By Pastor Rob Bloss
Last week Darci and I spent a few days in Colorado visiting my ailing mother and my extended family. While there, the two largest fires in state history were exploding in the mountains just above my hometown. Extended drought, strong winds, trees decimated by beetle kill, and limited forestry management were all contributing factors to the outbreak.
It was sad to hear news of the damage caused by the multiple fires ravaging some of the most beautiful places I know, and surreal to experience, miles from the actual flames, ash falling like snow and streetlights coming on in the middle of the day.
For me it felt like another thing to add to the growing list of “plagues” in 2020.
Our country has experienced a lot this year. Not only are we living through a global pandemic and torn by racial injustice, we are now just days away from a presidential election.
Politics has always caused division within our country and relationships with others, yet this election year feels more personal and somehow, more important.
As “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), it can be tempting for Christians to adopt a mindset that earthly governing systems are inconsequential to the task of furthering the gospel. But ask a pastor in an underground church or a missionary attempting to access a closed country if politics are inconsequential. Religious liberty, passports and visas are not unnecessary luxuries but are often vital for pastors and missionaries seeking to preach and teach the gospel.
Jeremiah 29:7 says: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Referring to Babylon, the prophet recognized that secular government served a legitimate purpose in God’s plan for Israel. This is equally true in our context.
When Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” He was establishing a principle never uttered before. He taught that we owe loyalty to two spheres. Obviously, our loyalty to God is a higher loyalty, but we dare not shirk our responsibility to Caesar.
On the one hand, we belong to the kingdom of Heaven with all of the rights and privileges enjoyed by God’s sons and daughters. On the other hand, we are to be salt and light in this world.
It’s not easy to be a citizen in two worlds.
Early Christians were cultural misfits: radically pro-life, sexually chaste, committed to the poor and marginalized, and devoted to racial and ethnic justice and reconciliation. These convictions don’t place us neatly in one political party. But our current emaciated political theology has formed us into what Tim Keller calls red evangelicals or blue evangelicals who ignore or denigrate parts of Scripture and tradition that don’t fit into our prior partisan commitments.
The bottom line:
Whoever gets elected as President is important, but it is possible for the Kingdom of God to become strong even as the kingdom of men and women declines. God’s program for His people is not tied to the election; Christianity has survived in countries where there was no freedom of religion. We are to be faithful no matter who is elected.
We need postures and practices.
We need postures of humility, truthfulness, joy, kindness, and love for our enemies—postures profoundly lacking on both sides of the aisle.
We form these postures through practices. “To be of any use to the world in these times,” wrote Andy Crouch shortly after the 2016 election, “we have to practice the spiritual disciplines that make us different from the world.”
One of those key practices is prayer. So, here’s a brief list of things we might pray for this election (and beyond):
1. Pray for Submission to God
He is in control. Nothing that has happened this year has taken God by surprise. He is on the throne still working on our behalf. He knows the outcome of this election already. No matter the outcome, we can trust in the One who is our Source.
Whoever your candidate of choice may be, we can rest in this - God has a plan. He's not pacing heaven’s floors, worried about who will win or what the latest polls show. He's called us to pray, to be salt and light, and to have a voice. We can trust that the outcome is in His hands.
2. Pray for All in Authority
No matter the outcome, let’s commit to praying for our leaders. We do not have to agree fully with those in leadership, but it is our spiritual responsibility to cover them in prayer (I Timothy 2:1-4).
3. Pray for Unity across Political Lines
There’s concern over divide no matter the outcome, but as believers, we should be committed to unity and help model the way. Loving our neighbors isn’t conditional. It is not based on whether they look like us, vote like us, or believe like us, it is loving them no matter what.
4. Pray against Division
No matter what political party you have voted for in the past, no matter how passionate we may feel about a particular cause, we cannot allow the devil to win through division, especially within the church.
5. Pray for God to Heal our Land
Our land needs healing more than ever with all the injustices, abuses, wildfires and an invisible virus sweeping through the world. We need the resurrecting power of Jesus to heal.
6. Pray for Peace
No matter the outcome, there will be an upset felt in our country, but I want to encourage us to pray for a peace that surpasses all understanding. A confident peace where heaven meets earth to carry us through seasons on the mountains and through the valleys. That we would not succumb to worry, fear, or defeat. That we would not grow so weary and give up or tune out.
7. Pray for Revival
With everything happening in the world, I believe God is positioning us to turn back to Him. He is reminding us how our hope cannot be in the economy, in our leaders, or in this world. Our hope can only be found in Him. We need the church to be the church in this season. We need believers to recognize their position as image-bearers and carry it with them in every conversation and behavior.
I voted, but I’ll be honest that I didn’t feel enthusiastic about the box I checked. And so I’ll keep on praying, praying that we would know and live the meaning of being in the world, but not of it, doing politics as though not doing them, being on the earth, yet having our lives hidden with Christ in God, rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are God’s; and most of all, that we will treasure Jesus Christ above all else and seek first His Kingdom.