We’ve finally completed a contentious election that took place amid widespread societal unrest and mass deaths. It brought out the worst in many of us, including Christians. It’s hard not to have strong feelings about our nation and its direction right now.
But those fierce convictions do not give us permission to villainize people of the opposing side or otherwise be a jerk. We must be careful not to dehumanize those we disagree with. In our self-righteousness, we can become the very things we criticize in others and not even know it.
Now that all the votes have been cast, it is time for our country to begin finding a way to come back together. Christians can move forward to help heal our nation by seeking a balance of political engagement and faithful discipleship.
We have to begin with prayer and Spirit-led reflection that allows us to accept the outcome. No matter who won or lost, we have nothing to fear as long as we put our faith in Jesus Christ. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Our ultimate trust is in God and not ourselves, our heroes or villains, or politics or politicians. Let’s keep things in perspective.
Second, we should talk to each other. We have become a society and a nation of echo chambers, where we gather with fellow like-minded people while making assumptions and hurling insults at “others.” In personal conversation, we should not blame, or guilt, or shame—but ask questions without assuming what the other person will answer. The only path to understanding is through conversation.
There is something undeniably Christian about trying to better understand other people, even those with whom we might disagree. The Bible is clear that God calls on us to love our neighbors, regardless of whether they look like us, think like us, feel like us, worship like us—or vote like us. We can’t “love our neighbors” if we don’t know our neighbors, and we can’t know our neighbors if we don’t listen to our neighbors.
Yet sometimes personal conversation isn’t possible. For a societal conversation, peaceful protests can be the best way to communicate when one side refuses to engage in good faith. But it is important to remember that peaceful protests are more clearly communicative than undirected violence.
In the end, what we all have in common is that we all seek the possibility of flourishing—the opportunity to provide a life of flourishing for our families and those we love. It takes more than just the people who look the way I look or who voted the way I voted to structure a nation in which building a good life for my family and your family is possible. We must seek the “peace and prosperity” of our cities together, as in Jeremiah 29:7.
Our civic engagement can’t be reduced to one vote every four years. If so, we’re actually part of the problem. We must learn to listen, engage, and love our neighbors every day, so that we can build this better nation together.
May we do our part. Vote. Pray. Protest. March. Seek the peace of the city. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Love your neighbors. Do all of these things—and ultimately, place your trust in God.
To be a Christ follower is to be faithful amid tension. To have integrity. To keep fighting for the vulnerable. To stay engaged, to remain hopeful, to love anyway.
Don’t forget this. Don’t abandon this. Don’t lose yourself. The what matters, but the how matters, too.
Eugene Cho is a reverend, president of Bread for the World, and author of Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics.