Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Elect – and Election Day

The Bible uses numerous terms to describe God’s people, including “the chosen,” His “children,” “adopted,” and “predestined.” Another intriguing description is “the elect.” In 1 Peter 1:2, the apostle writes to “God’s elect, strangers in the world.” The apostle Paul writes, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect…” (2 Timothy 2:10). Even Jesus used the term when He warned, “false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles [trying] to deceive the elect” (Mark 13:22).

Using the term a bit differently, Peter admonished Jesus’s followers to “be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). This obviously isn’t referring to our names appearing on some celestial ballot. We don’t have to articulate a platform, nor declare a party affiliation. After all, if there’s a “vote,” it belongs alone to Jehovah God.

I don’t bring this up to delve into the realms of theology and biblical interpretation. But as another Election Day draws near, it’s interesting to ponder what is the role and responsibility of God’s “elect” in the electoral process.

Some of us have already cast our votes. Others are waiting for Election Tuesday to visit the polls. Either way, I find myself a bit torn about the actions and reactions the Lord expects of His people in this context. As the verse above states, as God’s elect we’re “strangers in the world.” The old gospel hymn declares, “this world is not my home. I’m just a-passin’ through.” Our ultimate hope and trust should not to be in who wins or loses in the various political races.

However, neither does the Bible tell us to ignore or avoid political involvement altogether. Throughout the Scriptures we see accounts of God’s people involved in matters of governance. Joseph, for instance, through a series of circumstances rose to a level of high prominence in ancient Egypt, second in authority only to Pharaoh himself (Genesis 37-50). 

Exodus tells about Moses who, after being taken into the family of another Pharaoh, negotiated with the Egyptian king to bring about the release of the Israelites from 400 years of slavery. Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes, sought the king of Persia’s permission to lead the rebuilding of Jerusalem. 

Daniel, similar to Joseph, gained the favor of a king – this time in Babylon – through the interpretation of a series of perplexing dreams and also was entrusted with much civic responsibility. Esther intervened on behalf of the Jewish people, defying the law by approaching King Xerxes without invitation to uncover a heinous plot, even saying without fear, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Jesus was challenged regarding how God’s people should interact with governmental regulations. The Jewish leaders asked Him whether the people of Israel were obligated to pay taxes to the Roman empire. Looking at a denarius bearing the image and inscription of Caesar, the king, Jesus replied, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25). Belief in God did not exempt His people from government laws.

So as we ponder the tension between living in this temporal world and longing for our eternal home, it seems a balance is required. Yes, we’re “aliens and strangers on earth” as Hebrews 11:13 and other passages declare. And we’re admonished to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Nevertheless, we’re also charged to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And part of being Jesus’ witnesses is to engage effectively with the world around us in every way. That includes participating in elections, voting our convictions, and even running for public office if we sense God is leading us in that way.

If you haven’t already done so, I hope next Tuesday you’ll be voting for those candidates you believe are most aligned with the principles and values God has revealed through the Scriptures. Then we, as His elect, can confidently heed the exhortation of Romans 13:1 to “submit…to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist are established by God.”

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