This is an email sent to my congregation in St. Louis, MO. It is an attempt to provide pastoral guidance and perspective to our congregation when so many people are frustrated, angry, and confused. With my colleagues, Pastor Bobby Walston and Pastor Paul Dickerson, we desire for our people to follow Christ faithfully in days of uncertainty.
In a contentious election week, your pastors desire to share a response to some common statements we hear. Our heart is for you. Our desire is for you to walk faithfully in Christ, without fear or despair. Our role is not to advocate for a political system. We are pastors. Our calling is higher, to guide you in the ways of God that you might walk faithfully in service to him.
The Doctrine of Two Kingdoms
We’ve heard statements that infer that the Kingdom of God and America are one in the same. We reject this notion, which gives us great freedom. The kingdom of God does not depend on our vote.
We hold to a classic Lutheran distinction called the doctrine of two kingdoms. The kingdom of the left is when God rules through law and the state. The right hand kingdom is the reign and rule of God in Christ, governed by forgiveness and salvation.
When we pray for “daily bread,” we’re praying for God’s rule in the kingdom of the left. Good government, faithful leaders, etc. When we pray “thy kingdom come,” we’re praying for an even greater rule. That Jesus would establish more and more each day his reign of mercy and bring to completion his plan of salvation among us.
While God works in both ways, the two kingdoms are not to be confused. Thankfully, America is not the kingdom of God. God has a greater horizon.
Our True Citizenship
We have heard language that mingles spirituality and patriotism. “The soul of America depends on this election.” If our soul depended on this election, God help us. We recognize the importance of this election. We take seriously our civic vocation and the importance of voting. We certainly care about our country. But our soul has a higher aim than America.
Christians in China, Syria, and Saudi Arabia remind us that no nation is fully our home. We are “sojourners and exiles” (I Peter 2:11). “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:20). We do not despair when a nation is in turmoil because our souls are fixated on “a better country, a heavenly one,” where Christ is all in all (Heb. 11:16). This is a time for Christians to reject fear and bear witness to our greater hope.
No political party fully encompasses the values of the church.
We have heard it said: “_______ is the most Christian political party.” We believe it’s dangerous for the church to align with a political party and thus confuse the two kingdoms. We believe no political party fully encompasses all the values that Christians advocate.
In his article “Five Features That Made the Early Church Unique,” Tim Keller highlights the key marks of the early church that distinguished them from Roman society. The early church lived these values:
Multi-racial (Acts 13, Gal. 3:28). God in Christ made one family of people, reconciled to him by his blood. Early Christians championed equality and challenged division of class and race.
Care for the poor and oppressed. They gave special attention to “the least of these.” (Lk 10:25-37, Acts 2:45). Foreigners, orphans, and widows (James 1:27, Deut. 10:18-19).
Sanctity of Life. The fifth commandment called them to value life. Death is an assault on the Creator. Not only death by abortion (which was rare in the first century), but neglect of infants and the vulnerable (which was more common in the first century).
Countercultural sexual ethic. Christians defied social norms by claiming the exclusivity of marriage, and sex within marriage (Matt. 19:4-6). They claimed marriage to be a selfless relationship of sacrificial love (Eph. 5:31-33). Sex was not a mere animal appetite to be fed (Matt. 5:27-30).
The church crosses party lines when we uphold all of these values. Political parties do not set the Christian agenda. Jesus does.
It’s Time to Love Those Unlike Us
Your pastors hear stories of strife between families, friends, and neighbors instigated by political discourse. “____________ is driving me crazy! We can’t even talk to each other because of all this political stuff.”
God’s desire is that we love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). ESPECIALLY those not like us.
Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same?” (Matt. 5:46) Talk with those unlike you. Listen to those who have a different perspective.
This moment is a test of our fidelity to the Great Commandment. So repent often. Humble yourself. Be generous and hospitable. Care for the person even if you don’t care for their politics. In this way we demonstrate the radical nature of our Lord.
No Candidate is Blameless
We have heard concerns over Democratic candidate’s pro-choice stance. We have heard dismay over the Republican candidate’s vulgarity, arrogance, and adultery.
We uphold the doctrine of original sin. It comes as no surprise that neither candidate is blameless. Neither candidate is “the Christian candidate.” Every election is between sinfully flawed candidates.
So what should you do? As pastors, our role is not to persuade people to vote a particular way. Our responsibility is to guide you in the ways of God, and help you follow him faithfully.
Consider our core biblical convictions.
Consider the candidates and platforms.
Ask, “What does the most good for my neighbor?” (Mark 12:30-31)
Humbly examine your conscience.
Then trust God’s sovereign rule.
What Happens After the Election?
When we pray “thy kingdom come and thy will be done,” we know that God answers. We may question the results of the election. Your ballot may not win. Yet on November 4th and January 20th, 2021, God will continue to bring his Kingdom and do his will. No election negates this fact.
Regardless of who is elected, we will do as Christians have always done. We will pray for our leaders and ask God for just and righteous rule (I Tim. 2:1-2).
Our Allegiance is to Christ Alone.
Our Lord demands our all, above family and country (Luke 14:27,33). We are disciples of Jesus before we are American. Christ is our banner, above our nation’s flag. We must resist all idols, whether patriotism, a political party, or a desire for power.
When 2020 is a footnote in the earth’s history, Christ will still be King on the eternal throne. “He purchased and won you . . . not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that you may be his own and live under him in his kingdom.”
In Christian Hope,
Pastor Jeff Cloeter Pastor Bobby Walston Pastor Paul Dickerson