My first hint at the messy adventure that has become the 2016 United States Presidential Election came about six months ago. I was spending some time with the Lord before work one morning during the primaries. I started to pray about where our electoral process was taking us. I realize now that I was a little hesitant to ask the Creator King of the universe about our election.
In my last article, Another Perspective, I shared the story of how asking a simple question during the 2004 election season had made a profound impact on my life, especially impacting the way I see the church. As I prayed and got ready for my day on that early spring morning, I wasn’t sure how to ready myself for this conversation with God.
God, is there anything that you want me to know about in this election? I began.
I was prepared to listen to what God’s thoughts were about each of the candidates and wondered if He would share a glimpse into what would happen. Immediately, I sensed God speaking, but on that morning, His response to my question had nothing to do with specific candidates or the outcomes of the race.
Instead, I sensed the Lord directing my attention back into the political climate that Jesus was born into and grew up in. His life was lived out under a corrupt empirical system, and yet the power of the gospel was still able to transform a rag tag group of fishermen into those who would turn the world upside down. My time listening that morning focused my heart on the critical but important fact that the all of the stories of the New Testament were lived out with backdrop of an evil corrupt government.
I don’t think that broken-down governments are pleasing to God, but He is also not intimidated by them. The power of the gospel is not dependent upon a God-friendly leader to be in office. The grossest darkness that this world can muster cannot overcome the Light of God.
I believe that what I sensed in 2004, that God was saying that He cared more about what was happening in His House than in the White House, is so important for the church to remember and hold onto in this hour. Regardless of the outcome of the elections on November 8th, November 9th is coming. I promise you, there is only one name by which men can be saved, and His name is not on the ballot.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
In the introduction to this series, I shared how I had been meditating on Isaiah 9:2 recently. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
This is just one of many scriptures that highlight God’s solution to darkness. In fact, at the very beginning of God’s story with mankind, He addresses darkness and emptiness.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
On Day One, the Holy Spirit is brooding over what was formless and void. Darkness was there, but the presence of the Lord meant that darkness was not in control. What did God do? How did He deal with darkness at the very beginning?
God introduces light to darkness.
He said that light was good.
He divided light from dark.
I am often accused of over-simplifying things, but I think there is so much we can learn about how God wants to deal with the darkness of our day by looking to see what He has chosen to reveal to us in His Word.
It is not as if the idea of light interrupting darkness is only mentioned a few times in Scripture. Genesis 1:1-3 is a great starting point, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
I will not try to walk through all the Bible has to say about this topic, but do want to highlight a few passages that I find to be extremely relevant for the church in our nation.
ISAIAH 9 | THE ADVANCING KINGDOM
This overall message of this passage should be foundational to believers. While the chapter begins with talk of gloom and darkness, once light is introduced, things begin to change rapidly. Immediately there is mention of multiplying joy and a harvest. Why? Because of Jesus.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders…
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.
Because of the light of God through Jesus, those who are a part of His unshakable kingdom can live in the reality of His ever advancing and increasing power. Regardless of circumstances that may look bleak or even catastrophic, we are anchored into the government of God that rests on the shoulders of Jesus.
It is imperative that we do not become dependent upon the systems of man in a way that allows us to rely less on the Increasing government of the Kingdom of God. It is not that we should be estranged from the political system of our nation, but we can also not afford to become entangled in it either.
It is on us to ENGAGE this part of our culture with the confidence that the throne of God is established for ever and His rule and reign on the earth is increasing. I submit that we do this most effectively by meeting darkness with light.
ISAIAH 60 | ARISE AND SHINE
This passage is famous for it’s call to action. Arise and shine; for your light has come. Again, there is the acknowledgement of the presence of darkness, even what is described as gross darkness is mentioned, but because of the light of God coming, His people were called into action.
But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you…
This is stunning. We don’t deny the presence of darkness and brokenness in the culture that surrounds us, but there is such a clear solution from the heart of the One who sits upon the throne of heaven. He is rising over His people, calling them to reflect His glory.
What if God is jealous for His name’s sake? What if He isn’t looking for a political figure to rise up and save a nation? What if He has allowed the chaos of darkness to be revealed so that He can arise on His people and call us to reflect and shine His glory.
MATTHEW 5 | DON’T HIDE YOUR LIGHT
Leaving the narrative of the Old Testament for the words of Jesus at the sermon on the mount, the theme remains the same. As His followers gather around Him, He teaches them about the attitudes that reflect the reality of the Kingdom of God. If you read through the beginning of Matthew 5, you will find that verse by verse, line by line - the attitudes of the Kingdom of God do not reflect the values of this world.
The call from Jesus to those who followed Him were to recognize that they were put here to stand out. They were called to be salt that was meant to add something to the earth and light that would shine in the midst of darkness.
Jesus was saying, You don’t light a candle and then hide it, but you set it in a high place so that it gives light to everyone in the house. Culturally, we have missed this. We have created a Christian sub-culture that is safe for us. We are offended by the world for being dark, forgetting that we were called to be light.
For generations, the church has criticized Washington and Hollywood for not being family friendly, forgetting that it is not the government and the entertainment industries responsibility to serve us. We are to shine and be set in a place that gives them light.
1 PETER 2 | CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS
In his letter to the pilgrims… Peter lays out that we are called to a different way of life than the empty one handed down to us by our fathers. He calls us to walk in a pure love with each other, and to see that we are living stones being built together into a spiritual house.
He then says, but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light… We were created to come out of darkness and into light and SHINE, proclaiming the greatness of the One who has rescued and redeemed us.
It is so important as we weigh out this call as we evaluate how we will engage culture during this strategic time. We cannot become guilty of putting a shred of hope that an imperfect person that gets elected into an imperfect system is what will cause our culture to turn to God. And that is what we need... a (re)Turning to God.
More than policies or politicians, our culture is aching for the children of God to realize who they are and be who God made us to be. Paul lays this out for the Philippians in chapter 2 by calling them to do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
This is our instructions from God as to how to shine in the midst of a broken culture. We shift our lives from being centered in ourselves to learning to live in a contrast to the crooked things around us. Practically, this is how we shine.
We learn to operate in this world without whining and arguing. We commit to love God and truly learn to love each other in a way that stands out to the world. This is why we are here, to allow the light of God to stand out in the midst of all of the darkness.
We cannot afford to compromise our position as light in order to fit into a party system. While I take my responsibilities as a US citizen seriously, as a pilgrim I must take the call to reflect the citizenship of heaven even more seriously.
Let’s look back at the beginning of history and recommit ourselves to the way our creator dealt with darkness. Let’s be the light that displaces darkness. Let’s seek the face of God to learn how to engage the world in a way that provides a clear contrast.
We cannot hide our light under a bushel. Now is the time to shine.
MATTHEW 25 | BE PREPARED TO SHINE
I want to close this article by referencing the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew 25. It is quite the interesting tale, but at it’s core, Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like ten virgins waiting on the bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. The wise were the ones who had prepared to shine, even though the bridegroom was delayed.
When the foolish virgins asked for some spare oil, the wise said go and buy oil for yourselves from those who sell it. You can read the rest of the parable for yourselves, but for the sake of this article, I will summarize by saying that there were real consequences for those who were not prepared to shine.
As I have been praying over the past few months into places of cultural brokenness, I have been reminded of a handful of scriptures that seem to be strategic for this moment. This parable is one of those scriptures.
I have been encouraging my friends and family and those that I lead to be buying oil. For me this has meant setting aside time to seek the face of God, asking for His heart for this hour. It means listening, becoming a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.
Specifically in regards to the election, I believe that buying oil means acknowledging and accepting our God given responsibilities to be more than informed voters. It means being ready to shine in the midst of darkness.
I pray that the outcome of these elections prove to be a part of our nation returning to God, but my encouragement and call to all those who are a part of the church is to make yourselves ready to be who God made us to be: blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
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Brad and his wife, Adriane, have spent over two decades pastoring churches in the United States with a focus on reaching the “un-churched”. In 2011, they moved to Grove City, PA with their daughter Abigail to pioneer Antioch Overflow Experiment (AOX), a community of simple churches with a mission to “disciple, equip, and release sons and daughters of the King to transform every sphere of society for the glory of God.” Follow him on social media@bradmckoy to stay connected to him and his family.