You may be a political junkie, searching out every possible partisan nugget in media and among friends, and looking forward to the bare-knuckled skirmishes of the new election year. Or you may find the sharp rhetoric and endless parsing of political points already tiring, and you are dreading nearly a full year of wall-to-wall political forays, assaulting every print, broadcasting and online communication. Or you be somewhere in-between.
What is a Christian to do, facing a momentous election year ahead that is certain to feature toxic rhetoric and to present troubling choices? How can believers in Christ have a vital and faithful response to the political landscape?
As Christians facing a presidential election year, we may feel helpless. A few of us our called to run for office and some of us are called to engage in the political skirmishes. We all have a responsibility to be good and active citizens. And we are all called to seek God and to pray for his will in the elections and the work of those who govern us.
Exactly what are we to do?
Risking the danger of sounding like the same Sunday school lessons many of us have heard since childhood, it’s clear that we need to read the Bible and pray every day. Indeed, that is a very good start.
Here are five tips for not just surviving but prevailing as Christian citizens in an election year.
1. Commit to staying in the Word: Many of us start every year with the intention to read the Bible daily, and in fact we have the energetic goal of reading through the Bible during the year. This is difficult to sustain, and most of us regularly fail to achieve this goal. A great tool is an effective reading plan—one that doesn’t dump you into Leviticus in February.
2. Speak the truth in love. For Christians, there is a role for outrage in political argument, but never rage. And in the face of injustice and unrighteousness, we must speak the truth to power, but as Ephesians 4:15 reads “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (NLT) Too often, we speak the truth with malice or shrink from the truth to avoid appearing unloving.
3. Exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Unfortunately, there too much rotten fruit thrown at one another at a time such as this. Conversely, in a believer the Holy Spirt produces “this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). As we participate in political interchange, this is our high standard and what we should look for in our public servants.
4. Maintain perspective. While God calls us to be salt and light in these perilous times, we are also reminded that this earth is not our home. Victories for righteousness in the kingdom here are only a glimpse of the final victory already won. It is with this perspective that we can fight the good fight without lowering ourselves into political gutters.
5. Pray daily for the nation. As we pray each day, it is the highest service in a year such as this to include the nation, its leaders, institutions and culture in our prayers. Barry Black, the chaplain of the United States Senate who prays at the beginning of each Senate session, writes, “We should get back to praying for our government, because life should not be divided into sacred and secular. God has sovereignty over all of our lives because in him we live, move, breathe, and function (Acts 17:28).”
Jim Jewell is communications director at Tyndale House Publishers, whose latest release is the One Year Pray for America Bible, a reading and prayer Bible that invites Christians to stay in the Word and on their knees in the coming year. Each day’s Bible reading features a short prayer or prayer prompt for America, as well as the Bible reading for the day.