Months ago I wrote a song about election season. I won't say "in honor of" because . . . well . . . . honoring this doesn't seem right. Don't worry. It's not scathing enough to upset anybody. I promise. You can listen safely without being scandalized no matter who you're voting for.
You know . . . the Israelites asked God for a king several times. God tried to dissuade them from it. Time after time God pulled them back from their idolatry. Over and over they went back to it - different idols, different ways of practicing their idolatry.
Finally, in 1 Samuel, chapter 8, God gives them what they ask for. And God says this:
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
I was born to lovely parents in a nice town, in the state of Tennessee, in the United States of America. I have grown up, not with a king, but with a president and other branches of governance - checks and balances, and a system that does try its best to offer a peaceful and healthy way of life for its citizens. It's made up of human beings, so sometimes it sputters along because . . . humans do that. We make mistakes. We are flawed. All of us. Not one of us is exempt from the experience of falling down. All of us suffer pride. At one time or another . . . we've all been (or will be) a fool.
Idolatry becomes a problem in our lives and in our politics when we so vehemently champion the virtues of any person or institution that we come close to making them even with God. Or when we claim to ourselves and others that any person or institution is the only mouthpiece of God. I'm willing to believe that many of our presidents have had faith in God . . . but God doesn't deal in human rulers. God told God's own people that God didn't deal and wouldn't deal in human rulers. God deals with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit. Jesus stayed far from political office in His day and time (which really confused folks who thought he'd be a king). And the Holy Spirit moves - who can hold it down? Nobody. Who does it rest on exclusively? Nobody but God. We have no power over God. And the offices we choose for ourselves as human beings are just that - human offices.
None of these powerful human beings can claim the name of God as their own. None of them can use the name of God to take upon themselves the same sort of reverence we all should feel toward God. Words are cheap (I know, I know, I write too much and talk to much . . . and even I know the truth of it). The words coming from the mouths of power hungry people are even cheaper. Please don't imagine that any political candidate running for any office would tell the truth all the time. Please don't imagine that these people are somehow perfect. Or that one is closer to God than the other. We don't get to know any of that heart stuff. We like to believe that TV can show us that . . . but it can't.
News Flash: God is not electing anybody. We are electing other human beings.
What can we do, then? When our faith and our politics get all tangled up, what can we do?
1) We can recognize that we are flawed and that our candidates are equally flawed. Don't start telling me who is worse in a spiritual sense. I won't listen. You should not listen to anybody doing that, either. I hope nobody compares my sins to somebody else's along the way . . . do you want that? I hope not. Talk to me about their practical qualifications . . . fine . . . . talk to me about their spiritual well being? Not fine. Vote how you think you need to. Don't harbor hatred in your heart or your conversations.
2) We can pray earnestly that God would work in whatever situation comes to pass with the election. Yup. I mean, once we vote, that's that. We did our job. Now pray blessings and goodness upon whoever is there and pray that they would have humility and the heart of a servant.
3) We can cease our justifications on behalf of any of these people in their wrongdoing. You heard me. We can stop. Just stop. When one of them does something morally bankrupt or something comes out about what they've done in their past, we can stop using the Bible to pardon them. We don't get to do that. That's between them and God. That doesn't belong to us. Sure, we can have opinions about all of it. But let's not value our own thoughts so highly that we would claim them to be the thoughts of God. I don't know about you, but I am daily humbled lower than the floor by my own missteps, and I am painfully aware of the fact that God functions in a way that will always be mysterious to me. We can all stop putting words in God's mouth. Don't compare anybody to Augustine. Or King David. Or Jezebel. Just stop. We can all just stop.
4) When we realize that we are promoting idolatry . . . participating in it . . . by way of our political vehemence and our adoration of our (very) human candidates - we can apologize to God. You read that correctly. We can apologize to God. For seeing any one candidate as being somehow greater than God. Or by assigning qualities of God to any of these candidates. We can apologize to God for our worship of the power they have become associated with. We can humble ourselves.
5) We can pray.
6) Oh yeah . . . we can pray.
7) We can pray (but remember, not for our "winner" - we're just praying for God to be seen and heard by whoever ends up there).
I hope none of this has caused you to feel that I'm being disrespectful. I don't mean any disrespect! But I do mean to keep my faith in God far and above any faith I might put in any human being anywhere. And because I do care about you, dear reader, I hope that you will try to keep your faith in God above your faith in these politicians. I hope that you will remember Whose you are . . . . . you belong to God. And these candidates belong to God. God, however, does not belong to any of us. God called the Israelites God's own "special possession" - not the other way around.
A song I wrote years ago . . . about 1 Samuel:
Pray. Pray so much. And stay away from unwholesome talk as we move toward November. God is God.