Here we are a week post-election, and now, as many have stated, the real work begins. Here are three ways we can begin to bring healing and unity to our churches and communities in the days ahead.
- Pray for our local, state, and national leaders, both in our private devotional lives and in our corporate worship. The author of I Timothy writes, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,” (I Tim 2:1-3)
Whether we are pleased or distraught by the outcome of local and national elections, this is a clear mandate. We may find it difficult to pray for leaders that we ardently disagree with, those that we may have campaigned against, or those we fear may persecute us (or at the very least not work in the best interest of those we care about). But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has strong words for us about loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.There is good reason for this mandate: it is hard to despise someone we are praying for diligently.
Whether we approve of them or not, our leaders are deeply loved by God, and governing is a difficult job under the best of circumstances. All elected officials need and are worthy of our prayers
James Dunn notes that the early Christian church was not an anarchistic revolution, but was concerned rather to be a positive force in and for society. Further, he asserts, the author of I Tim. assumed that good government benefited all. So what does it mean to pray for good government that benefits us all? First, it means that we must pray in non-partisan ways.It is tempting to ask God to direct our leaders in ways that achieve our personal agendas (I got those emails from well-meaning friends before the election last week). Instead, let us commit to pray that all of our leaders might seek God, and that they may have the courage to lead with wisdom, discernment, and integrity.
- Encourage kindness, respect, and fact-checking. Yesterday the Richmond Times- Dispatch reported that 44% of adults get their news from Facebook. Our Facebook feeds and inboxes are often overrun with emails and posts that are full of vitriol and cruelty directed at leaders and their families. Many of us are guilty of sharing and forwarding inappropriate jokes, put-downs, and fictitious news stories without checking the validity of their claims. As Christians, we should be ashamed of any role we play in perpetuating such gossip and slander.
- Be about God’s Work in the World. It is easier to complain about what leaders and governments are doing or not doing than it is to be about the work we are called to do. As Christians, our mandate is clear: do justice, love mercy, work on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized, love all of our neighbors.
Most of our churches are committed to outreach efforts, but often we engage in just enough short-term mission or relief work to make ourselves feel better.Too few of us are willing to engage in the complex and long-term work of addressing the systemic issues that lead to poverty, addiction, inequality and injustice.For example, do folks in your church grumble about government assistance programs?What might it look like for them to address systemic issues that would eliminate the need for those programs?
In Richmond, VA, a group of local clergy is leading an initiative to reduce poverty through the expansion of regional bus transit. Increased bus service will provide inner-city residents access to jobs throughout region. This has been a long and complicated process, and the outcome of this effort is still uncertain.However, this group is committed to systemic change over the long haul.
How might God be calling your church to promote healing and provide leadership in your community in this post-election season?As we all discern how to move forward productively, may we pray fervently for all of our leaders and model grace and kindness to each other. And, as my devotional reading encouraged readers recently, may our actions hold a mirror to our prayers.