The candidates began and ended last night’s presidential debate without shaking hands. The ninety minutes in between were filled with argument, name-calling, and vitriol. Donald Trump refused to say if he will accept the vote if he loses, a statement that is leading this morning’s news. Hillary Clinton called him a “puppet” of Russia, while he called her a “nasty woman.”
In eighteen days I will vote in my eleventh presidential election over four decades. I have never seen a campaign season as bitter as this one has been. Nor have I seen Christians as divided over an election as we seem to be today.
I receive emails regularly from believers who liken Donald Trump to Winston Churchill and characterize him as the war leader we need today. I also receive emails from believers who are convinced that no Christian could vote for Mr. Trump. Many evangelicals are convinced that electing Hillary Clinton would end America as we know it. Others believe that she would advance our status as leader of the free world.
Here’s what I know for sure: on November 9 the election will be over, but our witness—for good or for bad—will endure.
Christians are commissioned to reach all nations with the good news of God’s love (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, we must not limit our witness to the place we happen to inhabit today. In the same way, we must not limit our witness to the moment we happen to inhabit today.
What we say about the candidates will resonate long after the 2016 election is done. Politics are fertile ground for Satan to use in sabotaging our witness. That’s one reason we are instructed to “honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17) and to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” so that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).
Will your conversation about last night’s debate be “godly and dignified in every way”?
Just as we judge political candidates by their supporters, our culture judges Christ by his church. When we discuss last night’s debate and the candidates, it is vital that we do not dishonor Jesus. Candidates and even nations come and go, but the next person you meet will spend eternity either united with God in heaven or separated from him in hell.
I participated this week in a worship seminar led by Keith Getty, one of the greatest hymn writers of our generation. The lyrics of one of his new hymns especially struck me:
Facing a task unfinished that drives us to our knees,
A need that, undiminished, rebukes our slothful ease,
We, who rejoice to know Thee, renew before thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee to go and make Thee known.
Let’s make this “solemn pledge” the hymn of our hearts today, to the glory of God.