At long last, we are finally nearing the end of what has been a brutal slog of an election season that has offered a lot more heat than light, and a lot less substance and civility than this country deserves. It has, at times, felt like the civic equivalent of a root canal without novacaine. I’m pretty certain that, somewhere, Miss Cleary—my 9th grade civics teacher, who taught me to love and respect the way our democratic system is intended to work—is sadly shaking her head.
One of the laments we’ve heard over and over these last several months—maybe, even, these last several years—is that “our politics is broken.” I’m inclined to believe it’s true. As a citizen, I’m discouraged by that. As a Christian, I’m convinced that the church’s reconciling mission in this world is now more relevant than ever. As author Marshall Shelley recently observed, when fear and loathing are two primary characteristics of a culture, the task for followers of Jesus isn’t easy—but it is clear. “When the vitriolic presidential campaign is over and the election is settled,” he writes, “it promises to leave almost half the population fearful that whoever wins will lead the country to ruin. The fear of the losing side is likely to exceed the hopeful anticipation of the winning side.”
What does that mean for us? It means, argues Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, that the church has an opportunity “to demonstrate a life of witness and unity that is a radical alternative to our increasingly polarized and reactionary culture.” Churches that reflect the new reality of Galatians 3:28 and embody the unity of John 14 “will offer the world a glimpse today of the way the world will someday be.” The apostle Paul put it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:18: “All this is from God, who reconciled Himself to us through Christ, and has given us this ministry of reconciliation.” What God has done for us through the love and mercy of Jesus, we are to model in our lives and relationships and community, being agents of grace to a culture in bondage to fear and loathing.
Providentially, I think, a month that begins with what promises to be a divisive election, ends with some powerful reminders about who’s who and what’s what and how God’s people are to be oriented in this world. November 20 is Christ the King Sunday, when we celebrate the good news that Jesus reigns over all the nations of the world and that, one day, at his name, “every knee should bend in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). On November 24, we join our fellow citizens in a day of Thanksgiving for what God has done in blessing us far more richly and abundantly than we deserve. Then, on November 27, the season of Advent begins, in which we remember how God once came to be with us as one of us—and promises to return one day in power and glory.
God has given us a ministry of reconciliation. November 8 will most likely remind us once again why such a ministry is so necessary in a world where there are very deep, very wide divisions that can only be reconciled by the kind of love and humility that Jesus makes possible. If that’s the challenge, then the days to come later this month—November 20, 24, and 27 will remind us that God has not left us to pursue this hard work of reconciliation alone and without hope. These days of celebration, thanksgiving, and anticipation remind us that God rules, God provides, and God loves us enough to come, be with us, and share our lives with us. That’s good news. Now, let’s do something with it.
May the peace of Christ be with you!