The past several days have presented me with an opportunity to engage with – and observe – people from all ends of the political spectrum. The emotions have also spanned from one extreme to the other. Some people have been celebrating, as if the Messiah Himself has come to save us. Others have mourned as if God has completely abandoned them. What have these reactions been in response to? The recent election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America. What is most puzzling to me personally has not been the fear, ecstasy, anger, joy, riots, or celebrations that have emerged across the America. What I am most surprised by is the role that is being attributed to God in the election itself. All across the social media landscape, the following sentiments are sprinkled:
“This is the Will of God. Accept it!”
“God wanted Trump to be President. He planned it this way.”
So the million dollar question is did God REALLY plan it this way? Did He choose Donald Trump (over Hillary Clinton) to be President?
The short answer to the question is NO!
The Voters’ Choice
Donald Trump is the next President of the United States, not because God chose him over Hillary Clinton but, because voters – created in the image of God, endowed with free will – made a choice of their own volition. My concern for this post is not whether the voter’s choice was good, bad, or ugly; my primary issue is not political but theological! God did not elect Donald Trump to be the President of the U.S.; “we” as humans made the choice. This point is crucial for several reasons. For starters, the Church must preserve and testify to the very basic Christian understanding that we as humans have free will. The great gift that God has bestowed on us is that He created us with the capacity to make decisions and to act upon them freely. Furthermore, an acknowledgement of our free will mandates a level of personal and collective responsibility. We as humans cannot pin the blame on God for our choices, albeit if they are flawed at times. Sometimes those choices are good and sometimes they are evil, but ultimately they are choices we make.
God’s desire (His will) is the salvation of all, that each of us would come to know the fullness of truth, as revealed in Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:4). However many people, some prominent theologians and Bible teachers included believe that if Trump was elected President, it is simply because God wanted it that way. For these people, they imagine Christ sitting up on His cosmic throne orchestrating every detail of life (including the electoral process), in order to place Trump in the White House. Although there are many problems with this line of thinking, I will simply highlight two issues: 1.) God is ultimately concerned with putting people in the Heavenly Kingdom, not placing them in the Oval Office. 2.) This line of thinking displaces responsibility for our decisions onto God.
What difference does it make? Bad theology leaves many people with shaken faith. As one person most recently put it to me “I really felt like God has died after the election. I know He is around but it is hard to believe. That’s not something I ever really struggled with.”
For those reasons, among others, we must count the cost for the “votes we cast”, keeping our eyes set on things above (Colossians 3:2), as we engage with the world around us (John 17:14-16). So “what if we chose poorly? What then?” God reminds us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The grace of God, working in the world, invites you personally into a loving relationship with the Him. He seeks every opportunity to reach out to humans. That means that, by the grace of God, even evil can be transformed as a means of salvation for the children of God. The Old Testament highlights the story of King Nebuchadnezzar, who was one of the most evil rulers known in human history. But it was only during the times of a such a vile leader that the word of God was actually pitched on paper, due to the babylonian tradition of scribes. When we seem to lose heart, the truth of God prevails!
What does this all mean for the Christian in light of the election? God is present working in the world. He uses any means possible – albeit what some may perceive as flawed human decisions at times – to accomplish His will of conforming us into His image. This of course does not happen by compulsion or against our will but when we choose Him and, if we, love Him above all else. Irrespective of where you sit on the emotional spectrum following the election, keep your eyes fixed on things above, working out your salvation. This will allow you personally, and collectively, to continue being the presence and power of God in the world.