Here’s how things are right now. I’ll be talking with a friend about sports, and they’ll be like, “Speaking of sports, can you believe the media coverage of the primaries?”
I joke. Except not really.
It seems like we just can’t stop ourselves from obsessing about this presidential election. Heck, I’m writing about it—mostly against my better judgment, to be honest.
But that’s because I think I can offer something: an accurate prediction of exactly what the election will mean and how it will change the world.
That might sound crazy, but it’s not any crazier than some of what the candidates are promising. It’s not any more insane than what they’re spending and claiming. Some voters are swearing they’ll move to Canada and the overall rhetoric is, well, rhetoric.
Now here’s my locked-in, foolproof prediction for what’s going to happen on January 20, 2017, when a new president takes the oath of office.
Some things will change, but America will still be a deeply divided country.
A few things might change for you, but nothing fundamental. The election won’t flip the switch of your life from meh to magic. You’ll still be a messy human with relationships and limitations and longings.
See, every candidate is claiming this election is the most important thing ever. Every candidate is promising to “solve” our issues.
Both are lies.
No president, no election, no political achievement of any kind can satisfy the deepest longings of your heart and soul.
Which means we shouldn’t expect them to.
The trouble starts because we confuse our needs with our wants. Which is why it’s so easy for politicians to promise us things that they’re in no position to deliver.
Here’s a real-life example. My good friend Jeremy got an entry-level job in advertising right out of college. He figured it was temporary. Except he rocked at selling ads, and before he knew it he was looking at more money than he knew what to do with. Thing is, he was bored out of his mind, and his heart was shriveling. But people told him to stop worrying and enjoy the ride. Before long he could retire and live the good life.
Except he felt like he’d been created to do something that gave life to people.
And so he took a risk—and quit. He turned his back on never having to worry about money again and faced an unknown future. Now he’s a teacher, and instead of selling ads for “revolutionary” new products, he’s selling teenagers on revolutionary ideas like “You matter,” “Your future doesn’t have to be determined by your past,” and “You can make a difference in your family and community.”
That happened because he made space in his heart for change. Not the kind of change that keeps resetting every four years when there’s an election, but the kind of change that makes the world better for all of us. Change that’s truly transformational.
So what are the things we need, assuming we don’t simply need a new president or a new policy—or even a new election-circus to distract us?
Here’s a rough draft. True peace. Genuine belonging. Safety that goes beyond never being hurt. A life brimming over with joy and purpose.
If what I’m claiming is true, it leads to an even more important question: What will change the world?
Now let’s be honest. If you looked at my bio, you know I’m going to talk about Jesus, right?
But before I talk about Him, let me admit something. Religious leaders like me are sometimes guilty of obsessing about external behavior. Okay, most times. Thing is, we’ve been making that mistake consistently for the last two thousand years. Making lists of what’s acceptable and what’s forbidden, and using those lists of behavior to draw lines between the good guys and the bad guys.
What Jesus insists is that true goodness must begin inside us, and it will naturally lead to the right external actions. Sort of like how a tree that’s healthy on the inside will produce good fruit on the outside. Which means that true transformation must reach all the way to our hearts, and not stop with our actions.
When religious leaders claim God values “moral” behavior above all else, they’re not talking about the God of the Bible. What’s at the top of the biblical God’s priority list is changed hearts. Thing is, changed hearts can’t be forced. Jesus focused on exactly that in his most famous sermon. (It’s called “The Sermon on the Mount” and you can read it in Matthew 5-7.) In example after example, Jesus shows how every behavior and habit and action has its genesis in the human heart.
So the arrogant, selfish, destructive crap that ruins lives? Yep, it starts inside us. Not in the wrong president or the wrong law.
Inside hearts. Like yours and mine.
Elections are external. Policies and laws are external.
The things we really need—and the things the world really needs us to do and say—begin internally, with changed hearts. And a president cannot solve that for us.
This election will change a few things, yes, but those things won’t save the country or completely transform your life. Not in any ultimate way. Change begins in your heart, when there’s space for God to work.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage in politics or not vote. (We should.) The president we have matters, just like other officials we elect. Our laws and policies impact real lives in real ways. Politics has important consequences. It makes a difference.
Just remember that no matter who you vote for, it won’t make the difference.
Only God can transform you so that you can make the difference.