what it ultimately means to follow Jesus in an election year
I am acutely aware of the angst, ire, frustration, fear, anger, uncertainty and dread that are in full-force as the presidential election nears. I am aware of it because I feel all of these emotions in my body. My heart pounds and my stomach twists at the thought of how dramatically the outcome of the election will change the country I live in....the country I love. And I am also aware that my ultimate citizenship is not in the United States of America, but in the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that many of us pray will be "on earth as it is in heaven" as we recite the Lord's Prayer every Sunday.
This morning, I'm sitting with my mail-in ballot, praying for wisdom, praying for peace, praying for goodness and mercy to prevail. And I'm praying for my brothers and sisters who are in the same situation.
As I was praying earlier today, this verse came to me. It's one of my favorites, written by John, who was nicknamed The Disciple Jesus Loved.
According to church history, John was exiled to the Island of Patmos because of his profession of faith. Patmos was a desolate island where Rome sentenced many criminals to work in labor camps and mines.
Even though the mistreatment he endured could easily have made him angry, bitter, discouraged and despairing, John penned these words.
"There is no fear in love...The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
...Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.
For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
And he has given us this command:Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." (I John 4:18-21)
In this political season, there has been a lot of anger expressed. And a lot of fear. And people who claim to follow Jesus have lashed out at each other because the other person didn't agree with their views. (Just look at the comment section from my pieces about refugees and what it means to truly be pro-life if you want proof of the level of vitriol people have reached.)
What it ultimately means to follow Jesus is not to vote for a specific political party, not to choose red over blue, not to choose expediency over decency.
What it ultimately means to follow Jesus is to become a person of Love.
Because the God we claim to worship, serve and follow IS Love.
And what it ultimately means to follow Jesus is to be motivated by Love and never by Fear. It means choosing gentle answers over wrath. It means following the words of Jesus instead of being brainwashed by political rhetoric. It means choosing unity and kindness and hope over partisan devisions and incessant cries that the sky is falling.
Before you cast your ballot, before you rant or name-call or spout false facts in the comment section of an article/status post/blog with which you disagree, stop for a second.
Stop for ONE second.
Take a deep breath.
Recall that there is no fear in love, and that acting out of fear is a symptom that you haven't fully experienced God's love.
If you're an American citizen, understand that the choice is yours to make.
In the words of Zig Ziglar,
F-E-A-R has two meanings:
'Forget Everything And Run'
'Face Everything And Rise.'
The Message translation of John's words says that, "If anyone boasts, 'I love God,' and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both."
Let it sink into your soul that what it ultimately and truly means to follow Jesus in this election season is to be motivated by love...
...to seek peace and pursue it
...to choose hope over fear
...to face the word, the people, the issues and the choices around you....