When Elections Disappoint Remember your Living Hope

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The Gospel exhorts us to pray for our leaders – for peace and stability so that the Gospel can be preached and many can come to know and trust in Jesus.

 ‘First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:1-4-ESV)

Pray for your leaders

In giving instructions to the young Timothy, Paul asks him to instruct the church to pray for those in positions of authority. Notice that Paul is clear in the goal of this request – that there may be peace in the land so that the Gospel will be preached and people will come to faith in Jesus. Elsewhere Paul argues that there is no human authority that is not ordained by God (Rom 13:1-7). The New Testament holds a very clear stand on how Christians ought to relate to authorities (1Pe2:13).

The Book of Common Prayer

‘We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world; That there may be justice and peace on the earth.’

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer, taking its inspiration from the Bible, encourages Christians to pray regularly for their leaders. The main thrust of this prayer is for peace and justice in the land. The assumption is that Christians will not only pray for peace and justice, but they will work actively in their respective roles toward these ends (Micah 6:8). The goal is the well-being of the nation and the common good.

The tensions during elections – seeking a savior who will change things for better

2018 was an electoral year in the DRC. As in most nations, such a year is full of interesting developments in current affairs that would make great material for a Hollywood thriller. During election time in the DRC (and around the world) some of the worst divides happen in society. In a country with over 450 local tribes (each with its own dialect and political leaders and at times their own political parties), election time is a time of great uncertainty and renewed feuds, but also of great hope for change for the many that live in dire suffering. Once every five years they are told stories of change they come to believe in, even if these are short-lived in reality. It is hard (and in many cases rare) for Christians to hold biblical views during such a time. The tribe and the clan take precedence.

These last elections were extremely challenging as there was alot at stake. Since 30th June 1960, the DRC has never seen a peaceful transfer of power between two presidents. Every single transition and transfer of power has been preceded by war or some sort of instability. These elections potentially represented a break from the past and the beginning of a new era. They were seen to be the first step into a brighter future. In a country where more than sixty percent are unemployed, most people live on less than a dollar a day, there are recurrent armed conflicts in some areas, there are broken public systems, rampant and institutionalized corruption, major income inequalities and an almost non-existent state apparatus, elections are seen as a panacea. The incoming president as the messiah. He will change all their sufferings into joy and bring earth a little closer to heaven. This is not a new feeling, we have been here before – in 1960, in 1964, in 1996 and in 2006. Each time the excitement was replaced by disillusion and eventually hatred for the ‘would be savior’ who ultimately failed to deliver on the hope and promises he had embodied. 

Could it be that we the people are on a quest for a messiah without realising it?

In this context it would be good to take note of some of the key teachings of the Bible. Especially as one seeks to navigate between the desire for a just and peaceful society and the reality of living in a fallen world that has rejected God and in many cases is led by people who do not submit to God’s law.

Some of the key things to remember during these times of elections (and afterwards):

  • God is sovereign and appoints people in authority (Daniel 2:21; John 19:11;). The Bible holds to this truth and so should Christians. Ultimately God is the one who decides who gets into power and who doesn’t. Whether good or bad, these leaders are appointed by God and they will do his bidding. Christians should exult in serenity knowing that God is the one who is in charge, not politics or tribalism or even popular voting. It is God who appoints people into positions of leadership. God works in the hearts of world rulers, even those who are not Christians, to get them to bring about his plans. God used people like Nebuchadnezzar or Darius to bring about his plan and protect his people. So ultimately it doesn’t matter that much which party or people are in power, as long as God is working out his purposes – and we know He is doing just that!
  • These political leaders (and therefore political parties) are not the saviors of the world and will not solve all the problems the country is facing. Sometimes they may even bring hardship and worst times; they are just human beings like the rest  of us: weak, finite and limited in their scope of action (Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalms 118:8-9, Psalms 146:3-4; Isa 2:22). While history has shown that through the democratic process, the plight of many of the outcasts has been improved, we need not be fooled to think that suffering and exploitation will end with elections being held. There will still be war to be waged against injustice even after new people are set into power, it can feel like a neverending battle. The only lasting change the Bible affirms and Christians should hold to will be effected with the second coming of Jesus (Rev 21:1-5).
  • We are called to pray for peace – that God will use these people to bring about a just society (1 Tim 2:1-4). The church needs to continually and without ceasing pray for the leaders in the country. It is sad to say that our tendency is to only pray for the country when things go wrong. Yet we are called to pray for the country at all times. Peace and justice will be a result of God’s answered prayers over a nation (2 Chronicles 7:14).
  • Christians are described as ‘citizens of heaven’ in the New Testament. They are therefore ‘sojourners and exiles’ on earth – this world is not their home (1 Peter 1:17; 2:11). They long for something this world, even in its best scenario, will never provide. Their deepest longing for peace and justice will never be met in this life, so let us not be deluded by unnecessary hopes in human political systems. Christians need to remember that although we are in this world we are not of this world (Matthew 5:13-16). We look forward to a world without sin and therefore without troubles, suffering and wars (Revelation 21:27). This world will never be that place. We are called to be ‘salt and light’ while knowing that we live in a broken and fallen world. This calls for a certain degree of pragmatism during times of elections. As much as we work hard and whenever possible making this world a ‘better’ place to live, we must not be fooled to believe that it will all be reformed. Sin and rebellion are so anchored in the human heart and systems that only the second coming of Jesus will rid the world completely of this endemic and destructing curse.
  • Elections are a great time to show the beauty of the church by being peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Not letting tribal or political divisions divide the church or for that matter the country. Rather the church can play a great role of reconciling the alienated world by pointing them to Jesus and his righteousness. When people are preaching division, the church is called to preach reconciliation, not only of men amongst themselves, but of God and man through the sacrificial death of Jesus. As the church points people to Jesus during these times, it may just find that it is ‘a voice of one calling in the desert’.

Conclusion: The Gospel solution

God is sovereign and will raise up people who will extend his purposes on earth as they fight for justice, peace and prosperity. Yet we need to put our hope not in political systems or leaders or parties but in Jesus, he alone will meet our deepest needs. Election times are just another great reminder that this world is wanting. We need the rule of Jesus. It is a great time to cry and pray ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come!’.

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