It”s election year, but January Is coming

The 2016 presidential election has spawned an infinite number of pundits, with an infinite number of MacBooks, typing for an infinite amount of time, hoping something wise and clarifying will spill out of their printers. The nomination of two unlikeable candidates this year has made previously tedious presidential campaigns seem like the good old days. But serious people are also asking what we should actually do. We know who’s going to be on the ticket and the party platforms are available for viewing; the facts are before us. What should we do on Election Day?

Within our own Baptist fellowship, the confusion is only slightly less raucous than in the general population. Especially if you watch social media, you’ll see chest beating, caustic remarks and personal attacks from and toward those formerly cobelligerent for the cause of Christ and Christian citizenship. This division worries me more than the election.

Absent a spectacular and merciful act of God, one of two less-than-stellar specimens is going to be president. Many of us expect the next four years to be harder than the last four, regardless of who wins. You can have a relative “favorite” in this campaign and still acknowledge that. I predict increasingly disastrous presidential edicts, court decisions and legislation related to religious liberty, the value of human life and the strength of families. Will Bible-believing Southern Baptists be unified for the building of our heavenly kingdom and the good of our earthly neighbors? Some things are going to have to change if that is going to happen.

It’s time to talk less. As I said, those of us with ears know the shortcomings of both candidates and both parties. Adding volume and exclamations points to repetitions of those themes will drive wedges between us but persuade no one of anything. Give it a rest. I read this week that philosophy is talking to or about God and faith is listening to God. I like philosophy, but I should like faith more.

It’s time to pray more. As I said, listening to God. We do not know what God will do between now and Election Day. We do not know what he will do over the next four years. It is presumptuous to speak as if we do. Asking for renewal among God’s people, asking for wisdom for ourselves, asking for guidance for all our elected leaders, asking for God’s blessings on our pastors and other religious leaders, and asking for his fortifying strength for the coming days is so much more pertinent than my opinion about anything.

We must forgive those who are wrong. Some things that are right and wrong, true and false, will become clear as time passes. Because I remember the past six months, I’m certain that six months from now, I’ll know some things about which I was certain, and wrong. I may know some of those things about you. There will be no unity in the greatest causes if we remain frustrated with each other over lesser issues, past issues. So yes, I need to forgive you when you are wrong, and I need your forgiveness when I am wrong. The resentment and jeering needs to end.

Know and own your convictions. We should have convictions, foundational beliefs that rarely change, as Christians and as citizens. Can you state yours? That’s one of my questions about the classic “undecided” voter or “none” Christian (those who believe in Jesus but will not be part of a church). Do they know their own convictions? What is the source of those convictions? Anyway, you will not be ready for Election Day or its aftermath if you do not know your own core beliefs.

Vote according to your convictions. Don’t be ashamed to do the things that flow out of your convictions. Voting should flow out of your convictions. Perhaps you cannot vote for anyone for president this year. Do you know who else is on the ballot? Most of the best and worst things that have happened in local, state and national government have not been done by the chief executive alone. If you have convictions about this race or that one that prohibit casting a vote, then skip it and make an intentional, wise, convictional decision on the others.

Gird up thy loins like a man. That’s King James Bible for “brace yourself for what’s going to happen next.” When January comes, the consequences of the 2016 election will be upon us, within and without the body of Christ. We must be in right fellowship with our brothers, whom we have seen, and with God, whom we have not seen, if we are going to be ready. We should start now.

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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