Human beings by nature are competitive individuals. It was the competitive nature within the heart of Cain which motivated him to murder his brother Abel (Genesis 4). However, it was not the result of God rejecting his offering that led to murder, but rather it was the contempt Cain had for his brother upon realizing that Abel found God’s favor and he had not. Nothing exhibits the competitive spirit in human beings more so in modern day American than in the public sports arena. Anyone with even a vague familiarity of sports would expect athletes to be ruled by an attitude of tough competition, but sadly in our modern day, the competition among sports fans often far exceeds the competitiveness of even the players. It is the fans who invest so much in the team through the purchase of season tickets, hats, jerseys and endless other apparel items. It is the fans, not the athletes who defend their favored team at work, participate in fantasy football and brag about the abilities of players; this is where the real competition exists. While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, sports players are the ones who generally demonstrate a respectable degree of sportsmanship towards each other. It is not typically the players who become unruly with each other or demonstrate contempt for one another, it is the fans. Interestingly, the ones who have the most contempt are the ones who have the least to lose.
This election has no doubt generated high levels of tension, competitiveness and even contempt for one another, and it is for this reason we must be very careful in the weeks ahead. Just as in sports, we selected a team, perhaps made donations and even offered proof of our loyalty by purchasing the team’s hats, shirts, bumper stickers, pins and other memorabilia; all with the hope of defining ourselves as a winner on November 9th. But politics is not sports, yet one would hardly notice the distinction in modern day America. A visitor to our country could easily be led to the conclusion that Trump and Clinton were merely the names of two sports teams on their way to a national championship game.
This may point to the unfortunate fact that in many ways we have abandoned a proper perspective behind the purpose of a presidential election and replaced it with a shallow desire to either find ourselves on the winning team or be proven accurate in our prediction of the outcome. Is the emphasis behind our endorsement of any particular candidate based on our personal convictions regarding the issues at stake or merely from a desire to experience the excitement so often felt by sports fans leading up to the big championship game? Perhaps it is our sense that the latter is true, which has caused so many to seriously consider withholding their voting privilege on November 8th.
Our sports saturated culture understands the pride associated with being fans of the winning team, but both winners and losers can so quickly be led down a path which leads to contempt for the other side, especially when the stakes are so high. Is it any wonder that one of the more popular bumperstickers after the 2008 presidential election read “we won, get over it.” Perhaps that is the reason this presidential election has created so many divisions and even contempt for our fellow countrymen. Our competitiveness has been driven by the belief that, unlike sports, if our candidate is not elected the entire country and future generations will lose. There may be some validity to this statement, but even though the President of the United States is recognized as one of the most powerful positions in the world, to consider it the primary position of significance in our government is to misunderstand the constitution which forms our nation. While the President does retain a significant amount of authority, that individual is only capable of extending power to the point where the authority of Congress and the Supreme Court begins. This distribution of power across three branches of government was wisely considered by our founders to be the best method of preventing one individual to retain all authority, as in the monarchical system which formerly ruled the original thirteen colonies.
For this reason alone, we can avoid a doomsday view of this election, but for the Christian there is an even greater reason. Isaiah 14:24, 26 tells us, “The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…” (v26) “…this is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.” (ESV). It is for this reason we can accurately conclude the elected winner will be one installed by the divine decree of God to fulfill His good and perfect purpose. However, this should not be viewed as a justification to relegate our voting privilege. God has placed us in a county where such a freedom should be viewed as part of God’s grace and our responsibility as citizens of a country who should “seek the welfare of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7). Yet, despite the outcome, it is also our responsibility to submit to the government who ultimately serves a divine purpose (Romans 13:1-7).
Attempts to find hope in an earthly system of government is false hope and hardly the basis for the inevitable contempt which is likely to ensue as a result of this election. As Christians we already belong to a winning team, where victory is only found in salvation from the penalty of sin through Christ and the expected future return of our Lord. It is for this reason we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). Without this perspective at the forefront of our minds, we are in danger of conveying the message that our hope is found not in Christ, but in a Presidential candidate. Nor should we have any reason to share in any demonstration of contempt for those who are also made in the image of God. The grace from God bestowed upon all who belong to Christ never results in contempt, only sadness in knowing there are many who are in danger of missing out on the grace of God for all of eternity. This election is not the time for Christians to spurn contempt for their fellow citizens or fellow heirs in Christ, but rather it is an opportunity to highlight the flaws of a fallen world which awaits the coming restoration of all things (Romans 8:22, Acts 3:21) and to demonstrate our willful submission to God’s divinely ordained plan.