As the election season nears its end, we are left wondering how to process it all, and what the Bible has to say in times like these.
One of the great themes in Matthew’s gospel is the mystery of God’s kingdom—it dawned with Jesus’s first advent, but will not be consummated until his return. The “gospel of the kingdom” is the good news of God’s reign (Matt. 4:23; 9:35). Jesus came to restore God’s authority in the world—the authority that was first rejected in Eden and then ever since. Matthew’s message—the good news of God’s reign in Christ—reframes our outlook on the upcoming United States election.
Here are four implications of the kingdom of Christ for this election season.
1. Because Jesus Is Our King, We Rest in His Sovereign Rule
A thread through the Old Testament is the ancient longing for a righteous king—a Spirit-filled king who will rule with wisdom, integrity and justice (Isa. 11:1–¬4). The genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel is more than a list of names; it’s an announcement: “He’s here.” God’s kingdom broke into history through Jesus’s life and ministry (Matt 4:17, 23; 9:35; 12:28). The risen Christ declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18). Jesus is our Savior, but he is also our King–and not just the King of our hearts; he’s the King of the cosmos. Which means he has authority above all earthly powers.
Election seasons trigger various hopes and fears. Some look to anoint a new messiah—one who will finally bring in a reign of peace and stability. They may nurse apocalyptic fears of what may drop from the sky if the other candidate is elected. Such promises and threats might be expected from fallen candidates in a fallen world. But this is misguided. Candidates and their followers should make their case. But there is only one who can bring universal flourishing, and he is not on the ballot. But that’s okay; he is already anointed (3:16–17). Regardless of who becomes our next president, nothing in this election will be so earthshaking as to rock Jesus off of his throne. We didn’t vote him into office, and no one can vote him out.
What happens in this election matters deeply. It will have ripple effects in ways we don’t yet know. But one thing that will not change is the stability of Jesus’s rule.
2. Because the Kingdom Has Dawned, We Can Display Its Beauty
Jesus makes his rule visible in and through the church. The church is a sign of the kingdom, a reflection of Christ’s rule, and a pointer to the coming consummation.
Jesus tells us what this looks like: poverty of spirit, gentleness, mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking (5:3–10). The church is also “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”—a light that we’re not to hide (5:13–16). The church, not a geopolitical nation, is the place where new creational beauty is already displayed. Therefore, we seek to cultivate a bright and beautiful counter-culture of life and peace in our churches.
Churches are communities united around matters of first importance, most centrally, the gospel of the kingdom. We are also communities that are open-hearted toward one another on disputable matters. We will have different views within our church bodies on the election. This isn’t surprising since there are vastly different views within those who identify as conservative evangelicals. In addition to the two major parties, many more will now consider a third party candidate or will write-in a name as a strategic option. Each one of these options may be held for different, principled reasons. With this election, we’re seeking to apply biblical truth to practical questions. This means we’re in the realm of wisdom and prudence. It also means that thoughtful Christians may disagree with one another. Some of us may be internally conflicted and uncertain about what to do. Therefore, this is a time when it is important to give one another space to disagree. It is healthy to seek to persuade one another with gentleness, but we should not compel anyone to vote against his or her conscience. Part of shining as lights in the world is demonstrating that we can disagree and still be happy friends.
And yet disciples also shine this light into darkness. We care about this election because we are called to love our neighbors (22:39). We examine party platforms and policies because of how they affect real people in real-life ways. We love our neighbors enough to serve them in public office, speak in the public square, and participate all throughout the political process, not just the voting booth. And sometimes shining light involves exposing darkness for what it is. Jesus publicly confronted the rank hypocrisy of many leaders of his day (23:1-31). Christians are called to be peaceful and prophetic witnesses for Christ’s glory and our culture’s good.
3. Because the Kingdom Is Not Yet Consummated, Our Hope Is in the World to Come
Jesus’s kingdom is marked by moral beauty, but not all see it that way. Jesus said his people would be “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (5:10). In other words, we may not look like we’re on the right side of history. Our values look upside-down. This is why many Christians feel a bit less at home in America these days. Perhaps one good that will come of this difficult season is that Christians might set their hope more steadfastly on Jesus’s return.
Our horizon of hope rises above and beyond this or any other presidential election. Our greatest hope is not in Election Day, but Resurrection Day. We’re not ultimately waiting for a certain party to win or a certain term to end, as important as these moments are. We are waiting to “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30). The leaders of our government will become footnotes in history. Jesus’s kingdom is forever. And so we pray in this election season, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (6:10).
4. Because Our King Gave a Commission, We Have Work to Do
The risen King’s final words reverberate through history: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (28:19). The task of making disciples transcends cultures, nations, and ages. It has always been our mission in this nation, and it will remain so when we wake up on November 9. We may not have confidence in America’s future, but the church’s future is secure. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (16:18). In other words, nations rise and fall, but the church will endure forever.
No matter what happens on November 8, we already know the most important things about November 9. Jesus will remain on his throne. He will build his church. He will lead us to shine like light in our culture. He will empower us to make disciples of all nations. And he will return again in glory.
Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (22:21). Nations and governments are instruments of God’s justice and grace. However, we pledge allegiance, most ultimately, to the King.