I was in 6th grade when Bill Clinton was elected as the 42nd President of the United States of America.
At 11 years old, this was the first election I’d followed. I knew very little about what was happening other than what I had heard on the news and in conversations.
From the pulpit I’d heard mentions of George H. W. Bush being God’s man. In my classrooms I’d listened to comments that built up the Republican party as moral and ethical while dismissing the Democratic party as the opposite.
You see, in the world I lived in God was a Republican, at least that is what I’d come to understand from Church, educators and the day-to-day conversations of well intentioned adults in the middle of the Republican, ahem Bible, Belt.
I vividly remember sitting in Mr. Adams class with my classmates the day after President Clinton’s election. The mood was very, very heavy.
I remember the dismay I felt as we talked in class the next day about this Democrat that won the election. In my 12 year old mind I was experiencing the beginning of the end of America.
It was a dark day for this sixth grader. Thankfully, the earth kept turning and the United States of America continued to exist.
It’s been six election cycles since that day in 1992; 24 years of life and experiences have passed me by. I’ve looked through a different lens during each election cycle; sometimes it has been a lens conditioned by the church, sometimes it has been a lens conditioned by prominent conservative voices and sometimes it has been a lens conditioned by my circle of friends.
What I’ve come to find true in looking back on these past elections growing up in the Bible Belt is that regardless of what lens the election is being viewed through there have been good guys (Republicans) and bad guys (Democrats). Salvation was reflected through who you voted for.
Elections have become the source of our hope, our security and our future. This deeply disturbs me.
In the book of 1 Samuel we are thrust into a very pivotal part of history for the nation of Isreal. Israel was a unique nation, unlike any other nation around them, in that they had no king to rule them. Rather Israel was to be led by God as their King.
The elders of Israel grew uncomfortable with this as Samuel, their prophet, grew old. They came together to Samuel and asked him to appoint a king to lead them, just as all of the other nations have.
This bothered Samuel and he brought it before God. God told Samuel that His people were rejecting His Lordship as king. God went on to instruct Samuel to listen to the elders, but give them a very solemn warning about where placing their hope, security and faith in a temporal king would lead them.
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:10-18
Samuel issued the warning and the elders persisted in their desire to have a king. In response, God instructed Samuel to give them the king they desired.
As I reflect on this titanic moment in history, I can’t help but want to cry out to the Israelites and warn them of where their decision was going to lead them. A king was not to be their hope, their security nor their salvation.
God reminded them “you will cry out for relief from the king that you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
Yet here we are, around 3,068 years later, and we are in the middle of one of the most intense election cycles I’ve ever witnessed and we are still crying out for a king to lead us and to save us.
We have entered into a time of extreme tension, broad uncertainty and apparent hopelessness. I see it etched on the faces of those that are talking about politics. I see it written in the words of those that are sharing on social media.
We are crying out, looking for a king to save us.
For thousands of years Jewish people awaited their Messiah. He was the one who was going to overthrow the Roman empire and restore the throne of David.
Yet when Jesus came on the scene it wasn’t political or empirical; at least in the sense that many expected. Jesus came announcing a different kingdom. His life and His teachings didn’t point towards reforming a government and finding hope in that establishment; rather finding ourselves in the middle of a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
Jesus didn’t give us the example of fighting the empire. Jesus gave us the example of rescuing people from imperialistic thinking and introducing them to a new Kingdom.
The proclamations Jesus made of the Kingdom of God should bring us an assurance that the promises of politicians are not our hope, nor our security; the promises of God are.
There is absolutely no doubt that this election is different than any other, and the stakes of this country are higher than they’ve ever been when it comes to the leader that is appointed to lead us into the next four years. We would be wise to know our responsibility towards government and to pay attention to the issues at hand.
But even as we walk in that recognition we should remember that it is not our hope; and that we are citizens of another Kingdom.
We are all passionate about fighting injustice. We are all-in when it comes to seeing the Kingdom of God come alive. We all have an opinion about how to see His Kingdom advance here on earth.
Jesus has assured us His Kingdom will not come politically. He is not a republican…nor a democrat.
He reminded Pilate of this when He said:
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)
We fight as if that is our destination, a utopian government in America. And in the pursuit of that utopia we forget the very words of the one we are fighting for; “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.“
We are allowing the pursuit of the security we find in our government to completely overshadow the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
The Republican party is not our hope; nor is the Democratic party.
Donald Trump is not our hope, nor is Hillary Clinton.
God alone is.
Jesus cared deeply about the issues at hand. There are issues that the Republic party represents that Jesus, too, would fight for. But there are also issues that Jesus would be embarrassed to be associated with. The same is true of the Democratic party. In the end, Jesus understood legislation had no power to fix man’s heart. He proclaimed a different way.
So may our words, our interactions and our posts reflect just that.
We have an opportunity to perpetuate fear and false hope; or we can be light amidst the darkness and instability around us. We can introduce a true security and hope that can be found no where else other than in the middle of the Kingdom of God.
Let’s do that.