The day after the election I noticed that my Christians friends posting on Facebook tended to highlight one of two things. Some posted reminders about God’s sovereignty and how the Christian hope is always in God, not in rulers. Others lamented what the Trump election indicates about America, and also fears about what his presidency may mean for America’s future. But these two dynamics are actually twin truths that the Christian must hold together.
The eternal throne is occupied (Revelation 4:2). There is no vacancy. Therefore, we do not trust in princes (Psalm 146:3). In God we trust, because God alone reigns forever. He is King, and that is not saying anything political, and at the same time it’s saying everything political.
And yet, God’s reign is unfulfilled. “At present we don’t yet see everything in subjection to him” (Hebrews 2:8). He is already reigning, but the world is still broken. So while we can rejoice the eternal throne is occupied, there is still much reason for mourning the state of things here, and longing for something better. The Old Testament prophets believed God was sovereign and yet wailed over the condition of Israel.
These twin truths guide Christian thinking about our situation. And the application for the church is this:
The church both hopes in God’s kingdom ultimately, but also works to embody God’s kingdom presently.
We can’t hope in God’s kingdom later while failing to reflect the kind of reign he will bring now. If we aren’t working toward embodying the kind of kingdom he will bring, what does that say about how much we really love his kingdom?
I joked with a friend this past week that after reading Psalm 146 it looks like God plays his political cards. God votes Democrat. It was a joke, but what I mean is this. Psalm 146 says we shouldn’t trust in princes, but we should trust in God who is King. And as king, he cares for the poor, the widows, the orphans and the prisoners. The socially marginalized and voiceless. And the Democratic party has carved out an identity as the party of the marginalized. So at least that element of the Democratic identity should resonate with Christians.
At the same time God is grieved by so much of what Donald Trump stands for. The media will want to show that Donald Trump was elected by evangelicals. In one sense they are right. Exit polls showed that four out of five white evangelicals voted Trump. But, we need to prove that Donald Trump does not represent Jesus followers.
We must speak to the good and the bad in a leader or a party. As Francis Schaeffer said, we would be “cobelligerents” to both parties but not allied to either. Thabiti Anyabwile in the Washington Post yesterday said we should “celebrate what we think is good while also protecting against what we think is bad. Having a chance to appoint Supreme Court justices should not be touted as a grand, unqualified victory if we also suspect the freedoms of ethnic groups will be restricted or ethnic peoples mistreated.” Whether you voted Trump or Clinton (I didn’t vote for either major party candidate), so much of what they each stand for should leave you very disappointed. Speak to the good and the bad.
But we must also act according to the best of the policies we support. Evangelicals are often guilty of wanting legislation that reflects Christian morality (e.g. pro-life), but at the same time, not wanting to deal with all the issues behind those policies (e.g. what drive women to abortions, like racial disparities, poverty, low-education and low income). So evangelicals vote for Donald Trump because he says he’ll defend pro-life causes, and yet evangelical haven’t done a great job caring for the poor, championing racial reconciliation, etc. We are pro-life in policy. But are we good at supporting those in need of help raising the child they chose to keep? And whatever your immigration policy preferences are, how are you doing at loving refugees and immigrants in your city? What steps (even if small) have you taken to actively work against racism toward racial reconciliation?
I was talking with a pastor once who pastored back in the 1960’s when there were some blacks in town who were moving to integrate the local elementary school. Members of his church went with guns and torches to intimidate these families and the children. I asked the pastor how he responded to his members. He replied, “As their pastor I was there to point my people to Jesus, not to get into the issues with them.”
Sadly too many evangelicals are still acting like that. We want to preach Jesus and emphasize personal piety but refuse to get into the messes around us. We should pray that the church in America will work to eliminate these discrepancies. May we hope in God’s kingdom ultimately, while still working to embody the kingdom presently.