Some of us are jubilant about the results of November 8. Some of usare despondent. Both reactions need to be tempered.
Jubilation needs to be tempered by humility. Despondency needs to be tempered by hope. In both cases King Jesus must do the tempering.
In the first case, the case of the jubilant among us, Jesus will temper that joy by whispering to us that no human rule can possibly approach the beauty, perfection, power, and permanence of his. He will whisper that there are bound to be enormous flaws in a Trump presidency and a Republican congress. We will be glad perhaps, but we will know not to be too glad.
In the second case, the case of the despondent among us, Jesus will temper the despair by whispering that he has not ceased to rule our country even if we think a Trump presidency and a Republican congress are a disaster—or even if they actually do prove to be disastrous. He will whisper that he rules in all things for our good, even really tough things.
What We Need To Do
Depending on where we are emotionally as a result of yesterday’s vote, Jesus’ marching orders will be different. If we are happy, we will need to seek out the brother or sister who is despondent and ask them why. We will need to do this for at least two reasons: First because Paul tells us to “weep with those who weep.” Our bonds within the church, across party lines, should be deeper than our bonds within the politics we have chosen. The cross and the Spirit guarantee that the church will outlast every other human community and we are duty bound to demonstrate that now. There is a second reason we need to “cross the aisle” at church the morning after. The shape of the victory we are celebrating is bound to be flawed in ways that we may not have the eyes to see, certainly not fully. We will need the insight of our grieving brother or sister to be change agents within the political community we inhabit.
Jesus’ marching orders for us if we are despondent are different. In this case he will tell us not to withdraw into our despondency. He will tell us to keep loving our neighbors as ourselves as best we can. Love and hope, not anger and despair, are the proper wellsprings of all Christian behavior. Read the latter part of Romans 8 and you will see this. There Paul writes of “nakedness, famine, the sword, and hostile powers”—and yet he writes in a tone that rings with confident joy. Knowing that “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in our Lord Jesus Christ” sets a song in his heart. That song needs to be ours as well and, when it is, it will keep us engaged with our neighbors, seeking to love them as we love ourselves, even if their political jubilation seems utterly unwarranted. And it will keep us especially engaged with those among the jubilant who are fellow believers, for when Paul writes that nothing will separate “us” from the love of God in Christ, he means “us”—all of us.
Neither triumphalism nor despair has any place in the Christian’s heart. When they rise to prominence, as they often do on election morning, it can only be because we are in danger of abandoning our first love. And when we do that we undermine the mission of the church, which is to surprise the world into taking Jesus seriously because of the love we show towards each other.
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Rev. Charles Drew is a member of the Executive Board of the Center for Christian Civics and pastor emeritus of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in New York City, an evangelical church with a particular focus on Columbia Univeristy, nearby schools, and the local poor. He is the author of several books, including Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew? and The Ancient Love Song: Finding Christ in the Old Testament. He and his wife live and minister in New York City.
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