Americans voted yesterday, but not everyone felt that their voice made any difference. Even a person who voted for the winning candidate may recognize that his individual vote counted less than he would like. That’s an unsettling place to be. There are yet many unknowns out of our control, and that’s true for every person.
For a Christian, events that we cannot control are unsettling, but they should drive us back to what we know is true. God is not changed. He is sovereign. He will never abandon his children. Many in the world have grappled with this idea, settled it, and continue to live quiet lives of godliness in the midst of turmoil.
This morning I’m thinking about the small things that I can do that make a difference in my world.
- I can remember that following Christ doesn’t just happen on Sundays. Part of the problem with the current American misunderstanding of religious liberty is that people who call themselves Christians may not look any different from their non-Christian friends. Is it any wonder that religious liberty has been narrowed to “freedom to go to the church you want to attend”? I know a lot of nice people who aren’t Christians. I am forced to ask myself, “What is different about my life? How are my motives different from non-Christians? What is my ultimate why, and what is my identity? Am I actually using my liberty to share the good news about Jesus with my neighbors?” These are good questions to stop, think about, and actually write down. They also make good conversation topics!
- I can teach my children that character matters. As a Christian, I cannot separate this idea from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My goals as a mother have not changed; cultivating an independent walk with God remains a priority. I want them to know that God’s Word is the standard for reality and truth, and that only through God’s strength will they be able to live a life holy and pleasing to Him.
- I can also teach my children good principles of civil discourse, by valuing primary sources and data, and exemplifying boldness to follow truth no matter where it leads them. I want the humility to speak up when I’ve reconsidered my position, and the grace to hold unpopular opinions firmly but kindly. Wisdom is peaceable and easy to reason with, not smug and self-absorbed.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18
- I can practice being a better listener. In order to hear a matter biblically (Proverbs 18:13), we must take the time to understand first. I can take the time to read the reports and bills that politicians present. I can read people who value primary sources (and give hyperlinks to appropriate data). I want to read authors who are more interested in truth than their narrative, even if it isn’t the news I want to hear. Instead of looking for zingers, I can check sources carefully. (If I see a headline that appears too good to be true, I google it. If the only place reporting it is a single website I’ve never heard of, I don’t post it. )
- I can speak up for what is good and beautiful. We all have experiences that make us sensitive to various causes or deficiencies in our country. We should speak up with words when we have opportunity, and show by our lives what we value in the meantime. We do our best to speak beautiful words of truth, wrapped in love. If we believe that God sees when nobody else sees (Jeremiah 23:24), then anonymous hatred is not tolerated any more than public hatred. We also remember that we don’t all fight the same battles, and we must be patient with one another as we seek for common ground. Read 1 Kings 19. Elijah felt all alone, and he was depressed, until God informed him that there were many people also standing faithful to God. God also directed him to mentor Elisha, a job that was immediate and intimate. Instead of worrying about his loneliness or the rampant apostasy, Elijah needed to focus on the investment into one (primary) individual. We obey God and leave the results (and platform) in his hands.
- We need more practice talking with and loving people we disagree with. When I talked with several non-Christian friends about the election, I discovered that they were conflicted too. I realized that they weren’t justifying dishonesty by voting for a candidate I considered dishonest. They simply were voting for the candidate most likely to advance their values. It’s scary to bring up topics where we disagree, but we benefit as a society when we can disagree and love our neighbor at the same time. Some times we change our minds, but even if we don’t, we will understand our own positions better.
He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he. Proverbs 14:21.
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26
- I can leave positive reviews of stores and restaurants and politicians on social media. One of the most discouraging things to me as I tried to learn about the issues was reading the hateful rhetoric on all sides. It wasn’t just in politics. There is a disturbing trend to only speak up on social media when we have a bad experience, and it’s no wonder that we are out of balance. How many times have I tweeted bad customer service? How does that compare with tweets of good customer service?
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29
- I can practice thankfulness and kindness on a small scale. When I let the man with 3 items go in front of my full cart at the grocery store, or when I smile at the checker who is obviously frazzled, I’m making a difference that can add up. Isn’t it interesting that one of the ways that Christians make a difference in the world is by their lack of complaining and grumbling? I want to make sure that’s true of me.
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14-15
- I can defend the weak even when it costs something personally.
- I can get to know my local politicians, regardless of their positions, investing time to learn enough about them personally to know how to love and pray for them.
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18
- I can prioritize the pursuit of truth and beauty within my own personal sphere. There is ugliness in the world, but it’s far easier to make my home a beautiful place rather than trying to tackle the world. I’m further reminded that keeping a clean house and making my hair beautiful count for more than having beautiful art on the wall. (But I still go looking for art and poetry in my world!)
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8
- Finally, I am reminded to look again at and practice Psalm 78. How am I teaching my children about God’s greatness? God’s goodness? His provision in my life, and the lives of my children?
We will not hide them [God’s Word] from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;
That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;