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The State is not the Kingdom

 

Judging from social media posts during this particularly raucous political season, I think many people will resonate with this quote from Robert Byrne: “Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.” A lot of folks are announcing that they may sit out the presidential election for the first time in their lives, unable to choose between the “lesser of two evils.”

candidate-clipart-Campaign-clip-artI, too, have been frustrated by the nastiness, tired old promises and demagoguery. But I have to remember that while it’s one thing to be a good citizen by casting an informed vote, it’s quite another to believe, as many seem to do, that their candidate will usher in the messianic age. Of course, people don’t put it quite that literally, but they seem to act like it, crowning their nominees’ heads with halos while demonizing the rest. The state will always be run by fallible, finite and, sometimes, immoral human beings. This is why we should be careful not to exalt our preferred politicians to unreasonable heights, for they will make mistakes and fall from grace more than we’d like them to.

Among those wringing their hands are some Christians who seem to have forgotten that the state is not the Kingdom of God. Sometimes I wonder if we’re more interested in fashioning good little liberals or conservatives instead of fully-committed disciples who live the life of Christ through humble service and sacrifice. As followers of Jesus, we are to promote the Kingdom of heaven over the kingdom of earth, for “the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2:17). Christians are to exhibit peace in times of turmoil, joy in times of despair, graciousness in the midst of hostility and self-control when others are flinging mud everywhere. We, above all people, have been charged to exhibit the character of Christ.

septicI’m the first to confess that I haven’t always borne the fruit of the Spirit during passionate political debate. On the other hand, I don’t get as worked up about politics as I used to, because I’ve seen lots of forlorn pedestals after terms that started with high hopes go as flat as a punctured balloon. I will still like to see certain men and women in office who match my values and political philosophy, but if they don’t get in, I will continue to live my life, pursue my own happiness and trust God, for “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” (I Chronicles 29:11).

So, yes, by all means express your political passions (kindly, of course), get involved if you feel led and pull the lever on election day. Just don’t kid yourself that God’s plans fall apart if your candidate doesn’t get into office.

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