Pledging allegiance to a greater kingdom
This year I got to be an election judge. I have been interested in the political process for decades but only after I retired and moved to a new state, did I sign up to work at the polls all day in my new precinct.
All six of the judges wore masks, as we required of each in-person voter. For the first five hours, we had lines and a steady flow of voters.
I got to meet them at the door to greet them, insure they wore masks and removed any political clothing or messages, and make sure we had social distancing in the voting room.
We worked from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to enable over 500 U.S. citizens to cast their votes in our precinct. I was tired at the end of the day, but very thankful for the privilege to serve our democracy in this way.
The polarization leading up to and away from Election Day has been less satisfying. The founding fathers of our nation deliberately discouraged the forming of political parties and factions, fearing they would lead to the kind of win-lose thinking that could tear the country apart.
In 1860, after a bitter presidential election, that very thing happened, leading to our Civil War. Most of the times over the past 230 years of presidential elections, our transitions of power have been peaceful.
Our democracy survives. We come together as a people after the voting is over. I hope this year will be no different, yet I fear the shouting and name-calling is so loud, we will forget to be a nation.
So then, how do I as a Christian citizen of this republic respond when the "other side" wins office? Have our deep-seated fears of the "other side" led us to forget which kingdom is worthy of our primary loyalty?
I was reminded today how our rightful king, Jesus, responded when he appeared to be at the mercy of a pagan governmental official, Pontius Pilate.
The dialogue between them can be found in all four gospels of the New Testament, but the conversation is especially described in John 18 and 19.
In the interview, (or was it an interrogation?), Pilate as Roman governor seems to think he has the upper hand. "Don't you know I have your life in my hand?" he asks Jesus.
Jesus goes on to explain to him that the power he has, has been given "from above." He wasn't talking about Caesar. He meant God.
As the story unfolds, we find this hardened Roman official actually trying to release Jesus. He hands him off to the fake Jewish "king" Herod, but Herod sends him back.
Finally, worn down by the crowds incited by the Jewish leadership, he relents. He tries to end the conversation with the question "What is truth?" (John 18:36). He didn't wait for the answer; he turns them over to his men to crucify Jesus.
Jesus had warned his disciples and us too, to expect no better treatment from the rulers of this world than the unfair trial he had gotten in Jerusalem.
Yet, look at how he responds to this threatening political figure, which could have saved his life. He is unafraid, not dependent on this possible ally for his own survival.
Neither Jesus Christ, nor his body the church, needs to trust the politics of earth. While Jesus loves the "world" (John 3:16), he never entrusts himself to it (John 2:24-25).
An idol is anything or anyone who is not the true God, to which we give our allegiance. It could be anything we trust, or fear, or love, or need.
Jesus, while loving Pilate and the world he represented, never fell into the trap of making of him an idol. My fear is that if we are not careful as his followers in this time of transition of political power, we might become ensnared in it.
Here are some questions to use to take spiritual inventory:
4Is there a political leader or party I have come to trust to supply my needs?
4Is there a political philosophy I so love that I can't imagine normal life going on without it being in charge?
4Am I so afraid of who is in charge that I am ready to hide or to take to the streets in protest?
4Who is my king anyway?
Jesus' word to Pilate was "my kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). He is neither Roman nor Jewish, neither conservative nor socialist.
He is the king who reigns forever. He is the one we are to trust, to love, to need and to fear.
So, as we participate in the privilege to vote, let us know that whoever wins, there is only one true king.
Pledge allegiance to Jesus.n
Pastor Gary Brown former pastor at New Zion Evangelical Church in Emlenton serves as associate pastor in Winnebago, Illinois.