For Election Day: An Old Command
Living in a representative democracy is an extraordinary blessing. As citizens, we each get a vote and we each have a voice. It’s not the case everywhere and wasn’t true in many nations throughout history. It wasn’t true at the time when much of the Bible was written. What can the Bible teach us about using our voice at times of political elections?
We’ve been studying the letter of First John in the Capitol Commission Bible study this fall. It is a letter rich in wisdom and the calming assurance of our salvation and identity as the children of God. And what do all children do? They grow. As a father of two young daughters, I can see them grow each and every day.
In this letter, John the Beloved Disciple of Jesus Christ is helping the reader to grow and move from child-like faith toward becoming a maturing, godly father and mother in the faith. All the while growing in a personal relationship with God. Something we can learn a lot about from John is moving from a saving knowledge to an experiential knowledge of God.
In this letter, John writes: “This is how we know that we know him:
if we keep his commands 2:3
if we remain in him 2:28
if we purify ourselves as he himself is pure 3:3
by doing what is right, especially loving our brother and sister 3:10.”
In essence, a growing and maturing child of God will grow to desire being in God’s presence and trusting what Jesus said is true and best for our lives. This harder than it sounds because there are so many good things we experience in this life and near as many important decisions we have to make, including how we vote, that we become distracted. We have to make a decision each and every day.
The Christian has decided that it is better by far to dwell in the presence of God than any other pleasure, passion, or purpose. When that is your decision each day, you will begin to desire holiness over sin, the needs of others over selfishness, and you gain clarity about the important decisions you have to make. God has a lot of things in mind for you, for your life, and for your talents and abilities. But, none of them are more important to God than you, growing closer to Him and becoming more like Christ. He loves you too much for anything else to happen in your life.
John is also very practical. There is very obvious evidence that we are growing in the faith, that we love others. There is a story that is shared by the early church historian, Eusebius, about John’s life in his old age. It was said that whenever the church would gather, they would ask, “Father John, father John, do you have a word for us?” John would always answer that he did have a word for them. They would carry him to the front where he would simply say, “My little children, love one another.”
Of course, there are other things God says to us, has for us, and leads us to do. But, all of them fall subject to this one command. It is an old command. That we love one another. Is it any wonder, then, how easy it is to fail to keep this command? What better way can the integrity and authenticity of the Christian faith be called into question?
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the word you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother or sister remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 1 John 2:7-10
We cannot accomplish this on our own. That’s why in 2 Timothy, Paul writes that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power. Not just of power, but of love and self-discipline. When all the circumstances and all the noise flooding our social media feed is driving us to hate, God gives us the power to respond in love.
The election is just two weeks away. Emotions are high and so are our sensitivities. Pray that God gives you his power to respond in love today. And don’t forget to vote on Nov. 6!