I watched the US presidential election as a man caught between two horn-locked bison slowing the flow of progress.
The two pursuits of my professional life—peacemaking and revival—have deeply connected me with two very divergent communities of Jesus followers. One group follows Christ in pursuing peacemaking, speaking out for social justice, and serving the poor and the strangers among us. The other group follows Christ in pursuing revival, seeking a moral reformation of society, and frequently, advocating for the rights of the unborn. I can see Christ in all of these pursuits, and love all these passionate friends of mine.
The problem comes when one of them, from either group, says to me, “What we really need is for this man to be president (or to not be president).”
The implication is that God’s agenda on the earth needs key political leaders in agreement with it in order to fully succeed. But is this true?
Leo Tolstoy, an outspoken critic of his own tsar in Russia, addressed this issue brilliantly in his short story “What Men Live By.” God sent Michael the angel to take the life of a woman who had just given birth to twins. She begged Michael for her life, claiming her children needed her. Michael trusted the woman’s assessment of her situation rather than obeying his assignment from God, and let her live. For this he was exiled to earth until he learned three important lessons.
One of the lessons was that “it is not given to man to know his own needs.” In the end of the story, we find that God had already prepared a neighbor woman who had just lost her own baby to take in the twins, bringing healing to her and happiness to the children. God knows what we need better than we do.
When people tell me that what we need for God’s agenda to succeed in America is for a certain person to be president, I’m reminded of the words of the psalmist, “Do not put your trust in princes.” (Ps.146:3)
Has any historical revival ever been started by a king or president? Haven’t revivals always started because ordinary people obeyed God’s assignment to pray, to preach, or to serve others?
Has any significant social justice movement ever been started by a king or president? Isn’t it more common that ordinary people obeyed God’s assignment to start grassroots movements of compassion and justice, and the politicians were some of the last to jump on the bandwagon?
We don’t need any human being on the throne for God’s Kingdom agenda to advance on the earth, because He is still on His throne, King of kings, Lord of lords. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isa.9:7)
Jesus accomplished everything his Father asked him to do (Jn.17:4) in spite of opposition from all the political and religious leaders of his day. Following Jesus in our spheres of influence could result in political leaders seeing the righteousness of our cause and lending support, or it could result in us being crucified. Should knowing the result in advance make a difference to our obedience?
We don’t know what we need—except that we need to remain faithful to following Jesus in whatever calling he gives us, and trust that God knows best what we—and what America—needs in 2021.