Today is Election Day in the United States. If you’re a voter in the U.S., by now you’ve made your choice. You’ve weighed the candidates, the platforms, and the issues from the highest office in the land, down to equally consequential state and local elections and referendums. Prayerfully, you’ve looked at the issues through the lens of Scripture and given what God says supreme weight in your decision-making process. You believe you’ve made choices that honor Him. Election 2020 is all but “in the books.”
But have you considered that when you wake up tomorrow morning and scroll through the news, you’ll be immediately faced with another choice? And would you believe that this next choice could impact those around you—your roommates, children, neighbors, siblings, friends, coworkers, even your mail carrier or grocery store clerk—perhaps more than the choice you made when you dropped your ballot into the ballot box?
Tomorrow morning, you’ll have to get out of bed and choose—results or no results, red or blue, whatever the outcome—how will you respond?
Clearly, I’m writing this days before the election. You might even be reading it before you officially cast your vote. Why does that matter? Because I need to decide right now how I’m going to respond tomorrow. And so do you.
Oh, What a Beautiful (Horrible?) Morning!
Tomorrow morning, before you put together a post-election thought, you’re likely to be assaulted by post-election feelings. Depending on whether you fancy yourself a winner, a loser, or “just glad it’s over,” your feelings may be pretty predictable. But does that mean they’re simple? Definitely not. Let’s think through a few possibilities:
- Perhaps you’ll feel victorious. But how long before victoriousness turns to gloating, followed by the temptation to find your identity in the win, and then to hold on with a death-grip to any power or control your party gains? How long before victory turns into pride?
- Maybe you’ll feel relieved. You’re just happy to see the end of constant reminders to vote and nonstop talk about who you should vote for. And all the conflict—that’s over, right? Wrong. You’ll soon realize the election is over, only to be followed by endless weeks of recap, results, analysis, and, you guessed it, more arguing. You’re exhausted all over again.
- You might wake up feeling sorrowful. Perhaps you truly feel that your country/state/city/town made the wrong choice. You’re grieved, concerned that “the worst” will come. How many will suffer as a result? Your sorrow turns to despair.
- Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow morning feeling very, very angry. Your candidate lost. You lost. Why? Oh, you know why. It’s the fault of those people who didn’t vote the way that you did. Your neighbor. Your backwards brother. Your sister in Christ. Your anger turns to enmity.
- Finally, you might wake up and feel afraid. What’s on the horizon? Violence? Persecution? Economic collapse? A country torn apart? The unknowns press in; you’re drowning in anxiety.
Like it or not, the feelings will come. The question is what will we do with them?
Decision 2020: It’s Your Choice Now
May I propose that in this day-after-election decision there are only two candidates in the running? When you wake up tomorrow morning, you have a choice and so do I: We can respond by the Spirit or we can respond by the flesh.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us that the flesh and the Spirit are working in constant opposition to one another:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal. 5:16–17)
How’s that for a dichotomy? There’s no moderate in this contest. No independent, no third party. The flesh or the Spirit. That’s it.
Next we read two lists that present our candidates in pretty stark contrast. First, the works of the flesh:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. (Gal. 5:19–21)
Obviously some of these are more relevant to our post-election tendencies than others. (I’m looking at you, idolatry, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy.) But let’s just think for a moment about the fact that these responses fall in the same category as sexual immorality, sensuality, drunkenness, and orgies. Responding in the flesh is nothing to mess with.
In glorious contrast to the works of the flesh, take a moment to savor the Spirit’s sweet fruit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22–23)
Why would we ever choose the flesh when “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24)? Nevertheless, we’re tempted to feed our flesh; but it always comes at the expense of the Spirit.
The Fullness Thereof
In the States, we’ve been told for months a tale of two Americas: Joe Biden’s America and Donald Trump’s America. As soon as the ink is dry on these results, the pundits and special interest groups will be saying it again about another set of candidates. But I submit to you this: There is only one America. And it belongs to God alone.
You can replace “America” with the name of your city, state, or country and the Truth remains the same:
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers. (Ps. 24:1–2)
Our cities, our countries, our world—they all belong to Him! Your children, your neighbors, your coworkers, your backwards brother? They’re His, too. All of them.
I don’t know who will win or what the future holds, but I do know this: if we choose to respond to this election in the flesh, all of those people will suffer, no matter who wins the election. But if tomorrow morning we choose to walk by the Spirit, if we exude:
Self-control . . .
Well, we’ll have a real revolution on our hands. And what a sweet sound in the ears of heaven that rebellion would be.
Flesh or Spirit? It’s up to you.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25)