As I write, more than 135 million votes have been counted with millions still to count. While we wait for the official results of the 2020 election, many of us are thinking about the next four years.
In the run-up to the election, political campaigns told us to do just that—think about the next four years. One narrative told of an almost certain socialist future; the other told of an almost certain fascist future. Both told us to worry about the end of democracy if the wrong narrative won.
When all the votes are counted—and they must be counted—one will win.
It would sound like the movie trailer for a dystopian fantasy if such fears hadn’t actually been stoked. No wonder so many are anxious.
For millions of those who voted—and many millions who didn’t, who chose not to or were unable, too young or otherwise ineligible to vote—there is a more important question than what will happen to our democracy.
Whoever wins the election and whatever our government looks like as a result, the question for American Christians is, “Who will we be?”
Who we mustn’t be
During the next four years, we must not be conformed to this world, which puts worry and fear in the driver’s seat. We must not be afraid.
Likewise, we must not be impatient, faithless, idolatrous, hateful, vengeful, greedy, prideful or otherwise unlike the Lord we claim. The character of our world must not outshine the character of Christ in us.
We must not be captured by the promise of human authority solving our problems. Human governments will not save us and should not be entrusted with such hope.
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We must not be irresponsible, shifting blame to our government for the ills of our society. We must not, like Cain, dodge our culpability or, like Pilate, wash our hands of our choices. Those we elect to our government are not scapegoats; they come from us and are us.
Who we must be
Today, tomorrow and for at least the next four years, we must be conformed to the mind and character of Jesus Christ. We must be shaped by God’s Spirit.
We must be humble. We may be the temple of the Holy Spirit, but we still are human, flesh. All flesh is grass; it withers and fades away. We are limited and fallible, each one of us.
In the face of our limitations, we must be courageous, compassionate and creative, embodying the image of God in us.
We must be mindful that we are more alike than different and that the things that matter most matter to all of us. We are neighbors, not in theory, but shoulder to shoulder. In the same spirit in which many of us stood in line together to vote, we must stand together under the lordship of Jesus Christ—the authority far above any earthly allegiance.
Who will we be?
In reality, Christians know who they must be, and that’s why the substantive question is not about what we know or even what direction our government will go—as much as American Christians cherish democracy and want to keep it.
The most important question for American Christians is about who we will be, in light of our proclaiming, “Jesus is Lord.”
For the time we are in and the time to come, let us be who we are—loved by God so much that Jesus purchased us with his blood, adopted children of God, redeemed recipients of grace, the dwelling place of God’s Spirit.
Then let what we do be evidence of who we are.
Let us be those in whom Jesus is evident, and not just when we say the right words.
Let us love the Lord our God with our whole selves—mind, body and spirit—individually and corporately.
Let us love our neighbors as we love ourselves more than we expect our neighbors to love us as we love ourselves.
Let us build up and not tear down, remembering the one we call “Lord” also is known as Creator, Redeemer, Reconciler, Sustainer.
Let us be wise, full of grace, gentle and kind. There isn’t a law against such things.
Let us cling to the truth, however hard it may seem to find.
When all the votes are counted—and in our representative democracy, all votes must be counted—someone will win. Whoever is elected to govern will have great influence. Their decisions and actions will have far-reaching consequences.
More consequential still is who we are in Christ because of who Christ is in us.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP. The views expressed are those solely of the author.