Since many of us are still formulating goals for 2016, let me suggest that we choose to be Christ centered in the way we engage politically this year. I’m inspired by the words Christ prayed to God before he was crucified:
“You gave me some men from the world. I have shown them what you are like.”
This translation of John 17.6 from the International Children’s Bible is a simple statement about Christ’s mission that even a child can understand. What if we adults adopt this mindset as the presidential election unfolds?
This matters to me for two main reasons.
1.When we engage in mean-spirited political discourse, we do not show people what God is like. Whether on social media or across the dining room table, we misrepresent God when we are rude and malicious. Our motives may be great, but our methods are way off. It turns people away from Christianity because most people know what Jesus was like: He was kind and thoughtful. He healed the sick and gave away food. Jesus wisely led sinners to repentance in a spirit of compassion.
Sure, I know Jesus is not just a Lamb; he is also a Lion. I know God is not only love; he is also holy. But maybe this year, we can refrain from breathing fire at those whose political leanings don’t align with ours. God really doesn’t need us to be dragons. Even a child knows Jesus wasn’t like a dragon.
2. I was once a mean-spirited presidential candidate. Thirty-five years ago, my dad came across a speech I had drafted for the upcoming election for student body president. As one of two candidates, I wanted my speech to address a rumor I had heard: my rival considered me “too high class” to represent most students. She saw herself as down to earth and more relatable to a broad swath of the 1500 students in our school. It was going to be part of her platform.
When I got wind of her statement, I actually saw some truth in it. I was an honor student and a cheerleader. My circle included varsity athletes and friends from my suburban neighborhood. I drove an Audi to school most days, but sometimes I drove my dad’s Lincoln. Following in the footsteps of my two brothers – whose accolades included Prom King and National Merit Scholar – my last name may as well have been Kennedy or Bush. I had the pedigree and I was going to use it to my advantage.
I headed into election day with a lot of confidence. The whole school was assembled in the gym and when it was my turn to take the microphone, I delivered my speech with ease, including this zinger aimed at my opponent:
“It has been said that I am too high class to be student body president. But I would rather be at the top looking down than at the bottom looking up.”
The crowd reacted the way immature teenagers respond to trash talk, with an affirming mix of laughter, awe, and scattered applause. Yeah, I won the election, but I had stooped really low to win.
School administrators? They were disgusted and wondered why no one had vetted my speech. I actually think the incident led to speech vetting at my high school. What a humbling legacy to leave.
My dad? He told me he was concerned about that barb after finding my speech on the kitchen counter, but he decided not to say anything. I sure wish he had.
My opponent? She was incredibly gracious with this dragon. We are friends now on Facebook.
My “success” as a presidential candidate? It led to senior superlative Most Likely to be the First Woman President.
Since that achievement is being incredibly threatened this election year by Clinton and Fiorina, I can only hope to influence a few folks from the sidelines with this: Resolve to abstain from merciless put-downs this year. Refrain from attack mode as a family by doing what my dad didn’t do: define for your children what’s inappropriate.
Don’t delight in shaming rivals for their flaws. Pray for them instead. And by all means, don’t egg on your mean-spirited friends by posting things you know will bring out the worst in them. Insults and criticism that evoke likes on Facebook do not show people what Jesus is like.
May all that we say, post, and share in 2016 reflect the meek and merciful Savior we claim to love.