Moving Forward

The morning news has broken my heart. Every day. It isn’t that he won the election or that she could have. It is the division and divisiveness. Tears. Grief. Riots. People claim our country will return to the dark ages, or perhaps worse. They say bigotry will once again be the law of the land and fundamental individual rights will cease to exist. Millions across the nation are living in fear, wondering if our country can survive this.

As the nation reacts on social media, I continue to be confronted by one question: What is the response of the Christian? Although I know many Christians who voted for each candidate (including third parties), everything that people fear will happen in the next four years is being placed at the feet of the evangelical Christian. Regardless of how we actually voted, we are being looked to for guidance in making sense of the mess we’re in and finding a path forward. So where do we go from here? How do we heal a nation? How do we avoid repeating the mistakes of the now infamous “moral majority” movement from decades ago?

Interestingly enough, who sits in the Oval Office does not change the mandate of the Christian. God’s kingdom is much bigger than our country. But, since a nation is looking for answers, let’s revisit a few key points of our faith.

As believers, we our response is informed by Scripture. At times like these, my Bible naturally opens to Micah 6:8: 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”

Do justice.

Before I was a believer, I would have guessed this verse was a mandate for believers to judge others and punish them for violating God’s standards. When read in context, though, a deeper meaning is revealed. God has always commanded His people to look out for the downtrodden and oppressed. We are to find those who are being discriminated against or overlooked in society and advocate for them. We are often reminded to take care of the widows and orphans, but that is only the starting point. Our understanding of humanity and the human condition is that ALL humans have an inherent and infinite value. The implication is that not only do we personally seek to refrain from oppressing the basic human rights of ANYONE, we also sacrificially stand up to combat oppression everywhere we see it. Yes, that means that I absolutely will take a stand to defend the rights of my Muslim neighbors to freely practice their beliefs. It means I adamantly fight racism, bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia, and misogyny everywhere I find it and by any method I can. It also means if you disagree with me on my political, religious, social, or other beliefs, you have nothing to fear from me. This is how the believer is designed to live. Anything less is not Christianity.

Love kindness.

Once again, this is fueled by our deeply held belief that every person is of infinite value. When things get heated, take a deep breath. Take a look around. Every individual you see was uniquely and lovingly hand crafted by our Creator. Each person is deeply loved and each life has meaning and purpose. As Christians, we believe that God loves “that person” so deeply that He willingly paid the ultimate price to reconcile that relationship. With that in mind, how can we not treat our fellow humans with kindness? Yes, we are still human and prone to outbursts fueled by anger and outrage. But love kindness. Seek reconciliation. Apologize quickly and seek deeper connections with those who aren’t like you.

Walk humbly.

Many of my evangelical friends had deep and valid concerns about the election. There was nothing about this year’s voting choice that was clear cut or easy. I have quite a few friends breathing a sigh of relief right now. Right or wrong, their perception was that the country would take an irreversible turn away from issues that they held dear if the result had been different (and the issues they care about are not the ones making the news). Even so, God reminds us to walk humbly. That means entering into the fray not to gloat but instead to understand those who are hurting, to let them know they are deeply valued and truly loved. We humbly reach out to those who grieve and assure them that there is hope and that they are not forgotten. If our posture is not humble, our posture is not Christian.

These three themes are present from Genesis through Revelation. This is the ideal and standard for a believer’s life. Yes, we aren’t perfect, but striving to embody these principles are how we outwardly display our internal beliefs. We don’t look to politicians or even celebrity pastors to lead us in this, we look to God alone and then walk this out together. The church, like the country, is still at its best when we work together as “we the people,” finding common ground and moving forward with unity.

To my fellow Christians…

Yes, we believe in absolute truth. We believe in right and wrong, even if we don’t always agree on every nuance. But I ask you to remember your own past and journey…show others the grace you have been shown. There isn’t a single Christian who has “behaved” into a right relationship with God. We were saved by grace and our lives were transformed by grace. Let’s not expect those outside the faith to embrace our own ideals. Our greatest goal is to win people for Christ. We do that relationally, often listening more than we speak. If the perception others have of Christians is of a hate-filled bigot who spews judgmental and ignorant rhetoric, they will certainly miss the beauty of God’s love for them. This is the image we must fight against. With our lives. We must be painfully aware that we are ambassadors of Christ, sent to bring good news. We are not His mercenaries. We are not the judge, jury, or executioner. We are messengers. Never lose sight of the bigger picture and the deeper calling on our lives.

To those who don’t yet share my faith…

I hear your cries. I understand that you are grieving and worried, and it breaks my heart. I value your perspective and deeply want to know it more fully. I readily admit that there have been Christians on the wrong side of oppression and injustice at every era of history. But those who take our beliefs seriously instead of politically have been on the right side of it. Remember people like Williams Wilberforce who, compelled by his belief in the Christian God, spent his life ending the British slave trade. People like that still exist. They just don’t make the headlines.

I’m not going to ask you to trust us. I’m certain you have stories of deep hurt inflicted by people claiming to be on God’s side. I do, too. Honestly, that’s what kept me an atheist for 20 years. But I ask you to hold us accountable to standing up for injustice and oppression. Reach out to us. As you fight, you will find many of us standing beside you. As a Christian and an American, I wholeheartedly believe that all people were created equal. Equal value, equal worth, and equal rights. No matter who is in the White House, this is something for which I pledge to always stand and for which am willing to die.