banner of a politician. We march under the banner of Christ, because those politicians will let us down and will lead us astray at some point or another; but nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ.
That means that God is over all things and that all things are an expression of God’s love and grace towards his children.
HOPE FOR TODAY, HOPE FOR TOMORROW
So if the election today doesn’t go the way you were hoping it would; if the election goes exactly as you hoped it would; or if you are completely indifferent to the outcome today--the response is not to go out and to scream even louder that your preferred candidate was the right choice and to start conflict with those around you. The Gospel response is to submit to God’s leading in your life and renew your hope in the Cross.
Because Romans 8:28 is still true no matter what happens to America or what happens in this election. All things--elections, struggles, successes, pandemics--work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. That purpose is to conform us to the image of Jesus. So as his sons and daughters we can rest in the fact that God is sovereign and that God is good.
This realization doesn't come without a call to repentance. A call to put off (or to die to) our old self--the self that put too much stock or value in our political standing or in the success of a particular worldly agenda--by the Spirit and by the Spirit alone. We cannot will our way there or work our way to a new identity; it is not simply spending less time watching the news or reading about politics.
This kind of restoration comes from the dirty, grimy work of the Gospel that involves dying to those old passions, pleasures, and sources of identity. It only comes through submission to the Holy Spirit and faith that God is who he says he is, and from there we can see who God has called us to be and begin to let the Gospel take its full effect in our lives. It isn't easy but, man, it is so, so worth it.
This means that we can cast off the weight of anxiety and fear that gets thrown at us from every direction when we think about days like today. We can walk around today, tomorrow, and every day beyond that with confidence knowing that this is not our home and that this world does not hold our hope. Our citizenship is in heaven with our heavenly Father. Our hope is in the finished work of Jesus.
As you go throughout your day today, remind yourself of three things: your primary identity as a child of God, the hope you have in the person and work of Jesus, and the rest that comes from trusting a good and sovereign God all things because you know he is working in and through each one of them.
God knows the outcome of today and every day before and after today, so by all means, go and fulfill your civic duty but never, ever forget your citizenship in Heaven. Never forget that our hope will always be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that Gospel alone.