The sun came up this Wednesday morning in beauty as it is prone to do. As predicted, as it did, we woke up to a reality where roughly half of the people in our country were excited and celebrating, and half of the people were shocked and grieving.
I’ve seen and heard stories coming from both sides this week. People who are joyous about the outcome because they’ve felt forgotten by the system and they are desperate for a chance to regain their livelihood, and people who are deeply sad and legitimately concerned for their future because of the rhetoric they’ve heard over the past several months from our president-elect. I’ll admit, I’m feeling a deep sense of sadness because of what I’m seeing and hearing and the division that we’re encountering. We’re divided. We’re raw. No side is immune from the ugliness of it all.
On one side, there are people of integrity who weren’t necessarily excited about the choices, but who voted reluctantly for the candidate they thought had better economic policies or would appoint Supreme Court nominees that matched their values. These people are being demonized and vilified and labeled as racists and bigots by people who don’t know them or their hearts or their values. But one vote doesn’t sum up the totality of a person.
On the other side, there’s a woman in a neighborhood near mine who stepped out her front door Wednesday morning only to hear a neighbor across the street yell out at her, “Now that Trump is president, maybe we can get the ni***rs like you out of our neighborhood.” I’ve heard story after story after story after story like this in the past few days, where people feel emboldened and legitimized in their acts of hatred. We can’t pretend like things like this aren’t happening and just hope they go away. We have to be better than this as people.
Confusion. Joy. Despair. Excitement. Uncertainty. Hope. I think we’re all across the spectrum this week as people.
As a pastor and as a person of faith, my first question is always this: as followers of Jesus, now what do we do? If we’re excited this week, what do we do? If we’re grieving this week, what do we do? No matter which side we’re coming from, what do we do now?
I’ll share this thought. No matter which way you voted this week and no matter how you’re feeling about the results, I think what you do today as a follower of Jesus and what you continue to do day after day after that is at this point significantly more important than what button you pushed in the voting booth on Tuesday. We’re at a crucial moment in history where our words and our actions and our responses matter a great deal. Our posts on social media matter. Our eye rolls matter. Our ability to listen and learn before speaking matters. Our willingness to search out the best in other people matters.
As we’ve said on repeat to our boys this week and as we say on repeat to them every day, your job today is to love your neighbor in the name of Jesus no matter who’s siting in the Oval Office or who’s been elected to sit there come January. You are going to hear a lot of things, a lot of messages, a lot of disagreement, and unfortunately, a lot of hate, and it’s going to be coming from all directions. But your job today and all days is to stand for truth and for justice and for peace and for love and grace and mercy and forgiveness because you follow Jesus, not because of who’s been elected. If you claim that Jesus is King of your life, the President doesn’t set your agenda, your allegiance to Christ does.
If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, while the office of president is a powerful office, the president doesn’t hold the power to set the agenda for your life, because you’ve already given that power to King Jesus.
What does that mean? If you’re a follower of Jesus, it means if your neighbor is hurting this week and you disagree with them, don’t shout at them. Recognize and try to understand their hurt. Love them. If your neighbor is sick and they voted differently from you, pray for their healing. If your neighbor has a need but they look different than you do, serve them. If your neighbor, in fear, said they were going to move somewhere else if one candidate or another was elected (and by the way, people on both sides said it), don’t gloat at them about how they ought to get out of your country and don’t let the door hit them on the way out. Listen to them, embrace them, and try to build bridges between you and them. In doing so, you can show the rest of us what’s possible when Jesus is King and we lay aside our own agendas to be agents of his kingdom.
Never before in my lifetime has the church had such an opportunity to rise up and show the world what’s possible between people who say that Jesus is King and the love of God is above every other virtue. With every word: Jesus is King and God is love. With every step: Jesus is King and God is love. With every action: Jesus is King and God is love. If you’re spewing hatred in the name of Jesus or unleashing judgment with the hashtag #godbless, you may need to check again which Jesus you’re proclaiming or which God you’re talking about, because my fear is it may not be the real God, but instead one you’ve made up to back up your own opinion. Rather than pointing fingers at the way other people are failing in these things, maybe many of us would be better off by looking first in the mirror and correcting what we see there.
My great prayer is that people of faith will stand together today and say we are part of this upside down kingdom where we respond in unexpectedly gracious ways, and we’ll allow the vision of this kingdom to shape who we are and what we do. That we’ll fight every temptation to spew toxins of hate, and instead we’ll show a divided and hurting world what this kingdom we’re part of looks like. We’re part of a kingdom where the broken are mended. We’re part of a kingdom where the sad are made whole again. We’re part of a kingdom where people who are hurting are comforted. We’re part of a kingdom where people who are sick are healed. We’re part of a kingdom where people who are divided on everything are able to come together because there’s something bigger than them at work in the atmosphere. The kingdom comes to bear on the world through us, when it isn’t just our mindset but our life’s work.
This Sunday morning, we will gather together at our church. We’ll sing songs of praise to God. We’ll pray together. We’ll read from an ancient text that’s full of life and truth and beauty and a vision for our lives and for our world that will go on long after we’re gone from this earth – a text that proclaims throughout its pages that Jesus is the King of All Kings. And we’ll ask God to align us more and more and more to his will and design for us. And in the light of who God is, we’ll recognize our brokenness and ask for forgiveness for all the ways we’ve made it all about ourselves, trusting in his grace and love and mercy to make us whole and make us one.
And we’ll do it again the next Sunday, and then the next, and then the next, every time asking for the courage and the strength to go out into our neighborhoods and workplaces and schools and streets and put the love of Jesus into practice in real and tangible ways. Asking that no matter what else is going on around us, that God would make us more and more and more like Jesus.
That’s our work. That’s our task. That’s our job. And it is a big one. So whether you’re exuberant this week or whether you’re in shock and mourning, or whether you have no idea what to think or say or do, the work is the same. Love your neighbor, both the one who lives next door to you and the one who lives across the world from you. Serve them. Seek their welfare. Pray for them. Repeat again and again and again and again, hoping that someday, we’ll see the vision of God’s kingdom come to earth fully as it is in heaven.