Being Peacemakers in a Messy Post-Election
It would be an understatement that this has been a messy election - the events leading up to the ballot box, the results, and the conflicted discourse in the aftermath continue to echo through America. Social media is still a mess of raw emotions and memes. Lines have been drawn more clearly than they were before. And I'm sure this is going to be a tense Thanksgiving for many families. How do Christians respond? We do well to heed the words of Jesus about what it looks like to live as representatives of God's kingdom while we live and work in this earthly kingdom - "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). Here are five ways that Christians can practice this kingdom ethic of peacemaking in the coming days.
Listen and Love.
If someone came to you and said, “I’m really scared about the outcome of this election," we wouldn’t want to discredit their fear just because we may not be afraid in the moment. We are called to love and listen. If you have Muslim friends and neighbors, they may be genuinely afraid, and regardless of whether that fear is real or perceived, they need you to be a good neighbor. Your LGBTQ friends and neighbors really need you to be a good neighbor who will embody the love of Christ right now by listening and loving. Showing empathy and compassion does not mean you completely agree on everything, but as Christians we are called to be so secure in our worldview that we listen patiently.
Beware of Endless Grieving and Over Gloating.
If you’re a Christian and you’re unhappy or unsettled by the results of the election, remember that Jesus Christ is Lord. You are still baptized. You are still a child of God, and he still gives you his kingdom. And remember that those who disagree with you politically are not your enemies – they are all your neighbors, and many are blood bought and baptized brothers and sisters with whom you worship.
If you’re a Christian and you’re happy with the results of the election – please, please, please – this is not the time to gloat on social media or say, “I told you so!” or “Take that!” Let’s not destroy the work of God for the sake of politics. We’re kingdom first people – politics will always be second place.
Be the Opposite Expectations.
Regardless of where we fall politically, as the church, let’s strive to be the opposite of the way others might perceive us. In the early church, Christians were often falsely accused of being atheists or cannibals – atheists because they had no idols or temples, and cannibals because of the body and blood language of the Lord’s Supper. The day after the election I saw an angry and despairing Facebook post from someone who lumped together Christians with some of the racist, xenophobic, and anti-women rhetoric expressed by some Trump supporters. As a Christian I thought, “No! This is not who we are! Don't lump me together with this kind of hate!" Just as it's unfair for all Muslims to be lumped together with radical extremists, it's also unfair to lump Christians together with a political party or stereotypical positions. However, the sad reality is that we have little control of over false, stereotypical accusations. But we do have the power to live opposite of those unfair accusations. It’s one thing for me defend the church and its ethics against false accusation via argument - it’s a much different thing for us to embody the heart of the Christian faith and its sacrificial love via consistent actions.
Guard your speech and pray.
Regardless of who was elected, as Christians we want our president to do well. If Hillary had been elected, the call for Christians would be “speak well of your leaders and pray.” With Trump as president, it’s the same call – “speak well of your leaders and pray.” That does not mean we agree with everything they stand for. As Christians we should find serious fault with either of our candidates – but we are called to speak the truth in love only after praying and speaking the best of those who govern us.
Politics does not create true and lasting peace between people. Jesus does. Government policies don’t reconcile diverse groups of people. The Gospel does. Laws can only deal with exteriors. The Gospel works in the heart. The church has the best resources for reconciliation between all people because our message bleeds reconciliation. So let’s live out what that reconciliation looks like first in our congregations, and then by extension in our neighborhoods and workplaces.
As we live in a divided nation, we would do well to go back and read the narrative of the New Testament – a story of a Savior who came for all people. A story of a church that became a community of diverse people. I would argue that local congregations of Christians are the places with the most potential to create unity between divided people because the Gospel creates peace between God and others.
So, let’s continue to be the church. Let’s worship together. Let’s do life together. Let’s serve our neighbor together. Let's be peacemakers.
Pastor John Rasmussen - Our Savior Lutheran Church - South Windsor, CT