Do we know who won the presidential election yet? This column is due on Wednesday, and the votes are still being counted. By the time you read this on Friday, we may know something that I don’t know now. (And then of course, we may still not know. It takes a long time to certify election results — as it well should!) Because we don’t know any results now, as I’m writing, I can’t console or exhort either side. And most of you don’t want your pastor to do that anyway … unless of course, I’m consoling your side and exhorting the other side. Here’s what I can do instead. I can console and exhort everybody.
Consolation: Humanity has faced hard times in the past, and we can do it again. There is a God who reigns over and outside of history. This God does not discriminate between people and shows no partiality or favoritism (Acts 10:34). This God is on the side of love and justice, seeking to woo all of creation into a relationship with its creator. Ultimately, God is going to redeem all things. We may suffer before it happens. It may not happen in our lifetime. But it will happen. And even though we are each and all precious to God, fearfully and wonderfully made in the divine image, what happens to us in the meantime is not the end of the story. We are part of a larger history. So, fear not.
Exhortation: Decide now who you are going to be. If, by the time you are reading this, we still don’t know who won the presidential election, decide who you are going to be. If your guy loses, be the people that you wish the other people would be if their guy had lost. If your guy wins, be the people that you wish the other people would be if their guy had won. Your smugness is no less icky because you are the winner. Your indignation is no more righteous because you are the loser. Be the way you hope the other folks would be if the situation were reversed. Decide now who you are going to be.
Jesus said that the world will recognize his followers by the way that we love one another — regardless of labels or issues. Love and nonviolence do change things. They take longer. They cost more than forcing our will on others. But for those who claim to be followers of Jesus, love and nonviolence are the only ways open to us. Arrogance and brute force might bring about short-term political gains, but at the cost of our souls. As Jesus demonstrated for us, through love and nonviolence, the so-called “losers” become the real winners.
Many decades later, Dr. King’s words on loving our enemies continue to call us to a higher standard:
“To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’”
So as we wait for the final outcome of the presidential election, decide now who you are going to be. And fear not.