When we replanted Cline Avenue Fellowship Church in 2012 just outside of Chicago, one of our main hopes was that the church would experience and reflect the kind of diversity our community represented. We knew there would be challenges when people of all different backgrounds, races, generations, and socioeconomic classes came together. Thankfully over the past four years our church has experienced this kind of diversity. However, it has not been without its challenges. One of the major challenges came this past week in one of the most contentious presidential elections atleast of my lifetime (FYI, I realize I am only speaking of a handful of elections). With such a diverse group of people, it did not take long for conversation to quickly turn into passionate positions, passionate positions to quickly turn into debate, and debate into a potential disaster and division. It was a moment where I knew which needed be addressed both publicly and privately. Here are some of the things I shared with the members of our church after the sermon and before the benediction prayer:
If you voted for Donald Trump: In this moment, the outcome you desired and voted for has occurred. Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. There are a lot of people in our country and our community and in our church who are deeply bothered by this. We are not talking about handfuls of people, but tens of thousands of people who are scared for their families, their future, and the implications of having a president who has had less than stellar public character and was once on a reality TV show. Regardless if you feel these concerns and fears are an overreaction, you have a responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ to be compassionate and understanding towards others (Colossians 3:12). So before you are tempted to get _______ (fill in the blank), to assume they are just _________ (fill in the blank), or say ________ (fill in the blank) to those who don’t are bothered, take the time to ask someone why they are concerned, why they are scared, or why they are angry. If you take the time to really listen, you may gain more understanding and wisdom than talking.
If you voted for Hillary Clinton: You may find yourself extremely disappointed, angry, and possibly a little bitter. You probably feel that Donald Trump is the worst possible thing for our country and you’d be more comfortable with Donald Duck as the President. We must not miss a very important truth from the Scriptures: even if you believe Donald Trump to be the most evil man in the world, we have a God who can bring ultimate good out of ultimate evil (Genesis 50:20). Donald Trump in the White House does not remove God from His throne. If you feel completely devastated because Hillary Clinton lost, it may be possible you are putting your hope in a politician above our Sovereign God. This political idolatry has a tendency to produce fear and demonization. Pastor Tim Keller said, "The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion...This view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy. That demonizes something that is not completely bad, and makes and idol out of something that cannot be the ultimate good.…In political idolatry, we make a god out of having power."
If you voted for a Third-Party Candidate or wrote in a candidate: Do not let anyone tell you that you wasted your vote. I chose to vote third-party because my personal convictions were in conflict with the two major party candidates. I lacked (lack) confidence in both of the main candidates to fulfill the responsibilities of the presidency to bring about the greatest good for our country. Far better to “waste a vote” than to compromise your convictions. If you allowed the Scriptures to guide your morality and worldview and it led you to guide your vote towards a third-party candidate, then trust the Lord no matter the results (Psalm 119:133).
If you chose to not vote: I get it. I talked with many people this week who came to the place where they had no idea what to do and were left undecided. The beautiful things about this country is you are free not vote if you are undecided. However, if the only reason you did not vote was simply because you were lazy or did not care enough, I would encourage you to educate yourself and to take advantage of the great freedom that many men and women sacrificed their lives to give us. As Christians, if voting means we could bring some amount of good to this country, then we have a responsibility to take advantage of every opportunity (Galatians 6:10).
Regardless of who you voted for, let me remind those of you who call yourselves followers of Jesus Christ of some important truths:
Our first and greatest identity is wrapped up in Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:3–4). This union has vast implications for every Christian. Directly related to this past week, however, it is important to remember political party falls near the bottom of the sum total of who you are. Dr. Russell Moore, the President of the ERLC, said this past week, “We are not, first, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives. We are not even, first of all, the United States of America. We are the church of the resurrected and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ.”
Second, how we treat one another (especially those with whom we disagree) reflects our relationship with Christ. Be sure the world is watching Christians to see how they will react to this election, especially how Christians will act towards one another. Throughout the campaigns and debates, I was concerned of how my four year old would see and process how Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton treated one another. At times it was hostile and uncomfortable to talk about. If I am honest, over the last week I have found myself even more concerned with how she has seen and processed how Christians can be so rude, so unkind, and so hostile towards one another because they voted differently. You will not find a command of Jesus Christ to treat those who disagree with you with any amount of disrespect or degradation (P.S. flipping tables and making whips are reserved only for the perfect and patient Savior). What the world needs most are Christians who can disagree and, yet, worship together, pray with one another, pray for one another, eat meals together, and love one another despite these differences (John 13:35).
Third, we will not move forward by separating (Psalm 133). One of these easiest things to do at this point in time is to go our separate ways to our separate churches. We may even sound biblical about it by saying this is a Paul and Barnabas type of situation. However, if we are not willing to work through issues, be patient with one another, listen to one another, gain understanding about those who are different from us, ask for forgiveness from those we’ve harmed, offer forgiveness to those who harmed us, then we have not done the hard work of fighting for unity in diversity. Just because something is easy, does not mean it is right. If the Church is to reflect the Kingdom, we need to take steps towards one another rather than away.
Finally, never forget we are called to pray for our President and to stand against any injustice, whether in the streets of our community or in the White House (1 Timothy 2:1–2, Romans 13). There is a lot of evil in this world. It doesn’t take long to recognize there are more things threatening to divide us than unite us. As we wait and pray for the Lord Jesus’ return, let us use our energy to come together around His mission, guided by His Word, to live for His glory, as sojourners in this land.
For us, this was just a small step we took towards working towards unity amidst diversity. This conversation was just a start. Faith without works is dead and talk without action is air. However, as I just heard Pastor Charlie Dates say, “To say nothing is to say something.” Here’s to moving forward.