Note: The following message comes from the sermon I preached on November 13th, 2016. To say that the 2016 Presidential Election has been contentious is an understatement. Violence erupted from out of numerous urban protests in the wake of the election, including on in Portland; meanwhile, other news sources report daily waves of harassment based on race or sexual orientation. Without condoning or seeking to justify any of these behaviors, all reactions to the electoral outcome suggest that many have been very emotionally invested in the campaigns and campaign results. Violence is perhaps the least constructive way to negotiate the emotional aftermath of November 8, 2016. The following reflection is an attempt to link one of Christianity’s primary theological resources (the Bible) to our election reactions. I am in no way suggesting that we should hold on to all of these emotions, especially in the long-term. However, for those who are happy, lost, or worried, it might simply be helpful to know how the Bible can calm our nerves, speak to our passions, and return us to the truth that: no matter who is president, Jesus is King.
A single life event can evoke a wide variety of emotional responses from a group of people. I first said “Yes” to God’s call to enter professional ministry after attending a large Christian conference in the summer of 2003. Me, I was hyped; I wanted to tell everyone: “Hi, I’m going into ministry!” Happy though he was, my pastor at the time reminded me to slow down and be sure the calling was real. My parents’ voices were very supportive, but also approached from different angles. Mom expressed her unconditional love and support for the choice, as well as the motherly worry over the stresses such a life would bring me. Dad, too, was overwhelmingly supportive, but pragmatically encouraged me to pursue a practical field in college in order to keep all my options open.
A single life event can lead to a wide variety of emotional responses from a group of people. We’ve had one such life event throughout this divisive week. For one moment early Wednesday morning, November 9th 2016, one hundred different feelings have welled up in hundreds of individuals in our neighbor-hoods and those across the U.S. Ecclesiastes 3:4—“ a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,”—reminds us that all of life’s emotions have appropriate expression.
On this day, as God’s children and ambassadors, we ought to acknowledge that the election results have impacted all of us differently; moreover, none of us have the monopoly on how others should feel. We are called to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us]” (Ephesians 4:32). Our mission is not to judge whose motives or feelings are most valid (for we cannot); our mission is to love all persons with compassion and empathy.
My thoughts today are to provide all of us with a small library of Scriptures, to provide hope and comfort for any emotions that are alive in you this week. I want to be clear, this message is not an endorsement or denigration of any candidate. By suggesting that some of us are happy or sad, or lost or angry, I do not believe that we must have these feelings after the election. Because I believe that God is and always will be firmly in control of this world, my hope is that no one becomes inconsolably despondent or fearful. I believe that the Bible speaks truth into our lives, and the verses below are offered as a help to those who want to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and power (Psalm 25:10).
It is OK to feel relief that your candidate won, or support for the policies you championed. A word of caution, though, to beware the temptation of pride. Here are some verses to remember while prioritizing compassion for others. Philippians 4:5: “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone; the Lord is at hand.” Romans 12:3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
It’s OK to be struggling with feelings of fear, anxiety, or worry toward the future. Some of us battle these emotions all the time, election season or no. Take the following verses to heart in light of God’s faithfulness, and remember that God does not desire for us to live in fear for the future. 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
It’s OK, too, to feel cast off, hurt, or ignored. In times of division it can appear as if no one thoughtfully hears what we are saying. Listen to these verses and remember that Jesus was rejected and that God has always used the underdog and the outcast for holy purposes. God’s not done with you yet and is waiting to heal all of your life’s wounds: Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Psalm 147:3 “[God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
How about anger? Yes, it is OK to grapple with anger and perhaps to be angry at the election results. While this emotion is not inherently sinful (remember Jesus in the Temple courts), as people of faith we must be prayerful and mindful of our reactions. I would encourage that feelings of anger be turned toward positive political involvement. In this way we can tap into God’s surpassing peace (Philippians 4:7) and avoid shame of inflicting violence on others. Romans 12:9 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Proverbs 25:21-22 “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
Finally, it’s OK to express feelings of being lost, being confused, or simply being worn out. If I can reiterate any message from the previous weeks, let me say: Jesus is still king, and God is still in control. Hand your burdens, even the burdens of this election, over to God. Tomorrow is a new day, and God is ready to provide rest. Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
One more pertinent passage from Psalm 121:1-2: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” A just, loving society is not born of a political affiliation but of people who know in their bones that kindness is a daily choice. Put your trust in eternal things, and undertake the most Christ-like of callings: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).