I don’t know about you, but I dread the upcoming onslaught of exaggerations and unsubstantiated claims about to descend on us with another presidential election. Foreboding and hysteria will take center stage across the news and social media as candidates, their surrogates, and political action committees (PACs) sling their mud at one another.
Each candidate and their party surrogates will say this is the most important election in American history. But aren’t they all? Many of the exaggerated statements are unsubstantiated, and though fact-checked, will be embraced or ignored by one side or the other. Of course, everyone has their own opinion, but these opinions are often reactions to or echoes of what someone else says.
This may reflect America’s fractured and polarized state, which appears most apparent on social media. Way too much of what is said and repeated is just downright shameful. Even evangelicals, a somewhat dubious tag these days, have opposing opinions. But I do not think the church is as fractured as the mainstream media and social media channels make it appear.
I believe we need some historical perspective concerning the Church and our present troubled times. Wherever you may live, and whatever your political views are as a believer in Christ, it helps to take a step back to get a more objective view than what is popular on Twitter, TikTok, or YouTube.
Most important to keep in mind is that the Kingdom of God—the sovereign domain of God—is not, nor will it ever be aligned or constricted to any nation, political party, or person. A cursory reading of the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount, and the Book of Acts, should make this crystal clear. Even the great Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar found this out the hard way (Daniel 4:32, 34–35). The church is still the sovereign domain of the Lord.
Some historical perspective
I like to read historical novels and non-fiction, including biographies. I want to know the backstories and the people involved in history, not just dates and events. The Book of Acts is a historical look at the beginning of the Christian church. At its inception, the Church had no definite identity and no specific place to meet. Today we see the church fragmented into various denominations and sects. But in its earliest form, the people in the Church were all Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
The apostles Peter and the Zebedee brothers, John and James, were the de facto leaders. These first believers met in homes and gathered in the Jewish temple area for prayer and preaching the gospel. But their composition as a community and how they functioned dramatically changed within the first decade of existence. The first half of the Book of Acts gives us a brief record of this.
The Church was forged in a time of intense religious persecution, with political persecution coming a few decades later. The amazing and astounding reality is the Church not only survived but thrived through all this opposition. Persecution actually spurred the growth of the church. Not just at its beginning, but throughout the past 2000 years.
The church isn’t a specific institution or organization. It is a body, a community of believers. An organic composite of people who choose to follow the Lord Jesus by faith. It stretches across all cultural, national, and geopolitical boundaries. The church survived and thrived throughout world history while enduring famines, disasters, pandemics, persecutions, and other obstacles and trials—including politics.
The only time the Church—this organic composite of believers—seems to have the most difficulty thriving is the time between persecutions in times of peace. This may be an oversimplification and generalization, but history seems to bear this out. How did this organic composite of believers continue through the centuries and upheavals of history? Here are a few observations —
- They knew the Kingdom of God would never be reduced to a worldly government or dynasty (John 18:36).
- They knew who they were as believers—their primary commitment was to follow Jesus (Matt 16:24).
- They were grounded in the truth of the Scriptures, lived by faith, and were guided by God’s Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:42–47)
- They did not stoop to childish and worldly ways of contending with opposition because they understood they were in a spiritual battle, not a physical one (2 Corinthians 10:3–5; Ephesians 6:10–12).
Let me pose some questions to consider—How can we navigate life today as present-day believers? Should American believers vote and if so, for whom? How do we remain faithful to the Lord and His call on our lives? Here are some simple, specific, and practical encouragements to help us navigate this life as believers and not get swallowed up in everything else that swirls around us —
- Pray for one another, leaders at all levels of authority and responsibility, and for our hearts and lives to be in sync with the Lord.
- Trust God with a simple, even childlike faith—an implicit trust.
- Learn to listen more than speak, be gracious, love others (even supposed enemies), and commit all your concerns to the Lord (Colossians 3:12–17).
The benefits of a clearer perspective
If we prayed more than comment and worry about all that is going on, said, or not said—we would be a lot better off in so many ways. Here are a few things that come to mind—
- We would be less stressed, which would be good for our physical, psychological, and spiritual health.
- We would be much better representatives of Jesus, whom we follow and trust.
- We will gain a much clearer perspective of our present times while trusting the future to the Lord.
Finally, here is a reminder from Jesus for all of us who claim to be His followers—
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33–34)