In the summer of 1774, six months after the act of rebellion known as the Boston tea party, the British Parliament was dissolved and general elections were set to begin on October 5, 1774. In many ways, England was a divided nation. There was great disagreement, both moral and economic in nature, concerning the “American” problem. Closer to home, morale was low, and political radicalism was a growing threat in small pockets around the country. Many citizens saw the upcoming election as a potential turning point for their beloved England. Campaigning was fierce; tension was high.
In a journal entry from the beginning of October, 1774, John Wesley recorded these powerful and extremely relevant words:
“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:
1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy.
2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to hear and heed these words from our spiritual father. It seems as if our world has been turned upside down by our upcoming presidential election. Political rhetoric is at an all-time high; fear and distrust are almost palpable; hate is running rampant.
We must be better than this! As the people of God, redeemed and sanctified by the grace of Jesus Christ, we must step up and step out as bearers of grace and instruments of love. As the people called Methodist, we have a holy obligation to carry light into our corners of the world. Many would have us believe that the fate of the world rests upon the results of our upcoming presidential election. Not only is such a belief politically naïve, it is also theologically irresponsible. The God of Creation will not be limited by the results of any election – regardless of what the pundits might tell us.
So what should we do?
- Stop being afraid! “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
- Love; don’t hate! “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
- Remember who you are! “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
Much of this year’s election is being driven by fear. I am afraid as well, but not for the reasons you might think. I am afraid that this election will change us, the people of God. I am afraid that divisions sown in political parties will take root in our churches. I’m afraid that our obsession with one human election will distract us from our mission as the people of God. Mostly, I am afraid that we, the people of God, will come to believe that hatred, dismay, disdain, and fear are Christian virtues to be lived in the world. They are not!
Dare we believe the Word of God in the midst of our political turmoil? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If we believe God’s Word, then we know this election will not change our mission, our calling, or our God. Our task will not change. Our calling will remain: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the broken, love our neighbors, and proclaim the Gospel. The headlines on November 9 cannot – must not – change that.
People of God: do not let this election change you!
Dr. Jeff Wilson is the Mobile District Superintendent and offered these words in his weekly district newsletter.