People are freaked out over the presidential race.
Voters on both sides of the aisle are terrified of the proposition of the candidate from the other party taking office, with this year’s election becoming one of the most polarizing in history.
From the stats gurus at FiveThirtyEight.com:
Clinton and Trump are both more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles.
For Christians who believe in both praying for God’s will to be accomplished and the importance of submitting to governing authority, the 2016 election has left many conflicted. Not only is the political rhetoric increasingly anti-Christian in its tone, but both campaigns have, to at least some degree, relied on the same strategy when trying to convince voters to support their side: They are instilling fear at the prospect of what would happen if their opponent becomes president.
They want you to worry about what would happen if the other candidate took office.
But, for Christians, there’s an important fact we need to remember: Jesus never worried about politics.
Even though he was born in politically tumultuous times, Jesus maintained an interesting posture when it came to engaging the political infrastructure. It wasn’t that He was indifferent; it was that He chose not to worry about politics. It’s not that He didn’t care, but rather that He saw that politics wasn’t the main issue; people’s relationship with God was.
The political climate was so volatile at the time of Christ’s birth that the primary ruler demanded that masses of young children and babies be executed when a prophecy suggested that a new “leader” had been born, that he feared threatened his authority.
The adult Jesus lived in an occupied land, whose rulers routinely oppressed ethnic and religious minorities. The people He reached wanted a ruler who would deliver them from the political stronghold of the Roman empire.
But Jesus had a different agenda in mind. He understood a powerful truth: Even the most powerful kingdoms of man are temporal, but the kingdom of heaven lasts forever.
Jesus wasn’t out for votes. He was out for hearts. Yes, He wanted social change; but for Him, that changed started when He upended how people thought about their neighbors, not just their rulers.
He understood that to truly change culture, we must ensure that the “least of these” among us (the poor, the sick, the widow, the orphan and our “enemies”) are treated with dignity, respect and love. Leaders come and go. And in a democracy our votes do matter. But it’s our actions—our beliefs in practice—that lay the foundations for a kingdom that will never pass away.
In Matthew 6, Jesus addressed the concept of worrying. It’s a notion that is based in the fear of what might happen. It’s also one of the most basic human impulses, and that’s why Jesus wanted to challenge it: He wants his followers to trade a human way of thinking for a kingdom way of living.
He told them,
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Yes, we can be politically engaged and work to enact change through the democratic process. But we shouldn’t be motivated out of fear or worry. Instead, even though circumstances may seem dire, Jesus gives this advice on how to develop the right perspective:
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Seek first His kingdom.
Yes, we live in scary times. But almost any generation across the world could also say that. Worrying about politics isn’t the solution or the example we’ve been given.
The danger of being so focused on the bad things that might happen is that you lose focus on the good stuff you could be doing.
A new president will be elected in the November election. Worrying about who that is won’t change the outcome.
But, in the meantime, there are people who need help. There’s a culture that needs truth. There’s a world that needs peace. Those are all areas that demand our attention. Because worrying about tomorrow won’t change the needs that are in front of us today.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.