“If during this election season, you have chosen to not accept someone or look down on someone based upon who he or she is voting for, that is not a political problem — that is a gospel problem.”
Those words, spoken in 2016 by John McGowan, pastor of Restoration City Church in Arlington, Va., hit me like a ton of bricks.
At the time, I was serving as a legislative staffer for a member of Congress, primarily working on health and education policy. It was my third year living in the Washington, D.C. area, and from all indications, I was living out my dream from college. All I wanted was to put my trust in God, go to the most powerful city in the world and make a difference.
And, what a story He wrote.
I lived in a great house with Christ-following roommates, who became my brothers. I attended a Bible-believing church that sought to love and serve the D.C. area. The member of Congress I worked for felt strongly called by God to step out of full-time vocational ministry and into a unique season of sharing the gospel by creating and implementing public policy.
By all accounts, God was moving in my world. He was fulfilling His promise that He would never leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). However, something was still missing.
Working in the political bubble, I consumed media coverage daily, regularly checked the latest polling data and intently watched the candidates spar back and forth. Politics became the idol of my life.
This idol was designed to distract me from my calling of fulfilling the Great Commission (making disciples) and the Great Commandment (loving God and others). The idol of politics deceived me into thinking that my neighbors — who thought differently than me — needed to be conquered and persuaded rather than loved and served.
So when I heard my pastor speak on the election of 2016, my eyes were opened and I realized that I had allowed my politics to influence my faith, instead of the other way around.
The idol of politics deceived me into thinking that my neighbors — who thought differently than me — needed to be conquered and persuaded rather than loved and served.
Today, when it seems as if the news, social media and leaders are telling us how we should live, think or vote, Christians need to be determined to look introspectively and rediscover our divine calling. We have been uniquely created to love God with everything we have and to love others as Jesus loves us.
As a church, we need to repent of our idols and put our perfect, Heavenly Father back on His rightful throne, giving Him all authority over our hearts, passions and desires. Our focus should not be on our political party winning the next election. Our focus should be on Christ and His church as we work together to usher in His kingdom.
Only then will we have a perfect ruler. We will experience perfect justice, and we will bask in perfect freedom.
Now, that doesn’t mean we completely remove ourselves from politics. We should still be part of the political process, but our actions should come from the place of our overflow of faith, hope and love in Christ.
We need to love our neighbors, even if they disagree with us. We need to stand against injustice, even when it’s uncomfortable. We need to promote and cherish God’s view of the family, as everything starts and ends there.
We need to look out for the less fortunate and downtrodden, even if it costs us. We need to welcome the stranger, because that’s what we once were. We must be Jesus to those we encounter, because we all are helpless without Him.
It is only because of Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice that we are accepted by a holy God. Therefore, no matter who the president, king or leader is, we can have hope for the future and purpose on this earth through the lordship of Christ.
As you debate, vote and participate in whatever civic process you desire, keep God first. Humbly seek Him as you pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
As you do that, you will be able to love and serve others, regardless of their political affiliation, background or past.
Then, maybe at the end of this process, the world will know us not by our political beliefs but by our faith in Christ — the only way, truth and life.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mac Johnson serves as a student minister at Brentwood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn. He is the son of Merrie Johnson, who serves as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship.