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Warning: Political, spiritual priorities are often inverted

A view of a polling station at the Zion Baptist Church is seen on January 5, 2021, in Marietta, Georgia.
A view of a polling station at the Zion Baptist Church is seen on January 5, 2021, in Marietta, Georgia. | SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP via Getty Images

Each passing month, the upcoming American election becomes more central to everything happening in our nation and around the world. Whether we think about the recent atrocity of Iran trying to bomb the nation of Israel or the confusing and often contradictory claims of climate activists, we see that everything is political. All issues and events become fodder for Republicans and Democrats to use in persuading potential voters to send their candidate to elected office. With each election cycle, members of both major political parties issue dire warnings that this election could be the undoing of our nation if the opposition emerges victorious. “The stakes have never been higher.” At least that’s what we are told.

As Christians, it’s easy to get caught up in the election hype year after year. We far too easily believe the propaganda insisting that this election is the most important thing happening in our world. When we believe that an election is that significant, we tend to shape our priorities around this perceived reality. Our fears determine our conversations, our prayers, our content consumption, our social media interactions, and even in some corners, our sermons on Sunday mornings. We even feel, at times, like the upcoming election is the grounds of our hope for the future. I know, because I’ve been there, waking up on Wednesday morning in November, feeling like the wind just got taken out of my sails.

Without question, what we are seeing unfold in our nation over recent history is discouraging and concerning. A nation that once had some sense of a moral compass, rooted in traditional Judeo-Christian morality, has jettisoned nearly every category of morality. The only thing immoral today is to claim that something is immoral. Ironic? Probably. Self-contradictory? Absolutely. But that’s the world we live in.

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Christians have responded in a variety of ways.

On one end of the spectrum is an ambiguous and vaguely defined position called Christian Nationalism. While the precise meaning of this term varies as frequently as the person using it, the general idea seems to be that Christians should seek to make America a Christian nation, imposing biblical commands as national policy. Whether the content of those commands is the Law of Moses in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, or the law of Christ encapsulated in the New Testament letters, is debated; but what most Christian Nationalists agree upon is that a primary Christian objective should be building Christendom for future generations of Americans.

On the other end of the spectrum, some Christians have given up all hope for America’s future. They don’t see any point in voting or participating in the political process. They believe America is under irrevocable divine judgment, and the only thing left for this nation to experience is destruction.

Neither response to the problems that ail our nation resonates with biblical truth or with the men who were part of the revivals where the seeds of America were first sown. Samuel Davies, an 18th century pastor who has been regarded by some as the greatest preacher America has ever produced, wrote during the 1740s, “The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the great and only remedy for a ruined country — the only effectual preventative of national calamities and desolation, and the only sure cause of a lasting and well-established peace” (quoted in Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, Pa.: 1994, 21). Davies observed the godlessness of his own day and recognized the truth that the only way to preserve any nation and avoid its total ruin is for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on that land and for the people to experience true revival.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke to people who were anxious about the future, just like many believers are today when we consider the political landscape of our country. He said, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Despite all we have been given by the Lord, we often find the same things that tend to worry unbelievers also plague the hearts of followers of Christ. We worry about having enough food when we see inflation soaring. We worry about having shelter when home prices multiply exponentially faster than our income and savings. We worry that if the opposing candidate wins the election, our problems will only get worse. Furthermore, we worry that we might lose even our freedom itself. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re worried about all the same things as those who do not know Christ, even if we believe the path to fixing these things is opposite of their policies.

Because of these fears, we can easily make the mistake of looking at Davies’ words about revival and thinking that revival is the way to fix the problems of America. It’s true that if we want to have a strong, moral, free nation, we need to experience revival and the outpouring of the Spirit. We are correct in coming to that conclusion, because, as Davies points out, the only sure cause of a long-lasting peace is a nation populated by a plurality, if not a majority, of people who are genuinely converted and filled with the Spirit. However, there is a significant flaw in our reasoning if we understand Davies to be suggesting that we should seek revival with the goal of living in a free and prosperous nation. I don’t believe Davies’ intention was that we should seek revival as a means to an end.

The reason I believe Davies would wince if he heard a 21st-century Christian use his quote as the motivation for praying, preaching, and evangelizing is because we are to seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness. God’s kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a kingdom that is not of this world. It does not align itself with any particular geo-political state. It is a foreign kingdom, a heavenly one, that one day will impose itself on the entire world when Jesus returns to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. To seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is to “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” the city prepared for us by God (Hebrews 11:16). If we seek this kingdom as our first priority, then we cannot seek it as a means to an end. The goal of our seeking is the Kingdom of God, not the improvement of one of the kingdoms of the earth.

We should seek revival and the expansion of the Kingdom of God in triumph over the domain of darkness because we want to see Christ glorified, sinners saved, and the church built up. That should be our greatest priority as Christians. We should desire the salvation of our neighbors, not because we want to ensure they vote a certain way, but because we care about their eternal souls and want to see them rescued from the wrath of God.

Whenever we get the priority of the political and the spiritual inverted, we can be certain that we will lose both the spiritual and political battles. When we seek first the Kingdom of God — as an end in itself — we will see the triumph of the Gospel over the hearts of sinful people. If that happens on a large scale in revival, we might also see the political tide turn. But if revival tarries and our political climate continues to deteriorate, we know that God will provide for us exactly what we need to do His will no matter what happens politically. Since we are seeking first His Kingdom, our ultimate victory is secure because, as Martin Luther reminded us, “His kingdom is forever.”

Dr. Robb Brunansky is the Pastor-Teacher of Desert Hills Bible Church in Glendale, Arizona. Follow him on Twitter at @RobbBrunansky.

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