It seems a bit cliché to say, but this election is one that will go down in history. While many pundits and commentators are wringing their hands with what the historical importance will be, you can feel it in the air that this election feels different than many others. Coming after our first African American president this election featured two significant firsts as well. Hillary Clinton was the first, major party, woman candidate for president and Donald Trump is the first president-elect to have never held a government office or even a military position.
So many firsts mean that our country is culturally, economically, demographically and in many other ways shifting in front of our eyes. In a sense, to use another cliché, everyone’s cheese is being moved. Some will benefit from these changes and others will feel pressure from them. Some want these changes while others will feel pushed aside.
Change is hard.
The church has felt this change and pressure as well. Many churches are probably just as split as the popular vote was in this election. On Sunday, Christians who supported Trump will sit in pews and sing worship songs with Christians who supported Clinton. Pastors who supported Trump will preach to parishioners who supported Clinton. And parishioners who supported Trump will listen to messages from pastors who supported Clinton.
No doubt this will continue to deepen the divide many churches are feeling. Trump supporters celebrate as Clinton supporters mourn what could have been. There will be calls for unity but this will mostly be calls for people to unite around Trump since the democratic process and voice of the majority has spoken. Or, Clinton supporters will demand compromise in order to be willing to unite. Both sides will essentially be asking the others to move towards their side but, often, neither will be willing to cross over on their own.
You know, like Congress has been acting the past few years.
Thinking about this, I was reminded of the image of Christ and the cross bridging the gap of sin in many tracts and evangelism materials. The concept is that Christ bridged a gap we could not bridge on our own so that we could be reunited with God and in right relationship with him. It seems to me that this provides a good example for how to “bridge the gap” after this election. Philippians 2 gives us some help:
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:1-8 (CEB)
Jesus had all the power and rights as God. If he was chosen in our process, one might say he had won the popular vote, the electoral college and had a “mandate” as the pundits like to say. Yet, Jesus chose to not exploit that status, and instead took the opposite route of that power. He chose life as a human, ultimately ending in death on a humiliating cross. About the last thing you would ever expect God, or any god for that matter, to do.
To bridge the gap, Jesus didn’t demand people to come to his side. He instead moved towards sinful humanity and stood in the gap so that we might be reunited with God.
If you’d like a current political example of someone doing exactly this, take some time and listen to the story of Beth Fukamoto over at Rob Bell’s podcast (the Robcast). Beth was a democrat who lived in Hawaii which is a pretty solid “blue” state and regularly votes democrat. Beth saw a bit of an issue with this as the republicans in Hawaii essentially did not have any representation in the House and Senate. So, she chose to run as a republican in order to give those people a voice.
Yes, a democrat ran as a republican in order to give a voice to those who didn’t seem to have one. And she won.
Beth stood in the gap. Rather than demand that republicans move towards her and her party, she instead moved towards them and worked so that their voices could be heard. She doesn’t agree with everything, but she works hard for who she represents.
The example Jesus gives us is not ascending some ladder so that we might exert our political and ideological might on others. The example of Jesus is descending the ladder of power so that we might serve those who have no voice and now power in the systems of our world. As Paul states in his intro, this is the path towards true unity. Not through power exerted, but in humility, selflessness, and looking out for the benefit of others.
So, for Christians who supported Trump, pray for, listen to and look out for those who feel ostracized, afraid and swept aside by the election of Trump. For Christians who supported Clinton, pray for, listen to and look out for those who felt ostracized, afraid and swept aside and believed Trump was the man to turn that around.
The only way to end this deep polarization and begin to heal these bitter wounds is to move towards the other side, not draw back and entrench deeper. Having the mind of Jesus is not mainly about voting the right way and checking the right box, but about not exploiting our power, position and authority for our own sake. But in grace and humility, listening to, looking out for and learning from others for their benefit.
Grace and humility. Now wouldn’t that be a nice change?