The test of democracy is not simply about how well we follow the rules in selecting our leaders and participate in the process as citizens. The real test is in how we handle the results.
No matter if our candidate won or lost, all of us have to find a way to work together going forward. It's not going to be easy, but we have to get past thinking about politics as a win-lose endeavor. Especially as Christians, we are called to think about the common good and the interests of others, not just our own. (Philippians 2:4)
If our candidate won, we don't gloat but we do our best to engage in respectful dialogue with those who think and vote differently. We think broadly, and seek to create policies that serve as many people as possible, not just "our own." If our candidate lost, we don't pour contempt on the winner, sulk, or withdraw. We roll up our sleeves and do whatever is still in our power to work for a better nation, doing whatever we can to represent our views to decision-makers.
What does this mean practically? It means the same thing it has meant for the past eight years under Barak Obama, for the two terms Bush served in the same office, and for the past two hundred forty years since the beginning of our republic. Each of us has a voice, and each of us has the privilege and responsibility to participate and contribute wherever we can.
We work for good on the local level. We advocate for our views on the state and national levels. We try to build bridges to those who see things differently. We work even harder to present and express our views to those who don't understand or accept them. We contribute to charitable organizations and political activist groups we believe in. We even protest loudly and visibly, when need be, but without violence or malicious actions that only cause further damage or alienation.
In other words, there are right ways to participate in a democracy, and there are wrong ways. There are constructive options, and there are destructive ones. Especially at this time in the USA, after such an ugly and offensive campaign season, our country needs to find ways to pull together. A lot of people are very angry, and some are really scared. Others are smug, and some can hardly wait to steam roll over opponents. But now is not the time to bring out our worst selves.
The Apostle Paul taught us to use the freedoms that we cherish so much to build up and not destroy (Ephesians 4:29-5:1).
When teaching Christians how to conduct themselves both in the church and in society, the Apostle Peter said, "R
id yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind" (1 Peter 2:1). And then later on in the same letter, he commanded his readers, "As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor" (1 Peter 2:16-17). In other words, we are expected to live what we preach. We are charged to model what we say we believe about human rights, dignity, tolerance, and decency.
Going forward, some of us will be in position to be political or social game-changers. Most of us, though, will find our greatest opportunities to contribute simply by trying to be our best selves in our families, at work, at church, and in our local communities. We will make a difference by relentlessly seeking to be Christ-centered and Spirit-led in every possible dimension of our lives, no matter how others behave or react toward us.
The day after the election Hillary Clinton quoted the Apostle Paul to encourage her supporters to stay engaged and to keep finding ways to contribute, even though they lost the election. It's a good verse for all of us. Paul said, "L
et us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).
Class discussion in my New Testament Theology class
None of us will get everything we want from an election or the policies and practices of our politicians, but, win or lose, each of us can choose our attitude going forward, and each of us always has options for taking action. Nothing can stop us from contributing if we are determined to do so. The question is never, "if" we can do something, but "what," "how," and "when"?
This fall, I've been far away from the United States, serving in Myanmar. I voted by absentee-ballot, but otherwise could only observe the American political and social scene from a distance. I continue to be distressed by much of what I see, and am anxious about how the new leadership will conduct itself. But I'm choosing to not to focus on what is outside of my power to control. Instead I'm focusing on what kind of person God is calling me to be and the opportunities he's giving me to contribute.
At the very least, I pray that Christ's love and light will shine through me in all my dealings with others. I will keep asking the Spirit to empower me to live by my values, to be the best husband and father I can be, to serve well in all my responsibilities, to keep working to build a stronger global church, to do my part to be hospitable to foreigners and marginalized people in my own country, and to promote better international relationships when I am teaching and ministering abroad. Beyond that, I plan to stay alert to whoever may be negatively affected by governmental policy changes, especially those who cannot advocate for themselves, and to use whatever power I have to stand with those who have less power.
This is what it means to me to be in Christ and to be led by the Spirit in the real world, with so much conflict, distress, uncertainty, and suffering.
No politician, governmental policy, or authority figure can take these possibilities for doing good away from me, from you, or from us as we keep working together. Some of our goals and efforts may be opposed or thwarted, but if our cause is right, God will work for good in some way through us.
May God enable us to stay rooted and grounded in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the leading the Holy Spirit. May God give us eyes to see all the open doors before us to work for the common good, and give us wisdom and strength to not grow weary in doing all we can.
In Christ's service,
|The Rev. Dr. Samuel Ngun Ling serves as President of Myanmar Institute of Theology and serves on the Board of Trustees for Myanmar Baptist Convention, serving over 900,000 baptized members throughout Myanmar.
End of year schedule
From Nov. 22-Dec. 21, Tim will be in Minnesota fundraising and preparing for ministry in Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ukraine, France, and the USA in the new year (Jan-May 2017). To keep abreast of the Faith, Hope, and Love ministry schedule, y
ou can find our Program Calendar at
under the Ministries tab
As we wind down this year and gear up for a very full calendar of ministry in the new year, your prayers and financial support are very much appreciated. We are still in our campaign to raise additional funds to expand the ministry in 2017. Your contribution will make a difference. Thank you!