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Finding peace in a deadlocked nation

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama answer a question at the same time during the second U.S. presidential campaign debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Jim Young)

USA Today declares the presidential race “too close to call.” The Los Angeles Times agrees: “Obama, Romney sprint to tight finish in a nation deeply divided.”  Fox News reports: “Among likely voters, Obama and Romney are deadlocked at 48 percent.  And for the first time this year, they are tied among independent voters, at 46 percent each.”

Each of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates campaigned in Ohio yesterday; three of the four will return today.  And yet in the state considered by many to be the hinge of the election, The Columbus Dispatch summarizes its poll: “Ohio’s a toss-up.”

Congress is divided as well, with Republicans likely to control the House and Democrats the Senate.  Our politics reflect our people, according to The Los Angeles Times: “After years of weak economic growth and stalemate in Washington, opinion surveys show an electorate that is more divided than ever, especially along lines of race, age and party.”  

How does the uncertainty of tomorrow’s election make you feel today?  Are you hopeful for your candidate?  Worried about our future if he doesn’t win?  Frustrated with the rancor and bitterness of the campaign?  Concerned about the deep divisions in our nation?  So am I.

This morning it seems to me that we could use a different perspective.  Six centuries ago, an anonymous monk wrote out some spiritual thoughts that have since become the best-selling devotional book in history.  Most scholars identify the author as Thomas a Kempis; the classic is called The Imitation of Christ.

This weekend I began rereading it and found this warning in its first chapter: “How foolish to wish for a long life, but not care whether it is a good life; to be concerned only with the present, with never a thought of eternity and the endless joy that awaits you.”  God agrees.  His word calls us to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2), because “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

In a culture fixated on the present, the material, and ourselves, it’s understandable that so many would be anxious today.  But you and I are called to focus on the eternal, the spiritual, and God’s praise and service.  We are right to be concerned about our nation in these divisive days, but we are wrong to worry about our future: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  When we do, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7).

Do you have God’s peace this morning?  If not, why not?