Today is June 7th. That would be a perfectly innocuous statement except for the necessary implication that tomorrow is June 8th. And that means tomorrow is election day.
Politics has a way of bringing out the worst in us at the best of times, and the heightened atmosphere of an election only compounds the problem. Anger. Suspicion. Tribalism. It makes for quite a heady brew, and it can be difficult to know how to avoid drinking it in the first place, or how to sober up once we have.
In my last blog, I suggested that the Sermon on the Mount may have something to teach us about how we ought to approach the Bible. That came out of a conviction that it says so much about character and conduct that it really ought to speak into every area of our lives. If my hypothesis is right, it should have something to teach us on this election eve, so here are my thoughts on how we may approach tomorrow in the light of the Sermon on the Mount…
I suspect that most of us will have already decided which box we will be ticking tomorrow, and I trust that our decisions have already been shaped by our prayer and our discipleship, but the pencil has not hit the paper yet. As we prepare to cast our votes, we must remember that Jesus’ words are the surest foundation on which we build (Matthew 7:24-27), asking how we may act with wisdom and use our democracy to advance the kingdom he preached. We may also take heed of the advice that “by your fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:16), paying attention to the actions and not just the words of our elected and would-be-elected politicians.
But it’s not just about us marking a piece of paper in a little box, because voting is a participation in our society, with all it’s differences and disagreements. When it comes to dealing with those whose political beliefs do not line up with ours, we must remember that Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to resist pronouncing judgement on others (Matthew 7:1-2), holding our convictions with a humility that allows us to listen to and seek to understand others.
And it’s not just about tomorrow, because on June 9th we must all decide how we respond to the results of the election. If things don’t go our way, me must take hope from the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and from the assurance that we do not need to worry (Matthew 6:25), trusting that we follow a God who can turn things upside down and there is no situation that cannot be redeemed. We must also continue to act as salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), keep praying for the kingdom (Matthew 6:10), and never cease from asking and seeking and knocking (Matthew 7:7-8), because we are a people of hope and perseverance.
I end with a prayer from this reflection published by Baptists Together.
God of every time and season,
Whose reign and rule extends beyond any earthly realm;
In the midst of the uncertainty,
The debate and expectancy of a forthcoming General Election,
Help us to centre ourselves afresh on you;
Not to escape the issues and argument,
But that we might be engaged
With wisdom and faithfulness
That reflects our identity as your people.
Protect us from indifference
That we might promote attitudes of grace
And seek to uphold the narratives of truth and goodness.
And may we not become so consumed
With the agendas of our own concern
That we forget the lives and needs
Of a world that extends beyond our immediate horizons.
We pray for those who seek office
And those to whom this responsibility will be given
May we never take for granted
The service that they offer
Or the freedom we have
To determine those who govern us.
Help us to act wisely;
To listen prayerfully;
To debate honestly;
To disagree graciously;
And to seek the ways of your Kingdom
In the decisions we make together.
Through Christ our Lord and King,